Brough of Birsay

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The brough in the background
Settlement remains
OS map from 1912

The Brough of Birsay is a tidal island and part of a 21-hectare peninsula on Mainland , the main island of about Scotland belonging Orkney Islands .

The name Birsay refers to a parish of the same name , at the northwest end of which is the Brough. On the first of Picts , then from 9. – 12. Broughs inhabited by Vikings in the 5th century AD , the remains of an ancient settlement exist.

Here the excavators found one of the most beautiful Pictish symbol stones with the symbol stone from the Brough of Birsay . In addition to two geometric symbols, a so-called Pictish Beast , an eagle and three warriors armed with shields and spears are carved on it. The highest-ranking person, recognizable by the most beautiful shield and the spear with the metal tip, is like a scratch that was found in Jarlshof on the Shetland Islands . The image of the three warriors on the symbol stone is so clear that it invites speculation whether an orcadian king is depicted here and whether Birsay was his royal seat. That would also explain why the Vikings took over the portless place. Orkney was undoubtedly part of the Pictish Kingdom, but it had its own ruler. Adomnan von Iona (628-704) narrates in "The Life of Columba" that this was during his visit to the court of the Pict king Brude mac Maelchon (Bridei I., about 555-587), son of Maelchon near Inverness in 565 AD asked the contemporary ruler of Orkney to guarantee the safety of his missionaries on the islands.

According to the Orkneyinga saga, Birsay, possibly on the Brough, was the first earl's seat, Orkney , which has belonged to Norway since around 880 AD . The remains of a palatial building with numerous rooms belong to the residence of Thorfinn the Mighty (1009-1065 AD).

As on some other broughs, there was once a monastery here , in the area of ​​which were the ruins of an 11th century church. It is questionable whether the Christ Church founded by Thorfinn is identical to the one documented on the Brough, because the foundations of a large church were uncovered during excavations under today's village church of Birsay. According to an old engraving, there was a house nearby that could have been the episcopal residence. The only evidence of their existence are lintels that were reused in the new village church and that bear the episcopal inscription "Mons Bellus".

At the northwest end of the island there has been a small unmanned lighthouse built by David Alan Stevenson (1854–1938) since 1925 . Nearby are the Saevar Howe mound and the Buckquoy site .


  • Cecil L. Curle: Pictish and Norse finds from the Brough of Birsay. 1934–74 (= Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Monograph Series. 1). Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh 1982, ISBN 0-903903-01-6 ( online ).
  • Anna Ritchie: Prehistoric Orkney. Historic Scotland, London a. a. 1995, ISBN 0-7134-7593-5 (English).

Web links

Commons : Brough of Birsay  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Birsay  - travel guide

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Brough of Birsay Lighthouse ( Memento from February 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) at the Northern Lighthouse Board. Retrieved February 23, 2012.

Coordinates: 59 ° 8 ′  N , 3 ° 20 ′  W