Brough of Birsay at Low Tide.

This evening, the focus of blog is the Brough of Birsay on Orkney. This location is a tidal island approached by a causeway. The site features in the Orkneyinga Saga as Byrgisberad, the district of byrgi, a fortification.

This island is green and grazed by sheep. On the landward slope has existed a settlement lasting for some 600 years, from Pictish times through to the 12th century. In the Pictish cemetery a sculptured stone (the Birsay symbol stone) was found. This showed three robed and bareheaded warriors with their weapons. A facsimile of this carving stands on the site.

Pictish Stone at Birsay

Other aspects of the site:

  • A Pictish era metalworking site.
  • In the Norse period ‘Early Sigurd’s Hall’ was built on the edge of the cliff. This together with the later Earl Thorfinn’s Palace can still be seen together with the remains of Norse houses.
  • Ruined 12th century church and associated structures.

View from Brough of Birsay towards mainland Orkney with early Christian site in foreground.

Norse houses at Brough of Birsay.

Overall, an interesting site spanning a long period of history, from the Pictish through to Norse. Location is on the north side of the Orkney mainland, 20 miles NW of Kirkwall.

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