Dragon's Tooth Isle
(The Brough of Birsay)
When I picked the place where the dragons and the dragon
seers would live, the Brough of Birsay was an easy choice. The
Brough of Birsay is a small island just off the coast of
Mainland, Orkney. It's connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway,
which means it's only accessible by foot when the tide is low. We
know that Picts lived there. Remains of a few small houses have
been excavated by archaeologists. There was also a small well where
metal smithing was carried out, and there are many signs of jewelry
making. Pictish chieftains often gave jewelry out to the people
under them. If you were a chieftain, you might hand out pins or
brooches to those who paid tribute to you. A Pictish symbol stone, an
important monument, was also found on the island. The Brough of Birsay
is too small to be a farm. The houses just across the water on
Mainland may have held people who did the farming there. All
this suggests that important people lived on the island.
Later, in Viking times, a community was built on the island, with a
church, stone houses and another forge for metal smithing. These ruins
are still visible today.
The Brough of Birsay a
remarkably pretty place. The island tilts toward Mainland, and comes
almost to sea level on the landward side. From there, it climbs
steadily to a height of about 46 metres, then the island crests in
cliffs that plunge straight down to the sea.
The Orkneyjar Brough of Birsay main page shows what the island looks like as seen from the shore at high tide and gives a short history. There is also a page of Brough of Birsay wide angle photos. The same site has a page about the Pictish Period,
which is when Dragon Seer is set. Most of the remains of Pictish
settlement were obliterated by the people who followed, but you can still see the Pictish Well,
one of the few remaining artifacts from the time of the Picts. In
Dragon Seer, the forge where Brude works with Garit and Tollie is built
around this well.
You can experience what it's like to visit the Brough of Birsay by
going to these Quicktime panoramas from the Medieval North Atlantic
website. Once inside these pictures, move the cursor left or right and
up and down to move around. If you want to view all four
you'll find links to them at the Medieval North Atlantic's Brough of Birsay Main Page.
Click on the icons on the right hand side to bring up different
information about this site. "Text" will give you a history of
the landmark and "Panoramas" will take you to a map which has all five video
links at the bottom.
Or you can use the links below to go directly to two Quicktime panoramas. Click here to see the Brough of Birsay causeway at low tide.
This shows you what the shore looks like when it's possible to cross
over to the island, and what the island looks like from sea level. The
straight-edged path that you can see is a modern cement path. Without
it, the causeway would have been very rocky and slippery.
This second panorama shows the view from the island itself.
Although the ruins you see in the picture are from Viking times, you do
get a sense of the island. This video is taken approximately where
the Dragon Seers' houses were located, and you can see the beach
leading to the causeway where Madoca and Heather sat the morning after
the naming flight.
The Birsay Heritage Trust page shows you a map of the entire area. The settlement of Aberlkel would have been located where Earl's Palace is today. Barleyfields was directly across the water from Dragon's Tooth.