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.
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
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)
Sandy Isle (Sanday)
Ancestors Isle and the Speaking Place (Rousay and Taversoe Tuick)
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
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