'Picti' by the Romans, meaning 'Painted Ones' in Latin, these
northern tribes constituted the largest kingdom in Dark Age
Scotland. They repelled the conquests of both Romans and Angles,
creating a true north-south divide on the British Isles, only
to disappear from history by the end of the first millennium
- swallowed whole by the history of another group, the Gaels.
Together they created the Kingdom of Alba.
Battle of Dunnichen - Factsheet
The result of this battle was one of the most decisive
in Scottish history. If the Picts had lost, Scotland might
never have existed. For the Angles of Northumbria it was
simply a disaster ending their domination of Scotland.
Battle of Dunnichen was fought on Saturday 2nd March 685
AD and is one of the best recorded events in Dark Age
Scotland. We even know that it was fought at 3 oclock
in the afternoon
Subjugation of Pictland
The Kingdom of the Angles under King Oswui had rapidly
expanded north, moving their frontier from the River Forth
to the River Tay. Since 653 AD many of the major groups
of people in Scotland - Britons, Gaels and much of Pictland
- had been subject to the overlordship of King Oswui.
672 AD, after the death of Oswui, the Picts rose against
their overlords, expelling Drust, their Northumbrian puppet
new King of Northumbria, Ecgfrith, wasted no time in wreaking
revenge on the Picts. The Picts were massacred at a battle
near the town of Grangemouth, where the rivers Carron and
Avon meet. According to Northumbrian sources, so many Picts
died they could walk dry-shod across both rivers. By 681
AD Ecgfrith had founded a bishopric at Abercorn on the southern
shore of the Forth - a symbol of Northumbrias secure
grip over the Picts.
The defeated Picts took Bridei, son of Bili, as the king
of a much depleted Pictland. King Bridei was actually
the cousin of his mortal enemy, King Ecgfrith of the Angles,
but, in true Dark Age fashion, this didn't diminish their
mutual desire to destroy each other. A almighty battle
was on the cards.
The Chronicle of Holyrood gives us the best account of
In the year 685 King Ecgfrith rashly led an
army to waste the province of the Picts, although many
of his friends opposed it
and through the enemys
feigning flight he was led into the defiles of inaccessible
mountains, and annihilated, with great part of his forces
he had brought with him.
Angles were advancing up Strathmore, probably aiming for
the Pictish fortress of Dunnottar, when they fell into
Bridei's trap. Sighting a Pictish warband, the Angles
set off in pursuit, then, as they came over the cleft
in Dunnichen Hill, they found themselves confronted by
the main body of the Pictish army. Caught between the
Picts and the loch below the hill, the Angles bravely
faced their doom.
politcal map was altered. The Picts, Gaels and many Britons
were freed from Northumbrian overlordship. Gaelic poets
as far away as Ireland celebrated the battle's outcome.
The Pictish frontier returned to the River Forth near Edinburgh
and the Bishop of Abercorn fled, never to return. The Angles
never fully recovered as major force in Scotland.
Click for Aberlemno Stones
for Dunnottar Castle
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