Scottish Highlands and Hebridean Islands tours from Inverness
Highland Pictish Tour

Highland Pictish Tour

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.

Sueno's Pictish Stone, Forres Sueno's Pictish Stone, Forres

Our Highland Pictish tour begins from Inverness where we head east towards towards the town of Forres, home of the wonderful Sueno's stone. This class II Pictish stone (8-9th century, highly decorated stones with Pictish symbols and Christian imagery) is one of the most remarkable sculptured monuments in Scotland and stands over 20 feet high.

Pictish Stone, Elgin Cathedral Rodney Pictish Stone, Brodie

After Forres 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.

Elgin Cathedral

Our return towards Inverness includes a visit to the grounds of Brodie Castle to view the Rodney stone - another great class II stone with a very striking Pictish beast illustration.

Shandwick Pictish Stone, Easter Ross Nigg Pictish Stone, Easter Ross

Heading north from Inverness towards Easter Ross we have a 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.

Eagle Pictish Stone, Strathpeffer

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.

Knockfarrell Pictish Fort, Scottish Highlands

Lastly, we drive up towards Knockfarrell for a short stop at the vitrified remains of a Pictish hillfort with its stunning views of the surrounding Highland landscape.

Latest Tour Video

Taken on 14th May 2017 - A great Highland Pictish tour from Inverness with the full range of Highland weather!

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.

Tarbat Discovery Centre, Portmahomack, Easter Ross

TOUR NOTES

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!

The header photo above is of the Hilton Stone - a stunning modern replica where the original stood - which can be visited on request. The original Hilton stone now resides in the National Museum of Scotland - well worth a visit if you are in Edinburgh during your trip. However, the orginal carved base is in a nearby local centre and depending on opening times we may be able to visit it.

Finally, 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.

Easter Ross, Scottish Highlands