Return to Gotland

the_hall_of_tyr_book_four_XsmallIf you’ve read The Hall of Tyr, you’ll know the name of the Baltic island of Gotland. It is a place I truly love. I’ve recently returned from there, and wanted to share some of its attraction with you.

I first visited Gotland in September 1999. I was on a long research trip through Sweden and Denmark, visiting Viking-era sites and museum collections, and saw many places of interest and beauty. But the island of Gotland left an indelible impression. Approaching an island by sea always captures the imagination – the dark landform rising from the water, being able to discern its limits but not its substance. That experience returned to me years later while writing the end of Book Three, The Claiming, when Sidroc and Ceridwen, lost at sea and with very limited resources, sight Gotland ahead. It became their home and haven.

Raukar Gamlahamn

Dramatic raukar (limestone sea stacks) on the northwestern coast, Fårö, Gotland.

The Hall of Tyr (written a full nine years after The Claiming, although in the novel but a few hours have passed…) is set almost entirely on Gotland, as Ceridwen and Sidroc settle in to make their new life together. Writing about the island, revisiting the history and nature books I had bought there, the photos taken there, I knew that at last the time had come when I must return. The fact that I had a dear Swedish friend graduating from the museum studies program at the University of Visby set the time – May 2015. Returning to Gotland allowed me to immerse myself in its unique island beauty, conduct valuable research, and bring you the photos and videos that keeps that spirit alive for me and which I hope you will enjoy as well.

And yes – I am at work on Book Five, also set on Gotland. I’ll keep you posted, promise.

Firstly, thanks to our wonderful Airbnb hosts: Mariette Dahlgren and Mats Lund, at their beautiful cottage in Visby, and Luella Godman at Avonlea, her Connemara horse farm up north in Rute. We couldn’t have ordered up kinder, more helpful, and more interested and interesting hosts than you were – thank you!

Our cottage terrace, overlooking the walled city of Visby

Our cottage terrace, overlooking the walled city of Visby

Avonlea, Luella's Connemara horse farm in Rute.

Avonlea, Luella’s Connemara horse farm in Rute.


Ruins of Santa Katerina in the heart of Visby


Santa Katerina


One of the towers in the 13th century town wall


Viking-era standing stone at the Gotlands Fornsal Museum, Visby


Sun-wheel stone, Gotlands Fornsal Museum, Visby


Some of the standing stones are truly huge; I’m almost 5’10” and just look.


Viking-era cremation grave, Gotlands Fornsal Museum, Visby


The great Spillings Hoard, unearthed in 1999, 67 kilos (148 lbs) of buried silver, Gotlands Fornsal Museum, Visby


Hack silver from the Spillings Hoard showing ingots and broken jewellry.


Högklint, just south of Visby


Thomas Gahn, speaker of Gutnish, who helped me with the language for Tyr, at his historic boating club in Västergarn, with my cherished friends Liv Berntsson and Magnus Svensson.


The old wooden boats at the Västergarn sailing club

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Gotland is 176 km (109 miles) long and 52 km (32 miles) wide at its widest. This is southernmost tip of Gotland, the nature reserve of Hoburgen.

Gotland is 176 km (109 miles) long and 52 km (32 miles) wide at its widest. This is southernmost tip of Gotland, the nature reserve of Hoburgen.

The brilliant gold of rape, from which the vegetable oil Canola is made.

The brilliant gold of rape, from which the vegetable oil Canola is made.


Moss and fern undergrowth at Jungfrun (“The Virgin”) rock formation.


Jungfrun (“The Virgin”) rock, in the northwest. Legend tells that a cruel father caused the death of two devoted young lovers here.


We love to find human faces in rock outcroppings; here’s a good one at Jungfrun.


The Baltic coast from Jungfrun.


The raukar (limestone sea stack) at Gamlahamn, on Fårö, a separate island an 8 minute ferry ride north. Do you recall this raukar from The Hall of Tyr?


The Baltic coast from Jungfrun.


Sedge (called "ag" on Gotland) thatched traditional buildings at the Bunge Farm Museum.


Another traditional thatched farm building at Rute. Such buildings are still used as "lamm-gift" - sheep shelters, and "russ-gift", shelters for the hardy Gotlandic ponies.


Gotland has 57,200 residents, and 70,000 sheep, or lamm as they are called here. The Gotlandic sheep have long, curly, dense, and very soft fleece, from which wonderful knitted sweaters and felted wool jackets are made by the many talented artisans on the island.


Mother lamm and her twin lamms on the beach on Fårö. Note the brilliant orange lichen at left.


Magnificent stone wall on Fårö.

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All photos on this page by Jonathan Gilman.

See my Gotland videos here. Read more about Gotland and treasure here.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Debbie Aguilera June 26, 2019, 12:33 am

    I can see from many of the comments that I am not the only person who wants the story of Sidroc and Ceridwen and their famlies to continue. I read Sidroc the Dane after reading books 1 through 6. There is such a cliff hanger both in book 6 and Sidroc the Dane that has left me longing for the saga to continue.

  • Frad nand May 14, 2019, 7:11 pm

    Me ha cortado texto … no está todo. Digo que las granjas de tus fotos tienen un parecido a las barracas valencianas y las velas de las barcas de tus fotos se parecen a las que pintaba Sorolla en sus paisajes valencianos.

  • Frad nand May 14, 2019, 7:07 pm

    Hola Octavia, las granjas de las fotos ¿ no tienen cierto parecido a las barracas valencianas?. Como sabrás, los godos, goths, göts que terminaron en España y algunos quedaron, siendo la nobleza implicada en la reconquista de España. Se cree vienen de Götland, pasando a VästraGötland y ÖsterGötland que junto a la isla de Götland formaron el reino de ReidGötland y otras tribus germanas confederadas. Otra cosa que me recuerda a Valencia son esas barcas que sacas, en concreto las velas, ¿ puede que parecidas a las que pintaba el gran Sorolla?. En mi familia, valencianos, hay muchos con ojos claros , algunos rubios y pelirrojos, de pieles muy claras, otros que de pequeños son rubios y como el rey de España al llegar a los veinte o algo mas se hacen de pelo mas oscuro, como le pasó a mi madre, si bien tiene los ojos verdes, mi hermano mayor y el pequeño de niños muy muy rubios y ahora rubio y ojos azules. Se que descendemos de reyes que eran visigodos. Por lo menos por alguna línea.

  • Barry Silverberg November 25, 2017, 12:13 am

    Thoroughly enjoyed 1-6 of the circle books. Is there a volume 7 or more planned. If so, when might it/they be expected. A great reading experience. Thank you

  • Sam and Ronda Jones September 2, 2017, 8:12 pm

    Your website just gets better and better. We come here often to see all the new and wonderful things. Thank
    you for this.

    • Lois Squires July 20, 2019, 1:15 am

      I have devoured The Saga of Ceridwen on my ipad Learning more about how my ancestors lived, loved and warred gives me great pleasure as does the wonderful accompanied stories that illustrate them. Thank you for a joyfull read. I look forward to more of the same. I.

  • Patti Reed June 5, 2017, 12:32 am

    My daughter introduced me to The Circle books. I’ve flown through them & am anxiously awaiting book 7 …
    Any idea when I may have it???

  • Nadine September 1, 2015, 3:45 pm

    I just absolutely fell in love with all 4 books and flew right through them. I thought Four was the last one and am tickled pink to know that there is a Five on the way! Any idea as to when? (Can you tell that I am now anxiously awaiting it?!)

  • Jennifer Joyce August 26, 2015, 9:44 am

    Love the videos and photos–and I’m thrilled to hear about Book Five!!!!

    • Octavia Randolph August 27, 2015, 7:12 pm

      Many thanks, Jennifer! Book Five is coming…promise. The trip back to Gotland was highly inspirational, as you have seen and read. Thank you for looking forward to the result. One day I want to organize a entire Trip to Gotland for my readers…

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