Recorded history of Scotland begins with the Romans Emire in the 1st century. The Roman province of Britannia reached as far north as the Antonine Wall (these days Glasgow). North of this was Caledonia, inhabited by the Picti, being a strong people forced Rome’s legions back to Hadrian’s Wall (further south than Antonine). As Rome withdrew from Britain, Gaelic raiders called the Scoti began colonising Western Scotland from Ireland – Ulster as now is. The Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata was founded on the west coast of Scotland in the 6th century – Dunadd, come to this later. Irish missionaries introduced the Picts to Celtic Christianity, the Pictish king Nechtan chose to abolish most Celtic practices in favour of the Roman rite, restricting Gaelic influence on his kingdom and avoiding war with Anglian Northumbria. Towards the end of the 8th century, the Viking invasions began, forcing the Picts and Gaels to cease their historic hostility to each other and to unite in the 9th century, forming the Kingdom of Scotland. The Kingdom of Scotland united under the House of Alpin, whose members fought among each other during frequent disputed successions. The last Alpin king, Malcolm II, died without issue in the early 11th century and the kingdom passed through his daughter’s son to the House of Dunkeld or Canmore (canmore – big head). The last Dunkeld king, Alexander III, died in 1286. Alexander III succeeded in ridding the Western Isles of Scotland of Norse influence, he was to make one Scottish family so powerful that they would be a rival to the future kings of Scotland. In 1251 Alexander married Margaret, daughter of King Henry III of England. He (Alec) made a formal claim that the Western Isles belonged to him alone. To back up his claim in 1262 Alexander sent a royal force to attack the Isle of Skye. On his death he left only his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway as heir, who died herself four years later. When King David II died without issue, his nephew Robert II established the House of Stuart, which would rule Scotland over the next three centuries. James VI, Stuart king of Scotland, also inherited the throne of England in 1603, and the Stuart kings and queens ruled both independent kingdoms until the Act of Union in 1707 merged the two kingdoms into a new state, the Kingdom of Great Britain. Ruling until 1714, Queen Anne was the last Stuart monarch. Since 1714, the succession of the British monarchs of the houses of Hanover and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Germans who changed their name in First World War to Windsor) has been due to their descent from James VI and I of the House of Stuart.
Nitty gritty stuff… People lived in Scotland for at least 8,500 years before Britain’s recorded history. At times during the last interglacial period (130,000–70,000 BC) Europe had a climate warmer than today, early humans made their way to Scotland which was connected by land to Europe at the time. The oldest house for which there is evidence in Britain is the oval structure of wooden posts found at South Queensferry near the Firth of Forth (Edinburgh side), dating from the Mesolithic period, about 8240 BC. The earliest stone structures are probably the three hearths found at Jura, dated to about 6000 BC. Skara Brae on West Mainland, Orkney introduced chambered cairn tombs from around 3500 BC, as at Maeshowe and from about 3000 BC the many standing stones and circles such as those at Stenness on the mainland of Orkney, which date from about 3100 BC, of four stones, the tallest of which is 16 feet (5 m) in height. The creation of cairns and Megalithic monuments began in Scotland about 2000 BC. From the Early and Middle Bronze Age there is evidence of round houses of stone, as at Jarlshof and Sumburgh on Shetland. There is also evidence of the occupation of crannogs, roundhouses partially or entirely built on artificial islands, usually in lakes, rivers and estuarine waters, go and see the Crannog in Perthshire – we can take you.
Back to the Roman invasion of Britain for a moment, it began AD 43, by the year 71, the Roman governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis had launched an invasion of what is now Scotland. In the year 78, Gnaeus Julius Agricola arrived in Britain to take up his appointment as the new governor and began a push of his armies to the estuary of the “River Taus” (River Tay) and established forts there, including a legionary fortress at Inchtuthil. After his victory over the northern tribes at Mons Graupius in 84, a series of forts and towers were established along the Gask Ridge, which marked the boundary between the Lowlands and Highlands, by 87, the occupation was limited to the Southern Uplands and by the end of the first century the northern limit of Roman expansion was a line drawn between the Tyne and Solway Firth. The Romans eventually withdrew to a line in what is now northern England, building the fortification known as Hadrian’s Wall from coast to coast. Around 141, the Antonine Wall appeared, it is a wall made of turf around 20 feet (6 m) high, with nineteen forts. Having taken twelve years to build, the wall was overrun and abandoned soon after 160, did they never learn? The Romans sent the ninth legion into Scotland, never to be seen again!
A new land…
After the Romans ran away from Britain, four groups remained in what is now Scotland. In the east were the Picts. In the west were the Gaelic (Goidelic)-speaking people of Dál Riata with their royal fortress at Dunadd in Argyll, with close links with Ireland, from whom comes the name Scots (Scotti, they settled in Argyll, it became land of the Scotti – backwards Scottiland). In the south was the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Finally the English or “Angles”, Germanic invaders who had overrun much of southern Britain. Scotland was converted to Christianity by Irish-Scots missions – figures such as St Columba, from the fifth to the seventh centuries. “Dalriada” Dál Riata or Dál Riada (also Dalriada) was a Gaelic kingdom that included western Scotland and north eastern Ireland, in the late 6th and early 7th centuries, it was roughly what is now Argyll in Scotland and part of County Antrim in the Irish province of Ulster. In Argyll, it consisted of four main families each with their own chief: Cenél Loairn (kindred of Loarn) in north and mid-Argyll, Cenél nÓengusa (kindred of Óengus) based on Islay, Cenél nGabráin (kindred of Gabrán) based in Kintyre and Cenél Comgaill (kindred of Comgall) based in east Argyll, all very hard for us to grasp their names and pronunciations. Latin sources often referred to the people of Dál Riata as Scots (Scoti), a name originally used by Roman and Greek writers for the Irish who raided Roman Britain. The hillfort of Dunadd is believed to have been its capital. Other royal forts included Dunollie, Dunaverty and Dunseverick. Within Dál Riata was the important monastery of Iona, Iona was a centre of learning and produced many important manuscripts including the starting of the Book of Kells. Dál Riata had a strong seafaring culture and a large fleet. Dál Riata – founded by king Fergus Mór (Fergus the Great) in the 5th century. The kingdom reached its height under Áedán mac Gabráin (574–608). During his reign Dál Riata’s power and influence grew; it carried out naval expeditions to Orkney and the Isle of Man, and assaults on the Brittonic kingdom of Strathclyde and Anglian kingdom of Bernicia. In the 730s the Pictish king Óengus I, led campaigns against Dál Riata and brought it under Pictish overlordship by 741. From 795 onward there were Viking raids in Dál Riata. In the following century, there was a merger of the Dál Riatan and Pictish crowns. Kenneth MacAlpin was king of Dál Riata before becoming king of the Picts in 843, to form the Kingdom of Alba.
Here endeth a quick history lesson, if you are still alive and the brain not hurting (it can be a hard read), and want to know more, why not come to Scotland and let us take you to these locations, our guides (including Paul) are history nuts and can make it a superb experience for you. PAUL MCLEAN, MCLEANSCOTLAND, PERTH MARCH 2019