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Monday, June 16, 2014

Prehistoric Scotland - Part 3 - What Became of the Picts?

One of the Rosemarkie Pictish Stones
 We visited the Groam House Museum in the town of Rosemarkie, northwest of Inverness on the Moray Firth. I like small museums - they don't overwhelm. This two room museum houses the Rosemarkie Stones,found locally, mostly when graves were being dug. They were created by the Picts.

Who were the Picts and what became of them? They were farmers during the Dark Ages, inhabiting Scotland from the Northern Isles to its center. They left carved standing stones and after they were converted by missionaries from Ireland in the 6th century, their art was carved with large crosses and biblical scenes.

In about 840 A.D. they allied with their former enemies, the Scots, who had moved into eastern Scotland, probably to fight the invading Vikings to the north and east. After that they faded from history, they and their language absorbed.

But the Pictish carving that affected me most rests in the Inverness Museum. 

Wolf Stone - carved in sandstone and found in 1903 or earlier built into an old wall. A few lines depict its powerful body.
Seeing these Pictish stones in museums made me want to see some at their original sites. We made that opportunity when we spent our second week across the bridge from the Isle of Skye.

It was a chilly and rainy day when we drove up the the northwestern coast of Skye.
We turned off the narrow main highway onto a tract and kept our eyes open. And there is was silhouetted against a suddenly blue sky.

Clach Ard - one of only two known engraved stones found in Skye dating from the 7th or 8th centuries. Enigmatic symbols are a crescent and V rod, a double disc and Z rod, and a mirror and comb.

Here's a close up, but the winds of Skye wear down stone.

Another lay nearby
Satisfied, we drove on north to the Uig Hotel,

 where we had lunch while watching a ferry boat steaming past what appeared to be a castle tower ruin but was, in reality, a large Victorian folly.

And then I had delicious Scottish dessert, the name of which now escapes me - something like sticky toffee cake.

After a few more adventures, we drove back down the peninsula in the rain. But the sights were still lovely in a melancholy Romantic way.

Loch Snizort


  1. Groam, Rosemarkie--I love the names, so awkward and charming. I didn't know about picts--most interesting. I totally agree with you about small museums, and there are so many good ones!

  2. Thanks for all the pics and the running commentary. I faltered at the ferry crossing to Skye in the summer of 1964 (Kyle of Localsh); the seas were so high and stormy; a miserable day. I believe there was no bridge to the island back then. The small museums over there can be especially nice to interested tourists--you can get a real personal touch. The Rough Guide to Scotland very helpful in finding them.