Kirkwall is the largest town and capital of the Orkney Islands, off the coast of northern mainland Scotland. Kirkwall's most outstanding feature is perhaps its sandstone St. Magnus Cathedral, widely considered the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland. The original town is one of the best-preserved examples of an ancient Norse town. Other sites of historical interest in the town include the Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace. Kirkwall was once a quiet place of contemplation but is now a bustling market town, a lively center for shopping and eating out.