Jim Clark Room, Duns. 44 Newtown Street.

Jim Clark Room, Duns. 44 Newtown Street.

Museum dedicated to the life of Jim Clark, twice world motor racing champion in the 1960’s. Contains a unique collection of memorabilia, trophies and photographs.

Opening Hours
23rd March – 30th September
Monday to Saturday: 10am to 1pm & 2pm to 4:30pm
Sunday: 2pm to 4pm
1st – 31st October
Monday to Saturday: 1pm to 4pm

(Opening times should always be confirmed prior to travelling.)



Tel: 01361 883960
It’s not big and it’s not flashy but any fan of F1 would love it. There is loads of things to look at.
You can’t take pictures inside and the gift shop area is expensive.

Hadrian’s Wall and Antonine Wall



Hadrian’s Wall

The emperor Hadrian visited Britannia in AD 122 and ordered his generals to build a wall from the Tyne to the Solway, to prevent raiders from the north destroying the strategic Roman base at Corbridge, in Northumberland.
According to restored sandstone fragments found in Jarrow which date from 118 or 119, it was Hadrian’s wish to keep “intact the empire”, which had been imposed on him via “divine instruction”. The fragments then announce the building of the wall. It is entirely possible that, on his arrival in Britain in 122, one of the stops on his itinerary was the northern frontier to inspect the progress of the building of the wall.
It was built in 5 mile stretches, with seventeen forts. Smaller forts called ‘milecastles’ were built every mile and between these were signal turrets. Hadrian’s Wall was 80 Roman miles or 117.5 km (73.0 mi) long; its width and height varied according to the construction materials that were available nearby. East of the River Irthing, the wall was made from squared stone and measured 3 metres (9.8 feet) wide and 5 to 6 metres (16 to 20 feet) high, while west of the river the wall was originally made from turf and measured 6 metres (20 feet) wide and 3.5 metres (11 feet) high; it was later rebuilt in stone. These dimensions do not include the wall’s ditches, berms and forts. The central section measured eight Roman feet wide (7.8 ft or 2.4 m) on a 3 m (10 ft) base. Some parts of this section of the wall survive to a height of 3 m (10 ft).
Building the wall was a huge undertaking; it took 15 years to build, and sons followed fathers into guarding the wall. Eighteen thousand soldiers worked on it, and 4 million tonnes of stone were used.  It served as a frontier for several Roman incursions into Caledonia.
By AD 367 the wall was attacked by an alliance of tribes as part of the ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’.  The Roman peace – ‘Pax Romana’ – was restored for a short time, but by AD 400 the Empire which had stretched from Newcastle to the Nile was in crisis and the frontier was abandoned.


When in use it was effectively the northern limit of the Roman Empire.



Hadrian’s Wall Country has something for everyone – world class archaeology, spectacular landscapes, rare wildlife, complete solitude, vibrant cities, wonderful pubs and a population of friendly and welcoming people.
A significant portion of the wall still stands and can be followed on foot along the adjoining Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Immediately south of the wall, a large ditch was dug, with adjoining parallel mounds, one on either side. This is known today as the Vallum, even though the word Vallum in Latin is the origin of the English word wall, and does not refer to a ditch. In many places – for example Limestone Corner – the Vallum is better preserved than the wall, which has been much robbed of its stone.

Classic-Hadrians-wall-e1357875696319The limites of Rome were never expected to stop tribes from migrating or armies from invading, and while a frontier protected by a palisade or stone wall would help curb cattle-raiders and the incursions of other small groups, the economic viability of constructing and keeping guarded a wall 72 miles (116 km) long along a sparsely populated border to stop small-scale raiding is dubious.

Another possible explanation for the wall is the degree of control it would have provided over immigration, smuggling and customs. Limites did not strictly mark the boundaries of the empire: Roman power and influence often extended beyond the walls. People within and beyond the limes travelled through it each day when conducting business, and organised check-points like those offered by Hadrian’s Wall provided good opportunities for taxation. With watch towers only a short distance from gateways in the limes, patrolling legionaries could have kept track of entering and exiting natives and Roman citizens alike, charging customs dues and checking for smuggling. Another theory is of a simpler variety—that Hadrian’s Wall was partly constructed to reflect the power of Rome and was used as a political point by Hadrian. Once its construction was finished, it is thought to have been covered in plaster and then whitewashed: its shining surface reflected the sunlight and was visible for miles around.
Construction started in AD 122 and was largely completed in six years. Construction started in the east, between milecastles four and seven, and proceeded westwards, with soldiers from all three of the occupying Roman legions participating in the work. The route chosen largely paralleled the nearby Stanegate road from Luguvalium (Carlisle) to Coria (Corbridge), upon which were situated a series of forts, including Vindolanda. The wall in its central and best-preserved section follows a hard, resistant igneous diabase rock escarpment, known as the Whin Sill.

Early in its construction, just after reaching the North Tyne, the width of the wall was narrowed to 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) or even less (sometimes 1.8 metres) (the “Narrow Wall”). However, Broad Wall foundations had already been laid as far as the River Irthing, where the Turf Wall began, demonstrating that construction worked from east to west. Many turrets and milecastles were optimistically provided with wider stub “wing walls” in preparation for joining to the Broad Wall, offering a handy reference for archaeologists trying to piece together the construction chronology.

Within a few years it was decided to add a total of 14 to 17 full-sized forts along the length of the wall, including Vercovicium (Housesteads) and Banna (Birdoswald), each holding between 500 and 1,000 auxiliary troops (no legions were posted to the wall). The eastern end of the wall was extended further east from Pons Aelius (Newcastle) to Segedunum (Wallsend) on the Tyne estuary. Some of the larger forts along the wall, such as Cilurnum (Chesters) and Vercovicium (Housesteads), were built on top of the footings of milecastles or turrets, showing the change of plan. An inscription mentioning early governor Aulus Platorius Nepos indicates that the change of plans took place early on. Also, some time during Hadrian’s reign (before 138) the wall west of the Irthing was rebuilt in sandstone to about the same dimensions as the limestone section to the east.
Hadrians-WallIn the late 4th century, barbarian invasions, economic decline and military coups loosened the Empire’s hold on Britain. By 410, the estimated End of Roman rule in Britain, the Roman administration and its legions were gone and Britain was left to look to its own defences and government. Archaeologists have revealed that some parts of the wall remained occupied well into the 5th century. Hadrian’s Wall fell into ruin and over the centuries the stone was reused in other local buildings. Enough survived in the 8th century for spolia from Hadrian’s Wall to find their way into the construction of Jarrow Priory.

Much of the wall has disappeared. Long sections of it were used for roadbuilding in the 18th century, especially by General Wade to build a military road (most of which lies beneath the present day B6318 “Military Road”) to move troops to crush the Jacobite insurrection. The preservation of much of what remains can be credited to John Clayton. He trained as a lawyer and became town clerk of Newcastle in the 1830s. He became enthusiastic about preserving the wall after a visit to Chesters. To prevent farmers taking stones from the wall, he began buying some of the land on which the wall stood. In 1834, he started purchasing property around Steel Rigg near Crag Lough. Eventually, he controlled land from Brunton to Cawfields. This stretch included the sites of Chesters, Carrawburgh, Housesteads, and Vindolanda. Clayton carried out excavation at the fort at Cilurnum and at Housesteads, and he excavated some milecastles.
Although Hadrian’s Wall was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, it remains unguarded, enabling visitors to climb and stand on the wall, although this is not encouraged, as it could damage the historic structure. On 13 March 2010, a public event Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall took place, which saw the route of the wall lit with 500 beacons. On 31 August and 2 September 2012, there was a second illumination of the wall as a digital art installation called “Connecting Light”, which was part of London 2012 Festival.

Hadrian’s Wall Path
The Latin and Romano-Celtic names of all of the Hadrian’s Wall forts are known, from the Notitia Dignitatum and other evidence such as inscriptions:
Segedunum (Wallsend)
Pons Aelius (Newcastle upon Tyne)
Condercum (Benwell Hill)
Vindobala (Rudchester)
Hunnum (Halton Chesters)
Cilurnum (Chesters aka Walwick Chesters)
Procolita (Carrowburgh)
Vercovicium (Housesteads)
Aesica (Great Chesters)
Magnis (Carvoran)
Banna (Birdoswald)
Camboglanna (Castlesteads)
Uxelodunum (Stanwix. Also known as Petriana)
Aballava (Burgh-by-Sands)
Coggabata (Drumburgh)
Mais (Bowness-on-Solway)

Turrets on the wall include:
Leahill Turret

Outpost forts beyond the wall include:
Habitancum (Risingham)
Bremenium (High Rochester)
Fanum Cocidi (Bewcastle) (north of Birdoswald)
Ad Fines (Chew Green)

Supply forts behind the wall include:
Alauna (Maryport)
Arbeia (South Shields)
Coria (Corbridge)
Vindolanda (Little Chesters or Chesterholm)
Vindomora (Ebchester)

This iconic tree was used as a location in the film Robin Hood Prince of thieves, and is a notable point in the midst of Hadrians Wall.

sycamore gap (the robin hood tree from the film)

Antonine wall




Guerilla warfare by the Caledonians kept the Romans at bay after the battle of Mons Graupius. The Roman legionaries dismantled the fort at Inchtuthil, buried anything made of iron and marched south.

To keep the raiding tribes at bay, a new frontier was needed. This was the Antonine Wall, built in AD 142, by order of Emperor Antoninus Pius.

The wall, with its 19 forts, was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire for about fifty years. It stretched from Bo’ness on the Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde.  At 37 miles (60 km) in length, it had a stone base, with turf blocks, a wooden battlement on top, and a broad ditch on the north side.  On the south side was the military road linking the 19 forts.

Construction was by detachments from the 2nd Legion based in Wales, the 6th at York, and the 20th at Chester – the same legions as had toiled on Hadrian’s Wall.

Records of their work in the form of stone ‘distance slabs’ are unique – nothing similar has been found elsewhere in the Roman world.  In 2009 the Antonine Wall received protected status and is now a World Heritage Site.


Distance slabs from the Antonine Wall can be seen at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum, and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

You can visit the remains of the Antonine Wall and museums along its route display artifacts including Roman coins, brooches and sandals. Antonine Wall artifacts can be seen at Kinneil Museum in Bo’ness, Callendar House Museum in Falkirk and The Auld Kirk Museum in Kirkintilloch
The Antonine Wall was a turf fortification on stone foundations, built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. Representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, it spanned approximately 63 kilometres (39 miles) and was about 3 metres (10 feet) high and 5 metres (16 feet) wide. Security was bolstered by a deep ditch on the northern side. It is thought that there was a wooden palisade on top of the turf. The barrier was the second of two “great walls” created by the Romans in Northern Britain. Its ruins are less evident than the better-known Hadrian’s Wall to the south, primarily because the turf and wood wall has largely weathered away, unlike its stone-built southern predecessor.

Construction began in CE 142 at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, and took about 12 years to complete. It may be noted in passing that Antoninus Pius never visited the British Isles, whereas his predecessor Hadrian did, and may well have visited the site of his Wall, though this has not yet been proved.

Pressure from the Caledonians may have led Antoninus to send the empire’s troops further north. The Antonine Wall was protected by 16 forts with small fortlets between them; troop movement was facilitated by a road linking all the sites known as the Military Way. The soldiers who built the wall commemorated the construction and their struggles with the Caledonians in decorative slabs, twenty of which still survive. The wall was abandoned only eight years after completion, and the garrisons relocated back to Hadrian’s Wall. In 208 Emperor Septimius Severus re-established legions at the wall and ordered repairs; this has led to the wall being referred to as the Severan Wall. The occupation ended a few years later, and the wall was never fortified again. Most of the wall and its associated fortifications have been destroyed over time, but some remains are still visible.
Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius ordered the construction of the Antonine Wall around 142. Quintus Lollius Urbicus, governor of Roman Britain at the time, initially supervised the effort, which took about twelve years to complete. The wall stretches 63 kilometres (39 miles) from Old Kilpatrick in West Dunbartonshire on the Firth of Clyde to Carriden near Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth. The wall was intended to extend Roman territory and dominance by replacing Hadrian’s Wall 160 kilometres (99 miles) to the south, as the frontier of Britannia. But while the Romans did establish many forts and temporary camps further north of Antonine’s wall in order to protect their routes to the north of Scotland, they did not conquer the Caledonians, and the Antonine Wall suffered many attacks. The Romans called the land north of the wall Caledonia, though in some contexts the term may refer to the whole area north of Hadrian’s Wall.

There was once a remarkable Roman structure within sight of the Antonine Wall at Stenhousemuir. This was Arthur’s O’on, a circular stone domed monument or rotunda, which may have been a temple, or a tropaeum, a victory monument. Sadly it was demolished for its stone in 1743, though a replica exists at Penicuik House.

The wall was abandoned only eight years after completion, when the Roman legions withdrew to Hadrian’s Wall in 162, and over time may have reached an accommodation with the Brythonic tribes of the area, whom they may have fostered as possible buffer states which would later become “The Old North”. After a series of attacks in 197, the emperor Septimius Severus arrived in Scotland in 208 to secure the frontier, and repaired parts of the wall. Although this re-occupation only lasted a few years, the wall is sometimes referred to by later Roman historians as the Severan Wall. This led to later scholars like Bede mistaking references to the Antonine Wall for ones to Hadrian’s Wall.

Antonine-WallThe Antonine Wall, also called Vallum Antonini, ran between the estuaries of the rivers Forth and Clyde in what is now Scotland. It had a stone foundation with a turf wall on top. Each two miles there was a fort. From north to south the wall had a ditch, wall and military road. It lacked a rear ditch system like the Vallum on Hadrian’s Wall.
In medieval histories, such as the chronicles of John of Fordun, the wall is called Gryme’s dyke. Fordun says that the name came from the grandfather of the imaginary king Eugenius son of Farquahar. This evolved over time into Graham’s dyke – a name still found in Bo’ness at the wall’s eastern end – and then linked with Clan Graham. Of note is that Graeme in some parts of Scotland is a nickname for the devil, and Gryme’s Dyke would thus be the Devil’s Dyke, mirroring the name of the Roman Limes in Southern Germany often called ‘Teufelsmauer’. Grímr and Grim are bynames for Odin or Wodan, who might be credited with the wish to build earthworks in unreasonably short periods of time. This name is the same one found as Grim’s Ditch several times in England in connection with early ramparts: for example, near Wallingford, Oxfordshire or between Berkhamsted (Herts) and Bradenham (Bucks). Other names used by antiquarians include the Wall of Pius and the Antonine Vallum, after Antoninus Pius. Hector Boece in his 1527 History of Scotland called it the “wall of Abercorn”, repeating the story that it had been destroyed by Graham.

World Heritage status

The UK government’s nomination of the Antonine Wall for World Heritage status to the international conservation body UNESCO was first officially announced in 2003. It has been backed by the Scottish Government since 2005 and by Scotland’s then Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson since 2006. It became the UK’s official nomination in late January 2007, and MSPs were called to support the bid anew in May 2007. The Antonine Wall was listed as an extension to the World Heritage Site “Frontiers of the Roman Empire” on 7 July 2008. Though the Antonine Wall is mentioned in the text, it does not appear on UNESCO’s map of world heritage properties.

Several individual sites along the line of the wall are in the care of Historic Scotland. These are:

Bar Hill Fort
Bearsden Bath House
Croy Hill
Rough Castle
Seabegs Wood
Watling Lodge

John Knox House. Edinburgh

John Knox House: Edinburgh

Hunt for the devil hiding in The Oak Room ceiling and try your hand at our portrait puzzles that have stumped many visitors in the past. Try on costumes and just ‘feel’ the atmosphere.


John Knox House dates back to 1470, which makes it and Moubray House which is attached, the only original medieval building surviving on the Royal Mile. The house is associated with one of the most dramatic and turbulent times in Scottish History – The Scottish Reformation – which resulted in the outbreak of civil war and the abdication of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Although John Knox only stayed in this house for a short time before his death in 1572, it was his association with the house that saved it from demolition in the 1840s. During an excavation of the house, time-capsules were found buried in the gable wall of the house to commemorate the moment the building was saved. One of these time capsules is displayed in the window of our bookshop.
James Mosman – jeweller and goldsmith to Mary, Queen of Scots – lived in the house in the 1550s until his execution in 1573. He was extremely loyal to Queen Mary and was part of the ‘Queen’s Men’ who seized Edinburgh Castle in an attempt to restore Mary to the throne after her forced abdication in favour of her protestant son James VI.
You can get a guided tour and an audio tour but I’d phone in advance if that was your intention.

The Picts

October 25th Photograph Pictish Stone Glamis Scotland

So I have to inform you that some of the pictures used in this post will include nudity. Nothing over the top and only drawings of pict people.



“Venit et extremis legio praetenta Britannis, Quae Scotto dat frena truci ferronque notatas Perlegit examines Picto moriente figuras”

The above words of the Roman poet Claudian perhaps give the only physical description of the race of people known as Picts who once raided Roman Britain, defeated the Anglo-Saxon invaders and in one of the great mysteries of the ancient world, disappeared as a separate people by the end of the tenth century.
“This legion, which curbs the savage Scot and studies the designs marked with iron on the face of the dying Pict,” are the Claudian words which give some insight as to the name given by Rome to the untamed tribes north of Hadrian’s Wall . The Romans called this pre-Celtic people Pictii, or “Painted,” although Claudius’ words are proof that (as claimed by many historians), the ancient Picts actually tattooed their bodies with designs. To the non-Roman Celtic world of Scots and Irish and the many tribes of Belgic England and Wales they were known as “Cruithni” and for many centuries they represented the unbridled fury of a people who refused to be brought under the yoke of Rome or any foreign invader.
Some historians now believe that the Romans may have simply misheard the name ‘Pecht’ or ‘Pect’. In Old Norse the Picts were called the Péttir, Péttar or Peti. Old English names included Pehtas and Peohtas.

The origins of the Picts are clouded with many fables, legends and fabrications, and there are as many theories as to who the Picts were (Celtic, Basque, Scythians, etc.), where they came from, what they ate or drank, and what language they spoke, as there once were Pictish raiders defying the mighty legions of Rome. Legend tells us, perhaps incorrectly, that Rome’s mighty Ninth Legion, the famous “Hispana” legion, which had earned its battle honors in Iberia, conquering Celtic Spain for Caesar is never heard of again when faced against the Picts (they actually surfaced years later in Israel). We do know that the Picts may have spoken a non-Celtic language, (although many Celtophiles feel the Picts spoke a Brythonic-Gaulish form of Celtic language) as St. Columba’s biographer clearly stated that the Irish saint needed a translator to preach to the Pictish King Brude, son of Maelchon, at Brude’s court near the shores of Loch Ness. At other times the Pictish king lived at Scone, and we know there often were two separate Pictish kingdoms of Northern and Southern Picts. We know that they were mighty sailors, for the Romans feared the Pictish Navy almost as much as the wild men who came down from the Highlands to attack the villages along the wall. We also know that as far as the 9th century they wrote in stone a language which was not far in design from the Celtic “Ogham” script but was not Celtic in context.  By the legacy of their standing stones, we know that they were great artists as well. It is also well known that the Picts were one of Western culture’s rare matrilinear societies; that is, bloodlines passed through the mother, and Pictish kings were not succeeded by their sons, but by their brothers or nephews or cousins as traced by the female line in a complicated series of intermarriages by seven royal houses.

It was this rare form of succession which in the year 845 A.D. gave the crown of Alba and the title Rex Pictorum to a Celtic Scot, son of a Pictish princess by the name of Kenneth, Son of Alpin. This Kenneth MacAlpin, whose father’s kingship over the Scots had been earlier taken over by the Pictish king Oengus, who ruled as both king of Picts and Scots, and who possibly harbored a deep ethnic hatred for the Picts, and in the event known as “MacAlpin’s Treason” murdered the members of the remaining seven royal houses thus preserving the Scottish line for kingship of Alba and the eventual erasure from history of the Pictish race, culture and history.

The true mystery in Pictish studies is the extraordinary disappearance of the culture of the tattoed nations of the North. The fact that within three generations of MacAlpin kings, the Picts were almost held in legendary status as a people of the past must be the real question to be answered, and the historian is consumed by legend, lack of facts and the nagging story of an obscure intrigue leading to genocide of a people, its customs, culture, laws and art.

It is in the sculptured stones of Scotland, left behind by the Pictish and proto-Pictish people of ancient Alba and present day Scotland that we can find some information about a mighty race of people who defied and defeated Rome and who slaughtered the invincible barbarian hordes of Angles Germans at Nechtansmere in Angus, and hammered the invading Vikings back home thus forever preserving a separate culture and race in Scotland. It is in these sometimes mighty, sometimes delicate stones that the history of ancient Scotland is now recorded. Were they descendants of the ancient Basque people of northern Spain once known to Rome as Pictones, who then migrated to northern Britain after they had helped the Empire defeat the seagoing people of Biscay? Or are they descendants of the dark tribes of ancient Stygia and the huge Eastern steepes? No one knows – only the Stones.

Early Pictish religion is presumed to have resembled Celtic polytheism in general, although only place names remain from the pre-Christian era. When the Pictish elite converted to Christianity is uncertain, but traditions place Saint Palladius in Pictland after he left Ireland, and link Abernethy with Saint Brigid of Kildare. Saint Patrick refers to “apostate Picts”, while the poem Y Gododdin does not remark on the Picts as pagans. Bede wrote that Saint Ninian (confused by some with Saint Finnian of Moville, who died c. 589), had converted the southern Picts. Recent archaeological work at Portmahomack places the foundation of the monastery there, an area once assumed to be among the last converted, in the late 6th century. This is contemporary with Bridei mac Maelchon and Columba, but the process of establishing Christianity throughout Pictland will have extended over a much longer period.




Perhaps the greatest mystery of Scottish or even European history is the people who once inhabited the lands north of Hadrian’s Wall and as far north as the Shetlands. Who were these fiercely independent people? Where did the come from? Which language did they speak? What did they call themselves? We first hear of them in the third century from a Roman writer, who describes their fierceness and battle skills. The writer Eumenius, writes about them 200 years after Rome has been in Britain, and the name associated with the Pict is forever coined. To this day, we do not know if this is truly as in “pictus” (the Latin for “painted”) or a Latin form of a native name. Because of the isolation of northern Scotland, history yields little, and the Roman Empire’s expeditions into the north ended in little gains.

“We, the most distant dwellers upon the earth, the last of the free, have been shielded…by our remoteness and by the obscurity which has shrouded our name…Beyond us lies no nation, nothing but waves and rocks”
The above words by the Pictish chief Calgacus are recorded by the Roman enemy in the words of Tacitus and are a perfect example of the obscurity and legendary status held by the Picts almost 2,000 years ago.

The Pictish language is extinct. Evidence is limited to place names, the names of people found on monuments, and the contemporary records. The evidence of place-names and personal names argues strongly that the Picts spoke Insular Celtic languages related to the more southerly Brittonic languages. A number of Ogham inscriptions have been argued to be unidentifiable as Celtic, and on this basis, it has been suggested that non-Celtic languages were also in use.
The absence of surviving written material in Pictish—if the ambiguous “Pictish inscriptions” in the Ogham script are discounted—does not indicate a pre-literate society. The church certainly required literacy in Latin, and could not function without copyists to produce liturgical documents. Pictish iconography shows books being read, and carried, and its naturalistic style gives every reason to suppose that such images were of real life. Literacy was not widespread, but among the senior clergy, and in monasteries, it would have been common enough.

Place-names often allow us to deduce the existence of historic Pictish settlements in Scotland. Those prefixed with the Brittonic prefixes “Aber-“, “Lhan-“, or “Pit-” ( “peth”, a thing) are claimed to indicate regions inhabited by Picts in the past (for example: Aberdeen, Lhanbryde, Pitmedden, etc.). Some of these, such as “Pit-”  may have been formed after Pictish times, and may refer to previous “shires” or “thanages”.
The evidence of place-names may also reveal the advance of Gaelic into Pictland. As noted, Atholl, meaning New Ireland, is attested in the early 8th century. This may be an indication of the advance of Gaelic. Fortriu also contains place-names suggesting Gaelic settlement, or Gaelic influences. A pre-Gaelic interpretation of the name as Athfocla meaning ‘north pass’ or ‘north way’, as in gateway to Moray, suggests that the Gaelic Athfotla may be a Gaelic misreading of the minuscule c for t.
Early Scotland
The earliest recorded evidence of man in Scotland is dated to 8,500 B.C.
The great stone circles such as Sunhoney were probably being built around 3,300 BC, quite possibly around the same time as the arrival of the Beaker people from Northern and Central Europe.
Evidence of contact between these new people and their continental ancestors have been discovered in several excavations, and seem to indicate a flourishing trade between ancient Scotland and Europe.

The arrival of the Celts to Britain and Ireland brings yet another culture to these northern parts. The Irish call themselves the “Milesian race,” based on the myth that they are descended from Milesius, a Celtic King of Spain.
Celtic Torque from Spain
As a warrior culture, it was a Celtic army which nearly destroyed Rome in her early days and thus forever made themselves an unforgivable enemy of the Latin empire. Because the first historical reference to the Picts appears in 297 A.D., when they are mentioned as enemies of Rome in the same context as the Hiberni (Irish), Scotii (Scots) and Saxones (Saxons), many historians assume that the Picts were simply another Celtic tribe.  Michael Lynch eloquently states that “Whatever the Picts were, they are likely, as were other peoples either in post-Roman western Europe or in contemporary Ireland, to have been an amalgalm of tribes, headed by a warrior aristocracy which was by nature mobile. Their culture was the culture of the warrior… .”

The Romans came to Scotland, often defeated the Picts in battle, but they never conquered them or the land on which they lived. By the third century A.D. the Roman general Agricola slaughtered a Pictish army led by the quoted Calgacus, the Swordsman (as many of 10,000 Picts may have been killed and 340 Romans).
It was to retain control of the advances made by Agricola that several forts were built between Callander near Stirling up to Perth. Within thirty years of their establishment, the Picts had destroyed and burned the Roman forts, and according to Victorian legend, Rome’s most famous legion, the Ninth was sent north from Inchtuthil to perhaps relieve Pictish pressure. Legend has it that legion was massacred and forever lost in some unknown battle against the painted men of the north.

It was Hadrian who decided that northern Scotland was not worth more legions, and so he pulled back the Empire to the Tyne and the Solway. There he built the famous wall which bears his name, seventy miles from sea to sea. Perhaps because of constant warfare and attacks against the wall, that Antoninus Pius advanced the frontier again to the thin Scottish neck between the Forth and Clyde. Thirty nine miles long and boasting twenty forts, it may have separated Pictish tribes on either sides of the wall. The wall was manned by the Second, Sixth and Twentieth Legions during its forty years. The Picts never ceased attacking it, and in fact the Romans lost it and regained it twice before finally giving it up by the end of the second century and retreating to Hadrian’s Wall. We lean from the words of Cassius Dio that the northern tribes “crossed the wall, did a great deal of damage and killed a general and his troops.”


In 208 A.D., the governor of Britain was forced to appeal to the Emperor for help against the barbarians, and Septimus Severus decided to come to Britain together with his sons. The old soldier took a Roman fleet loaded with 40,000 centurions into the Firth of Forth, landed a vengeful Roman army ashore, and although he defeated every Pictish army he met and beheaded every Pictish chief who failed to surrender, he failed to conquer the land which he called Caledonia and he too was soon dead. However, the lesson grimly taught by the Roman and the decimation caused in the Pictish countryside must have been of such consequences that for nearly a century peace was kept in the land; the Romans manned Hadrian’s Wall and the northern tattoed tribes stayed in their grim, brooding hills north of it.

The fourth century erupts in warfare again and in 305 A.D. the Romans fought against “Caledones and other Picts.” The northern tribes are now called “Picts” by their enemies, and in the south, Scots, Saxons and Franks also add to the woes of Rome by raiding southern Britain. In 343 A.D. Constans starts a campaign against the Picts and probably entered into a truce with them. In 360 Ammanius Marcellus states that the “Picts were now two peoples – the Dicalydones and Verturiones.” That same year, the truce is broken and the Picts, allied with the Scots of Ireland pour through the wall into northern England and are repulsed back. They kept hammering at the wall, and may have in fact joined in a multi- tribal alliance against Rome. In 382-3, allied with the Scots they again invade England, and this time the damage done to the wall and its forts is never repaired although the invaders are driven back by Magnus Maximus. The end of the century brings yet another Pictish invasion, this time met by the great Roman general Stilicho himself, who also manages to send the great Irish hero Niall of the Nine Hostages, scampering back to Ireland.
By 409 the Roman hold on Britain was slipping away, and Britons were told to defend themselves. About this time the Celtic Gaelic tribe of Scots begins settling in the southwest of Scotland, creating the kingdom of Dalriada in Argyll (Oir Ghaedhil or Eastern Gaels). Out of the need to protect themselves from the barbaric Pictish and Scottish hordes, a new kingdom is created by the Britons of Strathclyde, who spoke a Celtic tongue much like their cousins in Wales. By 450 the Picts are pouring into the south again, and the monk Gildas calls them the “foul hordes of Scots and Picts, like dark throngs of worms who wriggle out of narrow fissures in the rock when the sun is high and the weather grows warm.” This is the last time we hear of the Picts and Scots fighting as allies, and if we take Gildas literally, the Scots return to Ireland around this time. In 461, St. Patrick dies, but Christianity is well spread in Ireland.


The Land of the Picts

By studying the Roman accounts of the Pictish Wars as well as later accounts, it appears that the Pictish lands were essentially north of the Forth-Clyde line, north of the Antonine Wall. Roman pacification, and Celtic and Saxon migration from the south would have erased any Pictish claims to people or lands south of the wall. In the west, Pictish presence in Argyll must have disappeared quickly after the arrival of the Scots of Dalriada around 500 A.D., although as evidenced by the standing stone near the entrance to Inveraray castle in Campbell country, they were there at one point in their history. In the north, Pictish influences reached as far north as the islands went and stones have been found in nearly all of them. This land was defended many times after the departure of Rome’s legions. The Picts fought invasions by the Scots in the west, the Britons and Angles in the south and the Vikings in the north. They sometimes lost great battles and huge chunks of land, only to regain it in the vicious warfare of the Dark Ages. In the 7th century the Scots pushed their frontier far north, and a victorious Celtic army came within a half-day march of the Pictish capital of Inverness in the north before it was crushed. In the south, the Angles marched their Teutonic armies north and held Pictish lands for thirty years before they were butchered and sent fleeing south by a united Pictish army.

Although historians disagree on nearly everything which has been written about the Picts, and they disagree on the following, it is thought that the Picts had 69 Kings.



The Legends


In the beginning of time, there was a Pict king named Cruithne, son of Cing, and Cruithne reigned for 100 years. He had seven sons (the number seven is the key to many Pictish mysteries, and as the work of Jackson shows a key element to understand the Pictish stones – more later). His sons were called Fib, Fidach, Foclaid (or Fotla), Fortrenn, Caitt (or Cat), Ce and Circenn. The names of Cruithne’s seven sons were also equated to the seven provinces of Pictland detailed in an ancient account of Scotland called De Situ Albanie (possibly written in the 14th century according to F.T. Wainwright).

It has been suggested that the seven sons had there own small kingdoms within the larger one ruled over by there father.
The early history of Pictland is unclear. In later periods multiple kings existed, ruling over separate kingdoms, with one king, sometimes two, more or less dominating their lesser neighbours. De Situ Albanie, a late document, the Pictish Chronicle, the Duan Albanach, along with Irish legends, have been used to argue the existence of seven Pictish kingdoms. These are as follows; those in bold are known to have had kings, or are otherwise attested in the Pictish period:
Cait, or Cat, situated in modern Caithness and Sutherland
Ce, situated in modern Mar and Buchan
Circinn, perhaps situated in modern Angus and the Mearns
Fib, the modern Fife, known to this day as ‘the Kingdom of Fife’
Fidach, location unknown, but possibly near Inverness
Fotla, modern Atholl (Ath-Fotla)
Fortriu, cognate with the Verturiones of the Romans; recently shown to be centred on Moray

More small kingdoms may have existed. Some evidence suggests that a Pictish kingdom also existed in Orkney.  Orkney was, at least for a time, part of the Pictish Kingdom, probably with its own local ruler, but owing fealty to a central High King. The extent of this allegiance is debatable but it seems likely that people of Orkney maintained considerable independence, by virtue of their isolation – an independence that may have prompted certain measures to keep the islands under control. Adomnan, the biographer of St Columbus, states that there were Orcadians at the court of the Pictish High King, Bridei, in 565 AD. He described these Orcadians as “hostages”, which implies that relations between Orkney and Pictish King were perhaps strained. The hostages would have been Bridei’s insurance policy to keep Orkney on a tight leash.

Some historians, however, have pointed out that these “hostages” could have an altogether less hostile interpretation and that they were merely guests at the King’s court.

Where we know little about the Picts of what is now mainland Scotland, we know even less about the people of Orkney in the Pictish period. This is primarily due to the fact that the Romans, the major chroniclers of early British History, never made it this far north in any great numbers – if at all. Their language is a mystery; the meaning of the symbols stones they left remains an enigma. Despite having uncovered several examples of Pictish houses in Orkney, we can only speculate about their everyday life, religion and social structure. Although recent archaeological work in Orkney, and mainland Scotland, continues to shed light on the Picts, many of the theories about their way of life remain educated speculation, with scholars divided on many elements.

De Situ Albanie is not the most reliable of sources, and the number of kingdoms, one for each of the seven sons of Cruithne, the eponymous founder of the Picts, may well be grounds enough for disbelief. Regardless of the exact number of kingdoms and their names, the Pictish nation was not a united one.

The list of kings does verify one area which is the largest obstacle to those who seek the Celtification of the Picts – The list delivers clear evidence that the Picts were a matrilinear society – that is: the bloodlines passed through the mother, and rarely did a son succeed a father to the crown of Pictland. This is rare enough in western society and not recorded in any Celtic society (although the Scots, once they assumed the Pictish throne, curiously kept a matrilinear descent of the crown, but within the MacAlpin dynasty). This Pictish matrilinear evidence is confirmed by Bede, who wrote that the Pictish succession went through the female line. Bede also re- affirms the existence (at least at the time of his writing in the mid 700’s) of two kingdoms of the Picts – a northern and southern king.

Many Pictish kings were named Bridei (or Brude). In the writings of St. Columba’s biographer (who was no friend of the Picts) we learn of one of the most powerful of these Bridei kings.

The writer (Adamnan) details the journey of the Irish saint to the court of Bridei near Loch Ness. The legendary monster of the lake makes its historical debut in this same story, and we are told that King Bridei (ruled 554-584) was an exceptionally powerful king. We are also told that Columba needed interpreters to speak to the king, clear evidence that the Picts did not speak the Celtic language of the Irish and Scots (or at the very least not the Gael version of the Celtic tongue). King Bridei also defeated the Scots, in battle against their king Gabran and laid waste to the Scottish holdings in the west. Had he pressed on and expelled the Scots from Argyll, Scotland may still be Pictland or Alba today.

Bridei was succeeded by Gartnait IV, the 37th king in the list, who reigned for about 20 years. Sometime during this period, the son of the defeated Scottish king, Aedan MacGabran (who may have been married to a Pictish princess), began warring against the Picts in his northern frontier (and the Northumbrians to his south) once more. The Scottish king was defeated in his southern expansions, by the great Anglo-Saxon king, Aethelfrid of Northumbria. It was this same Teutonic king who then marched into Pictland and conquered it as far as the Firth of Forth; suddenly, the Picts had a new worry in the nearly invincible Germanic tribes who had conquered most of Celtic England by this time.

Back to the Pictish kings, Gartnait IV followed was Nechtan II, son of Irb (Canonn in the Irish lists). He was succeeded by Ciniath (around 630), son of Lutrin. He was in turn followed by Nechtan III, son of Uid, Bridei/Brude II and Talorc IV. In 637, Pictish warriors may have fought on Irish soil as part of a multinational host of Britons, Saxons, Scots and Picts assembled by the Ulster nobleman Congal Claen to take over the crown of Ireland. Back in the Anglo- Saxon borders, Oswald had become King of Northumbria, and by 668, his brother Oswiu had conquered part of Dalriada and more of southern Pictland. In the free north, another Gartnait had ruled and died in 663 to be succeeded by Drest, who revolted against the Anglo-Saxon invaders, but was crushed by a Northumbrian host led by King Ecgfrith, who had succeeded Oswiu. After the defeat, Drest was removed as a king by another Bridei. This great Pictish king began his reign by taking the great ancient Pictish fortress at Dunnottar in 681.

He then assembled a Pictish fleet which sailed north and destroyed the growing Orcadian sea power in 682 and finally laying waste to the Scottish capital of Dunnadd in 683. Two years later, on 20 May 685, the Pictish King faced the huge host of the Anglo-Saxon invader on the plains of Dunnichen, in Angus. The battle which followed, called the Battle of Nechtansmere by the English and Dunnichen by Caledonians, remains one of the most significant turning points in ancient history and has shaped the character of the land for the next 1300 years.

It was at Nechtansmere that Bridei made his name great. The invincible Anglo-Saxons had defeated every force which they had faced, and by now had occupied southern Pictland for 30 years. The Picts won that day, and massacred the entire English Anglo-Saxon host including its proud king as well as “cleansing” the land by killing or enslaving the remaining Northumbrians who had settled in Pictland. Had Bridei lost that great battle, the Scotland of today would not exist and all of Britain would have been English.

Bridei was followed by Taran, son of Enfidach and he was in form followed by Brude/Bridei IV, possibly the grandson of the Brude of Nechtansmere fame. He also fought the Northumbrians (this time far south of Pictland) and is thought to have destroyed yet another Northumbrian host and killed a Teutonic sub-king in the Lothians. Legend has it that this King endorsed (along with 51 other tribal kings of Britain) “The Law of the Innocents,” which prohibited women from fighting in battle and in turn protected them, children and the clergy from the viciousness of the war itself. It is interesting to know that the “Law” had been proposed by Adamnan, whose mother Irish legend has it was horrified to see Pictish women fight viciously in war and made Adamnan promise that he’d stop women from taking their place on the battlefield. Brude was succeeded on his death in 706 by Nechton mac Derile. It was this King who rejected the Celtic Church and embraced the Roman Church.




After Nechton, the Pictish List King becomes muddled by in-fighting and rapid successions (the ugly problem of matrilinearity and the large numbers of aspiring and eligible would-be kings). In 724 Nechton entered a monastery for a few years and was succeeded by Drust, who was removed two years later by Alpin. In 711 a Pictish army is routed by a Northumbrian host on the plain of Manaw, probably somewhere in West Lothian; this marks the last known threat from these southern neighbors as Northumbrian power declines soon after that and ends with the fall of York to the Danes in 866.

Alpin was in turn replaced by Oengus (Angus), who defeated the old retired king Nechton, as well as his successor Drust, whom he killed in battle in 729. Oengus comes to us as a true warrior king. Upon taking the Pictish throne from his contenders, he turned his attention to the Scottish problem. Together with his son (called Brude) he laid waste to the Scottish fortresses of Dunnadd and others, and after brutalizing the Scots on British soil, he invaded Ireland and massacred them on their ancestral homeland by defeating them in two great battles in 741. Nearly invincible, he captured and drowned the King of Atholl, conquered the remaining Dalriada Scots on Britain and after beheading the Scottish king, became the first King of Picts and Scots.

The great military victories of Oengus once more gave the Pictish nation the chance to rule unhindered by the Scottish menace. The Dalriada Scots had been beaten on Argyll and on Ireland, and a Pict ruled over them as king and liege lord. Drunk with victory and mad with power, Oengus unwisely looked south for more territory to conquer, in the lands of the Britons of Strathclyde, the kingdom formed south of the old Roman Wall. He fought them in 744 and may have defeated them in open battle. Six years later (in 750) he fought them again, in a battle in which the Picts may have been led by his brother Talorcan (possibly in contention for the Pictish throne); in any event, some historians feel that Talorcan, not Oengus may have been leading the Pictish armies. Regardless, Talorcan was killed, as was the British king Tewdur, Son of Beli at the battle of Mocetwawc. The Britons held and Oengus had to retreat. Again in 756 the Pictish King marched his tattooed host south, to the great Briton fortress at Dumbarton Rock, where he was joined by a Northumbrian ally intent on destroying the Strathclyde kingdom. This time the combined armies nearly succeeded in capturing the great rock fortress, but in a stunning reversal, they were nearly destroyed in battle and Oengus retreated north where he died five years later.

His brother Brude V succeeded him for two years, and then Ciniod (who may have had Scottish blood as well as Pictish), son of Wredech reigned until 775. Meanwhile, in the nearly forty years since Dalriada had been wasted by Oengus, the Scots had been rebuilding under the leadership of Aed Finn, son of Eochaid, who by 768 was invading the Pictish territories again. However, a blanket of historical darkness engulfs both Pictish and Scottish history though the latter years of the eight century and the ninth. Nonetheless, according to The Annals of Tigernach, no less that 150 Pictish ships were wrecked by a storm near Ross Crussini, perhaps a hint of a war fleet raised against northern enemies. We also know that Aed Finn repealed Pictish laws and managed to regain freedom for the Scots in 768, and by the time of his death, Dalriada was independent again.

Confusion reigns in the List of Kings now. Three Pictish kings are listed in a period of seven years (Alpin II, Drust VII and Talorc II). He is succeeded by Talorc III, possibly a son of Oengus, and in turn Talorc III is followed by Conall. The next Pictish king was to rule for 35 years, again as the second King of Picts and Scots.

Castantin son of Uurguist possibly won the Pictish throne by defeating and killing Conall and he also wore the crown over the Scots of Dalriada, who by now may have been a significant part of the Pictish royal lines through intermarriage. He was succeeded by his brother Oengus II, who is reputed to have brought the relics of St. Andrews back to Scotland. Oengus II was followed by Drust VIII and Talorc.

Uven, who may have been a son of Oengus II, followed Talorc and is listed as the King of both Picts and Scots. He was killed in 839 by the great new menace in the north, at a great battle where the northern Pictish armies were destroyed by the new enemy: the Vikings. He is the last Pictish king to be recorded in the Irish versions of the list of Pictish kings. Other lists record Uurad, son of Bargot and Brude, son of Ferath. He is followed by Kenneth, son of Ferath and Brude’s brother, yet another Brude, son of Fethal and finally Drust IX, yet another son of Fethal.

This list of 69 Pictish kings ended with Drust IX, when he was killed by that dark, shadowy figure of Kenneth MacAlpin, the first Scot to become King of Picts and Scots in an episode known as “MacAlpin’s Treason.”

Most historians agree that around 839 a huge battle took place in which the Pictish king died while leading his men against the Vikings. This shattering defeat also took the life of his brother (and thus successor to the crown) as well as “others almost without numbers.” This decimation of the Pictish warrior class by the Vikings is perhaps the most decisive point which swings the pendulum of control to the Scots. The Pictish defeat at the hands of the Norsemen ranks as the most significant in Pictish history, and was ironically repeated many centuries later by the destruction of the Scottish nobles at Flodden. This culling of the Pictish royal houses and its warrior elite, delivered the decisive shift in the pattern of succession, and handed the Pictish crown to the Scottish House of MacAlpin.

Mac Alpin’s Treason: The End of the Picts


The Gael warrior king whose bloody sword enthroned a Scottish line of kings which eventually created modern Scotland is perhaps one of the most mysterious figures of ancient history. His is a life surrounded by treacherous myths, dark stories and unproved allegations of shameful deeds and sinful accomplishments. That the first true Scottish king of the various peoples of Scotland is smeared with the stain of treason and backstabbing is as much a product from lack of knowledge as it is from the terrible bits and pieces from a story of treason which has survived for over a thousand years.

There is very little fact upon which to base a story; indeed there is a lot of falsified or embellished documents from later Scottish Churchmen and Church historians, eager to create a Church approved version of how the Gael line of kings (and its Church) came to conquer Alba, completely erase Pictish culture and destroy the Pictish Church.

That the Scots’ aim was to free Dalriada from Pictish domination and establish Scottish rule over the Picts is clearly evident by the actions of Kenneth MacAlpin’s father, known as Alpin, who in 834 AD, as the Picts faced the new Viking threat in the north, rebelled against his Pictish King of Scots and Picts. This ruler of both Pictland and Dalriada was Oengus II, and according to the Chronicles of Huntingdon, the subject of Alpin’s rebellion.
The rebellion by his Scottish subjects in the south forced the Pictish king to forego his total preoccupation with the Vikings in the north; Oengus II split his land army in two and faced the Scottish rebel (and southern threat) on Easter day, 834 AD. The Picts suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of Alpin and the Scots and the Irish Annals record that Oengus, King of the Picts and Scots died that year. Overwhelmed with victory, Alpin marched north to attack the rear of the main Pictish army in the north. The Scots and Picts met in battle on August of that same year, and the Scots suffered a brutal defeat in which Alpin was captured and beheaded.

Five years later, the Picts still faced the northern threat of the nearly invincible Vikings. The Picts had suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Vikings in 839 AD. The Norsemen had by that year conquered and settled Shetland, the Outer Hebrides and as far south as the mouth of the Clyde. Additionally, Caithness, Sutherland and even Dalriada were being attacked and harassed by the long boats. The brutalizing defeat at the hands of the Vikings in 839 not only killed most of the Pictish nobility, including the King of Picts and Scots Uven Mac Angus II, his brother Bran and “numberless others”, but also opened Mac Alpin’s claim to the vacant Pictish throne, via his mother, who was a Pictish princess.

Recalling the peculiarity of a matrilineal succession which governed Pictish crowns, it is evident that Kenneth Mac Alpin (the Hardy) grounded his claims to the Pictish crown from his mother’s bloodlines. His claim to the crown of Dalriada came from his father, who was a member of clan Gabhran, which had produced most Scottish kings, such as his ancestors King Eachaidh, King Alpin Mac Eachaidh, King Aed and King Fergus. His Pictish mother was descended from the royal house of Fortrenn, and his great-grand uncle, Alpin Mac Eachaidh had actually reigned as King of Picts until deposed by Oengus I. It is thus that Kenneth Mac Alpin was one of several nobles with a claim to the crown of Picts and Scots.

Mac Alpin, the King
The sources for facts of how Kenneth Mac Alpin, the avenging son of the slain Alpin, became King of Picts and Scots are few and suspect. Two such sources, The Prophecy of St. Berchan, and De Instructione Principus note that in 841 AD Mac Alpin attacked the remnants of the Pictish army and defeated them (he is lauded as “the raven feeder”).
Mac Alpin then invites the Pictish king Drust IX and the remaining Pictish nobles to Scone to perhaps settle the issue of Dalriada’s freedom or MacAlpin’s claim to the Dalriadic crown. Faced with a recently victorious MacAlpin in the south, and a devastated army in the north, Drust, as well as all claimants to the Pictish throne from the seven royal houses attend this meeting at Scone. Legend has it that the Scots came secretly armed to Scone, where Drust and the Pictish nobles were killed.

It is Giraldus Cambresis in De Instructione Principus who recounts how a great banquet was held at Scone, and the Pictish King and his nobles were plied with drinks and became quite drunk. Once the Picts were drunk, the Scots allegedly pulled bolts from the benches, trapping the Picts in concealed earthen hollows under the benches; additionally, the traps were set with sharp blades, such that the falling Picts impaled themselves (the The Prophecy of St. Berchan tells that “…[Mac Alpin] plunged them in the pitted earth, sown with deadly blades…”) . Trapped and unable to defend themselves, the surviving Picts were then murdered from above and their bodies, clothes and ornaments “plundered.”

Although their king and royal houses had been murdered, and their armies wiped out in the north by the Vikings and decimated in the south by the Scots, the Picts nonetheless resist Scottish domination and as late as the 12th year of MacAlpin’s reign the The Chronicle of Huntington tells us that Mac Alpin “fought successfully against the Picts seven times in one day” (perhaps wiping out the last remnants of an independent Pictish armed force).

Pictish resistance of a sort resurfaces after the end of the short reign by MacAlpin’s second son, Aedh, when an attempt is tried to revive the Pictish matrilineal form of succession in the form of bringing to the throne Eochaidh Mac Run, son of Kenneth’s daughter by a King of the Britons, which was in turn a joint ruler with a Pict named Giric, son of Dungal. They were expelled within ten years and Donald, who was the grandson of Kenneth via Kenneth’s eldest son, assumed the throne.

The Scottish kings’ dominion was essentially limited to Fortrenn, the Mearns and Dalriada, as the rest of the Pictish lands were under the yoke of the Vikings. Nonetheless, within a few generations, the Pictish language is forgotten, the Pictish Church taken over by the Scottish Columban Church and most vestiges of Pictish culture erased.

Furthermore, the seat of Kings is moved to Scone, sacred heart of the Pictish land and the sons of Mac Alpin accept the crown over the land of Picts and Scots seated on a slab of stone which Scottish myth tells us was carried by the Celtic tribes since their origins in Spain, brought to Tara in Ireland, built into the wall of Dunstaffnage Castle and then brought to Scone.

The Scots move north, ally themselves with the Vikings; in the south they lose and then defeat the Angles and with their borders relatively safe, forever suffocate Pictish culture.






Finds, Stones and Monuments

The Picts are renowned for their silverwork and for their many intriguing sculptured symbol stones.

The harpist on the Dupplin Cross, Scotland, c. 800 AD

This  2.5m high stone cross used to stand in Cross Park field near the village of Dunning, Perthshire. It was then removed to the National Museum of Scotland but is now housed in Dunning Kirk. This stone is a must-see, and formed one of the main reasons for the Scottish Megarak meeting of 27th July 2002.
A worn inscription on the back of the cross has been deciphered to indicate that the cross was raised by Constantine, son of Fergus, who reigned as Pictish King from c.789 to 820 AD. The last 10 years of his reign he was also king of Dal Riata in Argyll, and therefore King of Scots too. The cross was erected in the early 9th century overlooking the Pictish royal palace at Forteviot. The symbols carved on it proclaim his kingship and authority, comparing him to the biblical King David, a warrior king much admired by the Picts.

Dr Michael Spearman at the National Museum of Scotland suggests that Dupplin might have been erected by Kenneth Mac Alpin or one of his sons as a suitable dedication to a Pictish king who, like Kenneth himself, had once ruled both the Picts and the Scots with their best interests at heart.

Sutherland describes it thus:
Front: the head of the cross is surrounded by roll-moulding which makes spiral curves at intervals with a raised circular boss in the centre, which has ribbed borders containing cross. Shaft is divided into 3 panels  is now to be read as a Latin inscription which translated CUSTANTIN SON OF WUIRGUST (Constantin Mac Fergus);  four pairs of birds with their beaks and legs crossed and interlaced round a raised boss full of circular interlace;  David rending the lion’s jaw with two other beasts.
Left side: three small panels of interlace on top with three panels down side of shaft; [1] an elaborate beast biting his own tail;  a man seated on chair playing a large triangular harp (perhaps David a psalmist and musician);  six-cord plait-work.
Back: similar moulding round the cross as on front but the pattern within the central boss is much defaced. The arms are filled with scrolled foliage while at the top find a panel of diagonal key pattern. Three panels on the shaft, separated by key-pattern, show;  a warrior with a spear on horseback;  four foot soldiers with spears and shields;  a hound leaping on a hind.
Right edge: four panels of varied interlace with three panels down the edge of the shaft;  a pair of dog-like beasts on their haunches with front paws embracing;  two foot soldiers with shields strapped round their necks, holding spears;  some knot-work.

dupplin1dupplin3 harpist




The Rogart brooch, National Museums of Scotland. Pictish penannular brooch, 8th century, silver with gilding and glass.
This beautiful brooch is one of the few surviving pieces from a large hoard of Pictish metalwork found by a workman in 1868 at Rogart in Sutherland during railway construction. The brooch is of silver with cast gilt interlace decoration made in a technique called chip carving. There are settings for nine studs, all of which are now missing. It dates from the 8th century.




Aberlemno Sculptured Stones

The Aberlemno Sculptured Stones are a series of five Class I and II standing stonesfound in and around the village of Aberlemno, Angus.
Aberlemno 1, 3 and 5 are located in recesses in the dry stone wall at the side of the road in Aberlemno. Aberlemno 2 is found in the Kirkyard, 300 yards south of the roadside stones.In recent years, bids have been made to move the stones to an indoor location to protect them from weathering, but this has met with local resistance and the stones are currently covered in the winter.
Aberlemno 4, the Flemington Farm Stone was found 30 yards from the church and is now on display in the McManus Galleries, Dundee.

Aberlemno 1 is the central roadside stone. It is an unshaped standing stone, bearing incised Pictish symbols, defining it under J Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson’s classification system as a Class I stone. The symbols on one face: the serpent, the double disc and Z-rod and the mirror and comb. The meaning of these symbols is unknown. They are deeply incised in a bold, confident line, and this stone is considered to be one of the finest and best-preserved Pictish symbol stones still standing in or near its original position. The other face of the stone exhibits prehistoric cup marks, showing that it has been re-used. This stone is known as Aberlemno I or the Serpent Stone.


Aberlemno 2, found in Aberlemno kirkyard, is a shaped cross-slab, bearing Pictish symbols as well as Christian symbols in relief, defining it as a Class II stone. The stone, carved from Old Red Sandstone, stands 2.3 metres (7.5 ft) tall, 1.3 metres (4.3 ft) wide at the base, tapering to 0.9 metres (3.0 ft) wide at the top, and is 0.2 metres (7.9 in) thick.
The west face is inscribed with a quadrilobate Celtic Cross. The cross bears several styles of Celtic pattern designs. The vertical arms are inscribed with three separate knotwork designs, the horizontal arms with keywork designs. The central roundel has a spiral design composed of three interconnecting triskeles. Bordering the cross are a number of Celtic zoomorphic designs, reminiscent of Northumbrian designs and designs from the Book of Kells. A hole has been bored through the upper part of the stone some time after its sculpting.
The rear face features two Pictish symbols, a notched rectangle with z-rod and a triple disc. Below this are nine figures which have been interpreted as a narrative account of a battle. On the rear of Aberlemno 2 is a scene showing human figures bearing weapons, apparently engaged in battle. The figures appear in three rows. The top row has an unhelmeted figure on horseback riding behind a helmeted rider, possibly in pursuit. The helmeted rider is armed with a spear and appears to have dropped his sword and shield. The middle row has a helmeted rider armed with a spear and shield facing three unhelmeted infantry soldiers armed with spears, swords and shields. The bottom row shows a mounted and unhelmeted figure and mounted helmeted figure facing each other, both armed with spears. Behind the helmeted rider lies a helmeted casualty, with a bird to his right.

220px-Aberlemnokirkyardcropped170px-Pictish_Stone_at_Aberlemno_Church_Yard_-_Battle_Scene_Detail Aberlemno 3
The western road-side stone is another Class II stone. It has an elaborately decorated ringed cross flanked by adoring angels on one side, and a hunting scene on the reverse, below two large Pictish symbols. This stone is known as Aberlemno 3. This stone has until recently been thought to date from the late eighth century. More recent comparative analyses have suggested that it may be of a later, mid-ninth-century origin.

Aberlemno 3 has different proportions to the Kirkyard Cross-slab, being relatively tall and thin, with parallel sides which have incised decoration (those of the other cross-slab are plain). The monument’s height and decoration on four faces both suggest it is later in date than Aberlemno 2. Its nearest artistic analogies appear to be sculptures from Easter Ross in northern Scotland, notable the Hilton of Cadboll stone (now in the Museum of Scotland), which has a closely similar hunting scene.



Aberlemno 4, the Flemington Farm Stone was found 30 yards from the church and is now on display in the McManus Galleries, Dundee.
Until recently, it was thought to date to the mid-8th century, but subsequent analysis has suggested a mid-9th century date.
This stone, found in 1961 is approximately 1.5 metres tall, 0.5 m wide and 0.3 m thick. It has incised symbols on an unworked stone, defining it under J Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson’s classification system as a Class I stone. There are two symbols, a horseshoe and a Pictish Beast. The anterior portion of the beast symbol (facing right) has suffered some damage due to ploughing, but is still easily visible.




Aberlemno 5

The eastern Class I stone is highly eroded and the incised symbols are extremely difficult to make out. This stone is thought to be unfinished or a later fake. This stone is known as Aberlemno 5.


Whitecleuch Chain

The Whitecleuch Chain is a large Pictish silver chain that was found in Whitecleuch, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1869. A high status piece, it is likely to have been worn as a choker neck ornament for ceremonial purposes. It dates from around 400 to 800 AD.
The chain is one of ten certain examples of this type, and is on display at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Weighing 1.8 kg and measuring approximately 50 cm in length, the chain consists of 44 silver rings interlinked into 22 pairs. According to Clark, the chain originally had 23 pairs of rings, but was damaged subsequent to its discovery.)

The paired ring chain is augmented by a large penannular ring with expanded flanges. The penannular ring bears Pictish symbols of the sort typically found on Class I and II Pictish standing stones. On one side of the opening in the ring, there is a zigzag pattern and a double disc and Z-rod symbol, on the other side of the opening, there is a notched rectangle symbol, decorated with a pair of circles, running lengthwise along the rectangle and attached to opposite edges of the rectangle.  The penannular ring was apparently used as a fastener to link the terminal ends of the chain together into a choker neck ornament.



Reconstructed Crannóg on Loch Tay

The early Picts are associated with piracy and raiding along the coasts of Roman Britain. Even in the Late Middle Ages, the line between traders and pirates was unclear, so that Pictish pirates were probably merchants on other occasions. It is generally assumed that trade collapsed with the Roman Empire, but this is to overstate the case. There is only limited evidence of long-distance trade with Pictland, but tableware and storage vessels from Gaul, probably transported up the Irish Sea, have been found. This trade may have been controlled from Dunadd in Dál Riata, where such goods appear to have been common. While long-distance travel was unusual in Pictish times, it was far from unknown as stories of missionaries, travelling clerics and exiles show.

Brochs are popularly associated with the Picts. Although these were built earlier in the Iron Age, with construction ending around 100 AD, they remained in use into and beyond the Pictish period. Crannóg, which may originate in Neolithic Scotland, may have been rebuilt, and some were still in use in the time of the Picts. The most common sort of buildings would have been roundhouses and rectangular timbered halls. While many churches were built in wood, from the early 8th century, if not earlier, some were built in stone.


The archaeological record provides evidence of the material culture of the Picts. It tells of a society not readily distinguishable from its similar Gaelic and British neighbours, nor very different from the Anglo-Saxons to the south.

There is no denying the fascination of the Pictish people.


Liarn Farm Dog Friendly Holiday Cottages



Families and pets are welcome at Liarn Farm.
Your dogs will love staying at our pet friendly holiday cottages, there is 183 acres of natural woodland they can explore, Jazz certainly loved it!
Both Brian and Louise were very welcoming and informative. We saw Louise the most, she talked to us and answered questions about the animals they have on the farm, like the Jacob’s sheep.

We managed to lock ourselves out at about 9 at night and they didn’t mind being disturbed to unlock for us. Louise suggested loads of walks for our dog and even had our dog and hers have ‘play dates’.

The topsy turvy layout makes the most of the area with the living quarters upstairs and the bedrooms downstairs.
The views from your balcony are amazing. I promise you’ll never be tired of them. I spent a massive amount of time on the balcony, it was incredible.
Stunning vistas across Loch Rannoch to Glencoe to the west and Schiehallion to the east.
266258253There is a pets corner where you can help feed the ducks and hens, collect the eggs, cuddle Daisy the rabbit. Geraldine and her friends the Jacob sheep love their digestive biscuits!
The horses are fun and friendly although Charlie (in the picture) can be a little nervous but he was a rescue who had been ill-treated.

It wasn’t easy to find. You go down some massively steep roads that are narrow and petrifying. You drive by the loch and if you’re anything like us then you’ll get lost.  Not that getting lost was much of an issue when the views were so amazing.

DON’T follow your sat nav, it gets you in the rough area but not to the actual location. Take the phone number and give them a call for directions.

You pay for your electric when you check out but it wasn’t expensive.
The site has a shared BBQ area. There is also a shared room where the washing machine and tumble dryer are. In this room you can also make use of the DVD’s and books available to borrow.

This is a cottage I will visit again, and I’d highley reccomend it. Especially if you have a dog as some dog friendly places aren’t great. Liarn Farm is!sunset230

Scottish Unicorn



The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.



A country’s ‘National Animal’ should represent the best, and defining, qualities of the nation who chose it.
Scots have a strong sentimental streak under that practical and reserved exterior, and Scottish culture is rich in superstitions, myths and legends.
So, choosing a heraldic symbol as awe-inspiring as the unicorn makes perfect sense!
The stories and legends surrounding the Unicorn go about as far back in history as the human race.
Unicorns were considered to be very rare and precious, a lunar symbol (ie symbolized the moon), and they were given differing characteristics depending on the culture and country that was describing them. These included:
•Healing Powers
•Nurturing Powers

They grew to become an exotic creature… a magnificent horse with cloven hooves, the tail of a lion, and a perfect spiraled horn in the middle of their foreheads.
In Celtic Mythology the Unicorn of Scotland symbolized innocence and purity, healing powers, joy and even life itself.
It was also seen as a symbol of masculinity and power. Two sides of the same coin as it were, a blend of male virility and female nurturing – perhaps the perfect mix!
It was seen as a wild, freedom-loving creature. Fierce, bold, proud and intelligent. Beautiful and courageous. Dangerous if running free and impossible to capture alive – (except if lured into an ambush by a virgin.)
You might notice that when he’s featured on heraldic symbols, the Unicorn often has chains wrapped around him. This is a ‘nod’ to this medieval belief that he was a dangerous creature.
To a country as bold, fierce and proud as Scotland, one that was fighting for it’s independence from ‘oppressors’ this was the perfect choice as the ‘National Animal’ that would appear on heraldic symbols.It’s not quite clear exactly when the Unicorn first appeared in Scottish heraldry, but one of the earliest examples is seen in the ‘Royal Coat of Arms’ at Rothesay Castle which is believed to have been carved sometime before the 15th century.
Before England and Scotland came under joint rule, Scotland’s Coat of Arms featured two Unicorns supporting a shield.
In 1603 the reigning King of Scotland, King James VI, also succeeded Queen Elizabeth 1st of England and become King James the 1st of England. This was known as the Union of the Crowns.
Although the new country of Great Britain did not legally exist for another century, this union seemed to require a new Royal Coat of Arms, and work began on creating the design you see today which features the Unicorn of Scotland on the right, and the English Lion on the left.
This was supposed to symbolize the accepted union of the two countries. In real life the actual union was less than friendly.

Scottish Heather

Heather grows freely and abundantly spreading it’s purple hues across around five million acres of Scottish moorland, glens and hills.  The color of wild Scottish heather usually ranges from lilac to purple.
You can also find white heather growing wild but it’s much less common.



History & Traditional Uses

Heather has been plentiful in Scotland for as long as it’s history has been written (and probably before that too).
The Druids considered it a sacred plant. Even today some people consider it to have almost supernatural properties, sort of a ‘charm’, which is believed to offer protection from harm (especially rape or violent attack).
On a more mundane level it’s used in aromatherapy to relieve a host of different problems. Over thousands of years, the inventive, practical and resourceful Scots have found a whole host of uses for this natural bounty:


Especially on Scotland’s islands, heather played a major role in building construction. It was used in walls, thatched roofs, ropes, pegs and more. It also appeared in the thatched roofs of mainland houses.


Since ancient times dried Scottish heather was used as a sort of fragrant and bouncy mattress. Evidence of this has been found in a 4000 year old village on the island of Skara Brae in the Orkneys. Historically, heather beds were considered to be just as comfortable as feather beds because the dried stalks and flowers are so light and soft. A bed made from heather had the added extra of original aromatherapy, and the fragrant flower heads were usually placed towards the top of the mattress where the sleeper’s head would lie.

Household tools

Heather stems are tough, strong and resilient and were used in making a whole variety of implements including brooms, farming tools such as hoes or rakes and ropes.

To dye cloth 

Heather was perfect for dying roughspun cloth and wool. Depending on the type of heather used  it could produce muted yellow, gold, bronze, gray, green and purple colors.

As medicine

Heather was believed to have some amazing medicinal properties, and was used by ancient Scots to treat all sorts of conditions and ailments. These included nervousness and anxiety, coughs, consumption (now known as TB), digestive issues, poisoning, blindness, arthritis, rheumatism and more. It was made into a wide variety of different drinks, potions, ointments and salves. Today Heather is still used effectively in aromatherapy products to treat digestive upset, skin problems, coughs and insomnia. Also as an internal cleanser and detoxifier, due to it’s slightly diuretic properties.

And last, but not least, heather is used to create the most deliciously scented soaps, candles, perfumes and more.

Heather Ale

The brewing of Scotland’s Heather Ale goes back thousands of years, and is thought to be one of the oldest types of ale in the world. On the tiny Isle of Rum, off the west coast of Scotland, 3000 year old shards of pottery have been found which contain traces of a fermented drink made from Heather!
It’s believed that the Picts developed a recipe for Ale that relied entirely on the Heather plant for its’ sweetness and fermentation. It was valued so highly that the recipe was kept a secret, with only the King and his first-born son knowing what went into it.
This ‘secret potion’ was then be passed on down through the generations.
This brew was immortalized in the poem entitled ‘HEATHER ALE : A Galloway Legend’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. It tells, in verse, the legend of the Pictish King who sacrificed both his life, and that of his son, to protect the secret recipe.
The first few lines of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem go like this…….
‘From the bonny bells of heather,
They brew a drink Langsyn
Was sweeter far than honey
Was stronger far than wine.’

Here’s a recipe, not the secret one but a recipe nonetheless.


The Last Pictish King & Heather Ale

One of the most well-known legends is centered around a confrontation between Viking raiders and the last surviving Pictish King.
Some accounts put it during the 4th Century AD, but as the Vikings didn’t actually appear on Scottish soil until the end of the 8th Century, this is unlikely….
After their army is defeated, the Pictish King and his son find themselves cornered on a cliff-top, where the Viking chief tortures them in an attempt to obtain the secret recipe for Heather Ale.
The King of the Picts is quick witted, but doubts that his son is strong enough to withstand the torture without giving up the recipe. So he makes a deal with the Viking Chief, saying that if his son is spared the torture and killed quickly, he himself will reveal the secret.
The young prince is then thrown off the cliff and into the sea where he drowns quickly. BUT, the Pictish King doesn’t uphold his end of the arrangement, and although it costs him his life he wins the battle and the recipe is safe.

In some variations of the tale the brave King takes the Viking over the edge of the cliff with him.


Heather Honey

Bees work for months to collect enough pollen to produce this beautiful thick, golden Scottish Heather Honey with the unique and delicate taste of Scottish heather.
As well as being delicious, heather honey is rich in minerals and was traditionally used in medicinal drinks and potions.
I love this place for heather honey and various other uses of the heather.



White Heather

Legend has it that in the 3rd Century AD, Malvina (daughter of the legendary Scottish poet, Ossian), was betrothed to a Celtic warrior named Oscar. Tragically, Oscar died in battle, and when Malvina heard the news she was heartbroken. The messenger who delivered the bad news, also delivered a spray of purple heather that Oscar had sent as a final token of his undying love for her. It’s said that when Malvinas’ tears fell onto the flowers in her hand, they immediately turned white, and this magical occurrence prompted her to say

‘although it is the symbol of my sorrow, may the white heather bring good fortune to all who find it.’

Even today, white Heather is considered to be lucky, especially for brides, and adding a spray of it to your bouquet, on table decorations and so on is popular.

Other myths surrounding the magical properties of white Scottish Heather include:
• The belief that it grows only on ground where blood has not been shed in battle
•Also, more enchantingly, that it grows over the final resting place of Faeries.
•White heather is closely associated with battles and conflict, and is said to bring good luck to whoever wears it.
In 1884 even Queen Victoria commented on this character trait during a visit to the Scottish Highlands. Describing an incident which involved one of her personal servants, she said …..

‘… he espied a piece of white heather, and jumped off to pick it. No Hihglander would pass by it without picking it, for it was considered to bring good luck.’




The Celtic Wolf

The wolf has always been my favoourite animal.
The celtic wolf is important in Scottish folk lore, history and even today.




“Chi mi Sgorr-eild ‘air bruaich a ‘ghlinn
An goir a’ chuthag gu-binn an dos.
‘Us gorm mheall-aild’ nam mile guibhas
Nan lub, nan earba, ‘s nan lon.”

“I see the ridge of hinds, the steep of the sloping glen
The wood of cuckoos at its foot,
The blue height of a thousand pines,
Of wolves, and roes, and elks.”

ancient Gaelic lay, author unknown.



Check out this site
for information about reintroducing them into Scottish wilds.

The Crannog centre



The Crannog centre is possibly still one of my favourite places we’ve been fortunate enough to visit. The history is immense! I’ve always been so interested in how people possibily lived their lives.
So it’s with further joy that another has been found, can’t wait to learn more of the individual details.