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Places in Dragon Seer
This is one of the Standing Stones of Stenness, an ancient circle of stones raised about 5,000 years ago on Mainland, the largest island in Orkney. The blue hills in the background are Hoy, another island.

standing stone with Hoy

Dragon Seer is set in Orkney, a group of over 70 islands just off the northern tip of Scotland. The Orkneyjar website's page Where is Orkney? will tell you more. On the same site, you can see a map of the Orkney Islands, and an About the Orkney Islands page will show you where all the islands are located. Most of the action in Dragon Seer takes place on West Mainland, with one episode set on Rousay.

People have lived in Orkney a very long time, and the archaeological record goes back over 5000 years.  Dragon Seer is set in the 8th century, in the very early medieval period. Some of the settings in my book, like the Standing Stones of Stenness, were already thousands of years old when Dragon Seer took place. The characters in my book had no idea who had made these monuments, or how long they had been standing, but I assumed these places would have inspired the same awe in those people as they do in us today, and that they would have used them during important ceremonies.

Over thousands of years of habitation, Orkney has been home to different cultures. Most of these people left no history or written records, but we know they changed over time because of the archaeological evidence they left behind--the kinds of houses they lived in, how they buried their dead and the tools they used. 

All of the places in Dragon Seer are real, but I changed the names because place names in Orkney today have Norse roots. The Vikings must have renamed everything on the islands (including the islands themselves). To write a book set in the time of the Picts, I had to invent place names. In other parts of Scotland there are still places with Pictish names. “Pitt” meant “holdings of” or “land of.” “Aber” meant river mouth. So we know places like Pitlochry and Aberdeen in modern Scotland were once Pictish settlements.

Here’s a list of the places in Dragon Seer with their modern places names and links to more information.
 

 Dragon’s Tooth   (Brough of Birsay)                                         

Dragons’ Stable    (Maeshowe)                                         

Ring of the Moon  (Standing Stones of Stenness)

Ring of the Sun      (Ring of Brogar)

The Handfasting Stone    (The Odin Stone)

High Isle     (Hoy)

Sandy Isle    (Sanday)

Ancestors Isle and the Speaking Place   (Rousay and Taversoe Tuick)

                                        

Ness of Brodgar, Orkney


I took this photograph just outside Maes Howe, looking toward the Ness of Brodgar where the two sets of stone circles are located. This fertile landscape with gently sloping hills is typical of much of Orkney. The land in the middle of this picture sits between two lakes (lochs in Scots). Some important scenes in Dragon Seer take place in and around this setting. The Gathering was held inside the ring of stones you can see in the centre of the photo, the Standing Stones of Stenness, which I call the Ring of the Moon. Click on this link to see a map of the Ness of Brodgar. This shows the entire area and you can click on places in it to learn more.

The green field in the foreground is where people would camp during the Gathering.

If you go back to the photo at the top of this page, you'll see the hill that leads to Pitdurst, 
where much of the second part of the book is set, across the water just to the left of the standing stone.  These hills are bigger than they appear in that photograph. This final photo shows the place where I imagined Pitdurst to be. The island mostly hidden by clouds is Hoy again. It towers over the water in a way that really isn't captured by this photo. The lighthouse in the picture is on another smaller island, Graemsay.

view of hoy from Bay of Ireland, Orkney


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