Brough of Birsay



Reach this very special tidal island by causeway to explore Pictish, Norse and medieval remains. Brooches, rings and dress pins found on the Brough of Birsay suggest that it was a Pictish power centre.

The Norse settled the island 200 years later, in the 9th century, but may have lived peacefully alongside the Picts. It’s still possible to make out the remnants of Norse houses, barns and even a sauna. Later, a small church and monastery were built on Birsay.

What to see and do

  • Enjoy the scenic location – a challenge to get to, a joy to explore
  • Look for the replica Pictish symbol stone, a copy of a remarkable carving found here
  • Get a unique insight into the peaceful life of the Norse settlers by exploring the remains of their village
  • Marvel at the church of St Peter, a sophisticated building that had a square tower and glazed windows
  • View some important early sculptures and interesting Norse artefacts in the small visitor centre on the island
  • Take a short stroll to the small lighthouse at the crest of the island, above dramatic cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean
  • Count the many types of wildflower that grow in the machair (coastal grassland) and see puffins nest on cliffs in the spring
  • Take our fun fact-finding quiz while exploring the property. Also available on site
  • Discover nearly 5,000 years of Orkney’s history and prehistory, including Brough of Birsay, with our Orkney Digital Guide. Purchase as an Add-On when booking your ticket, or buy the Orkney Digital Guide from our online shop

Opening times

The Brough of Birsay is only accessible at low tide.

Please note, the visitor centre is closed.

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