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, Scottish Highlands Rodney Pictish Stone, Scottish Highlands

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. 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 stunning Pictish beast illustration.

Tarbat Discovery Centre, Scottish Highlands

Heading north from Inverness we journey along the Easter Ross coastline towards the Tarbat peninsula to 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.

Shandwick Pictish Stone, Scottish Highlands Nigg Pictish Stone, Scottish Highlands

Leaving Tarbat we 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, Scottish Highlands

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.

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!

Our lunch stop is at one of the local cafes - we have various options depending on timings and availability, including one which has the original carved base of the Hilton Pictish stone in the cafe! The main Hilton stone now resides in the National Museum of Scotland - well worth a visit if you are in Edinburgh during your trip. There is a stunning modern replica where the original stood which can be visited on request (header photo above is the Hilton stone replica).

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