Highland Pictish Tour inc. Elgin Cathedral
Explore the ancient history of the Picts through their legacy of wonderfully decorated sculpture standing stones.
The Picts were native inhabitants of the region when the Romans arrived nearly two thousand years ago followed by the Gaels from Ireland a few hundred years later. By the end of the first millennia the Picts had eventually assimilated into the Gaelic culture and society of early Scotland. Although they left us little evidence of a discernable written Pictish language, their artistic and cultural legacy has survived through a wonderful series of sculptured and carved standing stones dotted around the Scottish Highlands.
Our Highland Pictish tour begins from Inverness where we head east towards the grounds of Brodie Castle, home of the wonderful Rodney Stone. This class II Pictish stone (8-9th century, highly decorated stones with Pictish symbols and Christian imagery) includes a very striking Pictish beast illustration. Next stop is the scenic town of Forres, home of the wonderful Sueno's Stone. This class III Pictish stone (9-10th century, highly decorated stones with Christian imagery) is one of the most remarkable sculptured monuments in Scotland and stands over 20 feet high.
We continue our journey to the magnificent medieval ruins of Elgin Cathedral. Even as a ruin this fourteenth century architectural marvel still radiates the prescence that earned it the name 'Lantern of the North'. The grounds also contain a wonderful class II Pictish cross stone that includes an intricate Pictish hunting scene. Leaving Elgin Cathedral we enjoy a wonderful scenic journey through the beautiful landscape of Moray and Easter Ross as we drive for 1¼ hours to our late lunch stop at the Storehouse of Foulis by the Cromarty Firth.
The afternoon takes us to the Tarbat peninsula to explore two wonderful class II stones nearby. First stop is the Shandwick Cross Slab with its detailed Pictish and Christian carvings. Next is the Nigg parish church, home of the magnificent Nigg Stone with its breath-taking decoration of a Pictish hunting scene, an eagle symbol and a great Christian cross surrounded by biblical imagery. Before our return to Inverness we take a detour to Strathpeffer to view the class I (6-8th century incised Pictish symbol stones) Eagle Stone with its distinctive decorated horseshoe symbol above an eagle. Lastly, we drive up towards Knockfarrel for a stunning view of the surrounding Highland landscape from just below the summit of the vitrified remains of a Pictish Hillfort.
Tour Option - Visit Tarbat Discovery Centre instead of Elgin Cathedral (May to September)
Explore the Tarbat Discovery Centre, located in the scenic coastal village of Portmahomack, the musuem is housed in the refurbished Old Parish Church and contains a number of Pictish sculpture fragments and is the site of the only Pictish monastic settlement excavated in Scotland to date. This option is not available on Sundays. Alternatively, should you wish to still include the visit to Elgin Cathedral along with the Tarbat Discovery Centre then this tour can be extended to approx. 10 hours for an additional charge of £40 per tour.
Most of these wonderful stones are outside and with the local 'Highland climate' it's always worth taking a jacket! The majority are easily accessible and only short distances from where we stop. However, please note that should you wish to view the remains of Knockfarrell fort, there is a short but steep (and occasionally slippy) walk to the top - I carry walking poles in the car! Although it is a history tour our travels also take in the wonderful Scottish Highland scenery of Easter Ross and the coastline of the Moray and Cromarty Firths.
Highlights of a Highland Pictish Tour inc. Elgin Cathedral
Private Tour Price (per tour)
April to October: £400
Depart Inverness 9am
(approx. 9 hours)