Saints and Stones: Birsay
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The Brough of Birsay is a 50 acre tidal island roughly 800 feet off the northwest coast of Orkney. It has had two distinct phases: Pictish and Norse. The earliest settlement of Birsay seems to have been by Christian missionaries in the 5th Century A.D. By the 7th Century, the Picts had established a settlement, only to give way to a Norse settlement in the 9th Century.

The only remnants of the Pictish settlement is a well, although there is a replica of an 8th Century A.D. Pictish Symbol Stone on the island.

Most of the remains seen today are from the Norse period, including a number of dwellings, saunas and bathhouses, elaborate drains, and a church that has been dated to ca.1100 A.D. The Norse settlement lasted until the 13th Century. In addition, there also exists the remains of a monastic cloister that housed an order of monks.

About Birsay

Orkneyjar: Brough o' Birsay
Undiscovered Scotland: Brough of Birsay
Megalithic Portal: Birsay

Journey to Birsay

The Brough of Birsay is located off the northwest coast near the village of Birsay off the A966 in the West Mainland of Orkney. It is connected to the mainland at the Point of Buckquoy, the headland opposite, by a causeway and is accessible, usually twice a day, at or near low tide.

Ordnance Survey Map (HY239285)

Visitors Information

Visitors information may be found at the Historic Scotland website. General tourist information for Orkney may be found on the Visit Orkney website.

Additional Photos of Birsay (2007)

The Causeway from the Point of Buckquoy
The Causeway at Low Tide
Pictish Symbol Stone Replica
Close-Up of Pictish Symbol Stone Replica
Pictish Well Sign
Pictish Well
Early Norse Houses
Later Norse Houses
Norse Hall-Houses
Norse Hall-House
Norse Sauna
Remains of 1100 A.D. Church
Remains of 1100 A.D. Church
Monastery (left) and Church (right)
Returning to the Mainland from the Brough of Birsay

Additional Photos of Birsay (2010)

Descriptive Sign at Brough of Birsay
View of Causeway Leading to the Brough of Birsay
Stone with Cross in Visitor Center, Brough of Birsay
Stones in Visitor Center, Brough of Birsay
Runic-Inscribed Stones in Visitor Center, Brough of Birsay
Norse Houses Sign, Brough of Birsay
Remains of Norse Houses, Brough of Birsay
Sign for Church, Brough of Birsay
Entrance to Remains of Church, Brough of Birsay
Sign for Norse Sauna, Brough of Birsay
Remains of Norse Sauna, Brough of Birsay
Drain for Norse Sauna, Brough of Birsay
Leaving the Brough of Birsay


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