AN Icelandic helicopter pilot believes he has discovered the site of an epic Viking battle - near the Gala Water - which shaped the future of the United Kingdom.

Gudbrandur Jonsson has spent the past 23 years attempting to find the site where one his ancestors was killed more than 1,000 years ago.

The bloody battle between King Olaf of Scotland and the English King, Athelstan, which involved around 300 Viking warriors, is vividly described in historic Icelandic texts.

Using topography and etymology as well as Egil's Saga as a guide, Gudbrandur has finally pinpointed the battlefield where Thorlof Skallagrimsson was slain.

Gudbrandur spent seven days at the site just outside Fountainhall earlier this month using high-tech equipment.

And he hopes to return in the coming months to conclude his search for evidence.

He told the Border Telegraph: "It was some 23 years ago that I started the search for the battlefield at Vinheiði using facts from the story.

"Egil's Saga is a story of a Viking clan and the adventures of the two brothers, Egil Skallagrimsson and Thorolf Skallagrimsson, who are contracted by the King of England to defend the East coast up to the border of what was then Scotland.

"It was from Berwick the two brothers and a band of 300 Vikings met the Earl of Northumberland and the King of Wessex, and England, in a final battle at a place called Vinheiði.

"I first searched for Vinheiði driving north from Newcastle as I wanted to get the feeling for the story and try find the location of the heidi (small hills) and the battlefield.

"At that time I used maps but when Google Earth came along with satellite photographs of the area, the helicopter pilot in me got all excited in finding the battlefield.

"I wanted to do one last search and a rescue mission, find the location, find the grave site, dig up my Viking relative and take him home to Iceland."

Icelandic and British historians disagree on many of the dates and locations of the epic Viking battles which took place across the British Isles.

According to the chronology of the Egil's Saga the battle between the Scots and English kings, with Viking support on each side, took place at Vinheiði in around 924.

But British historical sources locate the battle between Olaf and Athelstan at a place called Brunanburh more than a decade later.

And many possible sites for Brunanburh, ranging from the Wirral to Cumbria, are still contested by historians and scholars.

The majority of the sources of information regarding the Battle of Brunanburh come from Old English, Latin, Norse and Welsh poems and songs.

And many, just like Egil's Saga, are regarded as carrying bias and a romanticised narrative of the reconstruction due to national affiliations .

Gudbrandur believes that the Battle at Vinheiði, as described in Egil's Saga, and the Battle of Brunanburh are probably the same conflict.

And he is certain the battleground was just a spear's throw away from the current Borders Railway.

He explained: "It looks as though there were two battles, one in 924 with Athelstan as King of Wessex and then later as King of England at the Battle at Brunanburh in 937.

"Personally I think that the battle at Vinheiði and Brunanburh is one and the same.

"My search has been entirely for the place called Vinheiði as told in the Saga."

Egil's Saga describes the lives of Egil Skallagrímsson and his family from 850 AD to 1000 AD, narrating the history from his grandfather to his offspring.

The oldest surviving manuscript of the original oral tradition dates from 1240 AD - around 300 years after the epic battles on British soil.

According to Egil's Saga "...they sent messengers to King Olaf, saying that King Athelstan challenged him to a battle and proposed Wen Heath, (Vinheiði) as the location."

The texts state that "...Olaf the Red was the name of the king in Scotland. He was Scotch on his father's side, but Danish on his mother's side, and came of the family of Ragnar Hairy-breeks."

Olaf had already invaded Northumberland, which then included the Scottish Borders, and Mercia - killing an earl at York - before moving his considerable army to Vinheiði to do battle with Athelstan.

Both armies were boosted with Viking warriors from various Norse countries.

It is the details of the battlefield and surrounding countryside which has led Gudbrandur to the Gala Water valley.

He believes the borgs (fortresses) described as a day's ride to the north and south of Vinheiði, where the armies gathered, are Edinburgh and probably Melrose.

Gudbrandur said: "The distance from the borg in the north to the battlefield is around 28 kilometres - and the the same to the south.

"When at the battlefield the King of Wessex, or England, was fighting north at the river and moving up the river, which shows the river must have been flowing the other way or to the south.

"Not many rivers which are close to the current Border with Scotland do that in England.

"It was for me a surprise to see the name Fountain in Fountainhall when I located the site as that translates to Icelandic as Brunnur.

"Here is the connection to the poem Battle at Brunnanbarr - barrforest. Brunnur is Icelandic and Brunn is Danish and Norse - Burh is a spelling error. "Barr is a name of type of trees with needles on its branches which are green all year round and used for centuries as a defence material."

Using detailed descriptions of both army's camps and the actual battlefield, Gudbrandur, pinpointed his search to Weirfield Farm at Cortleferry.

With the blessing of the local authority, police and farmer John Weir, the Icelandic pilot carried out a full-scale search of the site.

And he has been encouraged enough by his findings to plan a return trip.

Gudbrandur, armed with magnetic sensors, scanned much of the field and believes he has found a grave.

A further discovery on his final evening of detecting has further strengthened his resolve.

He added: "In the story the brother Thorolf is killed and there is a warm description of the surviving brother cleaning him and preparing him for burial at the site, with all his iron armour and helmet on.

"I also had the feeling that the Vikings would honor the dead King of Scotland by burial at the site somewhere.

"The magnetic instrument pulled many tricks on me during my search - having me dig out mostly iron from fences.

"That was slowing me down and I ran out of time by Sunday, but there were two places of special interest for me.

"At a place called Allan´s Haugh - south of the battlefield - towards the camp site of the Vikings and the English I found a spot that for me is a grave site. There is a clear curve at the ground site.

"On the battlefield site, I think over many years the farmer has ploughed over Viking grave sites and the rocks are there to the side.

"It was here my instrument did sound up loud in the late hours of Sunday, but I ran out of time for any digging.

"I expect my Viking grave to be just under the edge of the plough tip - for me to find the next time."

Gudbrandur has donated four copies of Egil's Saga to the local community at Stow and hopes to return to his Vinheiði over the summer.