Map of Old Alba

The old name for this land was Alba, or Albainn, then 'Scotia' and the Romans called it 'Caledonia'. The Picts originally lived in what is now Scotland. They were given the name 'Pictii' by the Romans, which meant 'painted people' - they were heavily tattooed (for an article on this, go to the bottom of the celtic art page), and preferred to fight almost naked to enable them to move quicker in battle. The name they used for themselves was the "Cruithne". The only legacy of these mysterious people are their symbol-carved stones, which stand all over Scotland, especially in the north-east.

Hamish studying a Pictish Standing Stone


The Scots arrived from the north-east coast of Ireland in the early 500s, from their homeland Dalriata, and settled in the south-west of Pictland, establishing the Kingdom of Dalriada, with a power base at Dunadd in Argyll. The name Scots was from 'Scotii', which meant 'raiders/plunderers'. For the next 200 or so years they expanded their territory north and east, alternately warring, mixing, and intermarrying with the Picts until decisively beaten by the Pictish King Angus MacFergus in 736. 25 years later he ruled all of Pictland, Scots Dalriada, and the Briton's huge Kingdom of Strathclyde (the whole of south-west Scotland).

The southern Angles had expanded up the east coast, forming the Kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira, combined as Northumbria. In the 620s the Briton King of Northumbria , Edwin, fortified a rock in Lothian, which became known as Edwinesburh. The Gaelic people called it Dun Edin, and it was much later to be Edinburgh, Scotland's capital. 35 years later, the powerful Kingdom of Northumbria stretched from England up the east coast to Lothian. In 685 the Pictish King Brude crushed a Northumbrian army at Nechtansmere, in Angus, finally halting their expansion northwards, a key point in the future shape of Scotland.

By the late 700s the Vikings were raiding all these lands, and by the middle 9th century occupied the Shetland Islands, the Orkneys, the Hebrides, and the Isle of Man, forming a massive offshore kingdom, the Kingdom of the Isles. Pictish and Scottish kings were traditionally crowned and buried on the sacred Isle of Iona, off the Isle of Mull. Due to Viking raids, the 'Stone of Destiny' that all kings were crowned on had to be moved to Scone in the Pictish heartland. In 844 the Scots King Kenneth MacAlpin took an army into Pictland to claim his inherited throne through his mother's side (succession was by maternal descent in early Celtic times), and finally the 2 races were united under one king.

After this, Pictish identity faded, and the Scots absorbed the old Briton Kingdom of Strathclyde. In the 930s Saxon King Aethelstan invaded Alba and won, but 20 years later the Scots regained Edinburgh, and by the mid 960s some of Lothian and half or Northumbria was Scots ruled. In 1005 King Malcolm 2nd made peace with the Vikings of Orkney and the North, and his daughter married their king. His grandson became King of the North, ensuring peace.

Malcolm died in 1034, king of 'Scotia', the first time that term had been used to describe the nation. His grandson Duncan was the first King of Scotia, but lost battles in England and lost control of the North. MacBeth of Moray (who's wife was descended from an earlier king, giving him claim the throne) killed him and seized the throne in 1040 (the story being made into a play hundreds of years later by William Shakespeare). Duncan's sons escaped, Malcolm Canmore to England, and Donald Bane to the Hebrides. 17 years later, Malcolm Canmore returned, and killed MacBeth . His failed invasion of England 13 years later resulted 2 years after in William the Conqueror coming north, defeating Malcolm and making him pay homage, the start of hundreds of years of trouble between the countries.

Some Anglo-Saxon kings fled north after the Norman invasion of England, including Edgar the Atheling, who's sister Margaret married Malcolm. She was very religious (later to be made a Saint), and her ancient chapel stands on the highest rock in Edinburgh Castle, one of the oldest buildings in Scotland.

'Aisling’s Children: Tales of the Homecoming' - Edinburgh Castle 2009

Aisling’s Children: Tales of the Homecoming at the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade, The Gathering 2009

She had 6 sons named after 6 English kings, and her reign was the nucleus of the English speaking Royal Court. Malcolm died and his brother Donald Bane attacked Edinburgh, restoring the old Celtic Royal line, but was later ousted by Duncan, one of Malcolm's sons, backed by Norman William Rufus. Duncan lasted 6 months, killed in battle with Donald Bane and Edmund (Margaret and Malcolm's son). Until 1097 Donald Bane ruled the Celtic north, and Edmund ruled the Anglicised south. Margaret's brother Edgar who had been living in England invaded, and put his nephew, also Edgar, on the throne. Edgar's older son Alexander 1st later ruled Edinburgh and the North, and his younger son David ruled Lothian and Strathclyde. In 1124 David united the country again, but granted lands to his friends, who were Anglo-Norman lords. In 1165 William the Lion's failed invasion of England cost him a treaty of homage for his entire kingdom, and southern Scotland's castles were to be garrisoned with English soldiers. Scotland had lost her independence. 15 years later, he bought it back from Richard 1st.

100 years of relative peace followed. In the 1260s Alexander 3rd won the Western Isles and the Isle of Man, but died at age 43. His only heir was baby princess Margaret of Norway, who died on her way to Scotland. This left Scotland with no king, and John Balliol and Robert Bruce both claimed the throne. Edward 1st of England was called upon to decide, and he chose Balliol to be King John 1st in 1292, only to rebel and be defeated by Edward 4 years later. Edward smashed the Royal seal, stole the ancient Stone of Destiny (taking it to London), and occupied Scotland.

1297 saw the rise of William Wallace, future national hero, and his milestone victory at Stirling Bridge. He was made Regent of Scotland for a year, but lost subsequent battles, and fell from favour with the Scottish nobles as he was a commoner. In 1305 he was betrayed by men of his own country and captured, tried in London and executed - hung, drawn and quartered.

In 1306 Robert Bruce, grandson of the original claimant to the throne, met his only rival John 'Red' Comyn (supporter of the Balliol claim) in a church and killed him during an argument. Faced with excommunication from the Church, and becoming an outlaw for this crime, his best option was to declare himself king, which he did, and was officially recognised 4 years later. On June 24th, 1314, he his generals Andrew Moray, James (the Black) Douglas, and Edward Bruce (his brother), led an army against Edward 2nd at the Battle of Bannockburn, and his lightly armed Scots destroyed the heavily armed finest army in Europe. Scotland regained her freedom.

'Robert the Bruce' with his descendant the Lord of Elgin and Kincardine, at The Gathering 2009, Edinburgh

This was asserted in the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, and Scotland was internationally recognised as an Independent Nation in 1328. A year later Robert the Bruce died and his 5 year old son David became king.


'Robert the Bruce' at The Gathering in Edinburgh in 2009, with his descendant the Lord of Elgin and Kincardine, son of the Chief of the Bruce Clan, nearby the Bruce tent (shown left).


In 1332 Edward Balliol, son of John, usurped the throne with help from English King Edward , and swore allegiance to him. In revolt, Regent Archibald Douglas and Regent Andrew Moray were killed. In 1338 Robert the Steward, son of the King's sister Marjorie Bruce, was Guardian of Scotland, his offspring destined to be the Stewart Kings of Scotland and England. It was now set for King David to return from exile, only to be captured in battle and imprisoned for 11 years, ransomed free, to later die in 1371. Robert 2nd became king, the first Stewart king. The next 130 years was a time of changing kings and regents, with internal trouble between Scotland's most powerful family, the Black Douglases (old allies of the Bruces), and the Royal House of Stewart.

In 1503, King James 4th married Margaret Tudor, daughter of English Henry 7th, but later fell out with him again over the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, and was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, with heavy losses to the Scots. James 5th infant daughter became Mary, Queen of Scots, who after disastrous relationships, fled to England only to be imprisoned by her cousin, English Queen Elizabeth, due to her claim to the English throne. Mary's son became King James 6th in 1567, and ruled past his mother's execution until Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603, when he succeeded to the English throne. Ironically a Scotsman was now King James 1st of England, followed by his son Charles 1st in 1625.

Scottish storyteller Scot AnSgeulaiche at Culross

Scot AnSgeulaiche at Culross, Kingdom of Fife, Scotland

This was a time of complicated religious reform in both countries, causing friction between the people of 2 countries and their king. Charles' dissatisfied English parliament turned on him, and Oliver Cromwell led the 'Roundheads' against the Royalists in the English Civil War, and upon winning executed Charles. The Scots proclaimed his son, Charles 2nd, king in defiance of the English Commonwealth, and Cromwell invaded, starting 9 years of military occupation. James 7th (and 2nd of England) succeeded his brother in 1685, only to flee the country 3 years later due to his religious views. He was replaced by the Dutchman William of Orange, married to his daughter. A royalist movement began, especially among the Highlanders of Scotland, who were made to sign an oath of allegiance to William on the last day of 1691. Alexander MacDonald of Glencoe was late to sign, and the government troops under Campbell of Glenlyon were ordered to murder the MacDonalds. This was the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe.

The Act of Union was passed in 1707, and George 1st from Hanover succeeded Queen Anne to the combined throne of 'Great Britain'. 1715 saw the first royalist Jacobite Rebellion, crushed by government troops who then built forts throughout the Highlands to subdue the Rebels. The famous Black Watch Regiment was formed in 1729 to police the Highlands, ironically made up of fellow countrymen.

"Bonnie Prince Charlie", Prince Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of exiled James 7th and 2nd, and son of 'The Old Pretender' James 8th was born in exile in Italy. In 1745 he landed in Scotland to reclaim his father's throne, raising his standard at Glenfinnan, and rallied an army of Highlanders which marched on and took Edinburgh. The Jacobites continued south into England even as far as Derby, but on advice of his generals of a massive force mustering in London, Charles highlanders made their way back to Scotland, where they beat the government forces at Falkirk. In 1746 near Inverness, the Jacobite army made its last stand at Culloden Moor. The 5000 Highlanders were outnumbered by double the amount of government troops, better equipped with guns and cannon, and were destroyed. Sadly, Scottish clansmen fought and killed each other on both sides, although "Bonnie" Prince Charles Edward Stuart escaped and left Scotland with the help of supporters including Flora MacDonald.

Na Fir Dileas (The Loyal Men), a Jacobite organisation - The Gathering 2009

Na Fir Dileas (The Loyal Men), at The Gathering 2009, Edinburgh

The government victory prompted the 'Disarming Act', an act banning the traditional highland Gaelic speech, the wearing of Tartan, and playing the bagpipes (regarded as an "instrument of war"). Punishment being heavy fines, or even transportation to the colonies, the act was not repealed until 36 years later. The famous and decorated Highland Regiments were formed from this century on, the incentive for highlanders to join up being that it was the only legal way they could wear the tartan kilt and play the bagpipes during the proscription. With weapons banned for the general population, martial training carried on in secret with other objects and feats of strenght, still seen to this day in Highland Games around the world.

Tossing the Caber and Hammer Throwing at The Gathering 2009, Edinburgh

Tossing the Caber at TheGathering 2009, EdinburghHammer Throwing at The Gathering 2009, Edinburgh

During the 18th century the ancient Celtic clan system in the Highlands began to break down. The chiefs who had overseen extended families began to be landowners with tenants. The Highland Clearances began in the 1760s, with massive amounts of poverty stricken Scots going overseas to find a better life than as a tenant to a rich landowner. Many were forced off their land, watching their cottages burnt down, to make way for grazing. Whole communities were shipped to Canada, and some emigrated to America, Australia, and New Zealand. Many moved south to the slums of the growing industrial towns and cities. Many ruined clearance cottages can be seen all over the Highlands today.

In total contrast, the turn of the 18th to 19th century saw the 'Age of Enlightenment', with Edinburgh becoming the European centre of the arts, literature, philosophy, and the sciences, medicine, engineering and invention. Scots gave us steam power, gaslight, the telephone, logarithms, pneumatic tyres, television, anaesthesia, penicillin, and tarmac, also bicycles, beta blockers, golf and curling. Many inventions are still in use everyday. The Industrial Revolution saw a boom in engineering and manufacturing. Coal mining peaked in the 1890s, and Scotland was a world leader in shipbuilding. Tourism began with Queen Victoria's fondness of Scotland.

The Lonach Pipe Band on the Clan Parade, The Gathering 2009

Pipeband on the Clan Parade, The Gathering 2009, Edinburgh

The Scottish National Party started in 1934, and many years later their efforts paid off. Scotland now has its own Parliament, and the Stone of Destiny was repatriated from under the English throne in London in 1996, 700 years after Edward 1st took it there, now on display in Edinburgh Castle alongside the Honours of Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament - Pàrlamaid na h-Alba

The first ever Clan Convention, Scottish Parliament, July 24th 2099

The Scottish Parliament new building sits at the bottom of Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile, near Holyrood Park and under Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat.

MSP Building bay window, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

The steel, oak, and granite complex was designed by architect Enric Miralles, inspired by the surrounding landscape, flower paintings by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and upturned boats on the seashore. A unique feature is the wall of 114 projecting bay windows (shown right) of the Members of Scottish Parliament office building. Termed 'contemplation spaces' by the architect, internally each has a window seat and fitted shelving.



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