Aberlemno’s Pictish Stones

Found in various locations in Scotland, Pictish stones have fascinated scholars for generations. Dating back to the 6th to 9th centuries, these large stone monuments are engraved with various symbols, the meanings of which continue to be debated today. Some of the earlier stones have Ogham inscriptions (Ogham being an early medieval Irish alphabet), while some later stones feature crosses attesting to the Christianization of the Picts, who are thought to have merged with the Gaels.

Dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries AD, the Pictish Symbol Stones in the small village of Aberlemno in the Scottish council area of Angus will be of interest to history enthusiasts. Six stones were discovered in and around the village and visitors can view three of these in their original locations, and a fourth in the grounds of Aberlemno Kirk among the gravestones of locals buried there. Identified as ‘Aberlemno 2’, the Pictish stone is a cross slab measuring almost 2m high by 0.3m thick and 1.3m wide. The description ‘cross slab’ is a reference to the ornately patterned cross carved on it. The cross stands out, with the background of the stone carved with serpents, sea horses and other dragon-like beasts intertwined. On the back of the stone is a battle scene, with warriors on foot and others on horseback. It is generally agreed that this is a depiction of the Battle of Dunnichen which took place between invaders from Northumbria and Pictish defenders in May 685 north of Aberlemno – a battle which the Picts won.

The three roadside stones stand separate from each other and can only be viewed from April to September, as they are otherwise covered in wooden boxes to protect from the winter elements. Referred to as ‘Aberlemno 3’, the largest of the stones stands at a height of 2.8m and is also a cross slab. The back of this particular slab has been divided into three sections, with the top featuring Pictish symbols, the next section down depicting a hunting scene, and the lower section featuring what is thought to be Biblical scenes. Aberlemno 1 is the oldest of the stones and features a series of Pictish symbols, while the central stone either had no marking carved on it, or they have been erased by the elements.

Certainly, Aberlemno’s Pictish Stones are interesting attractions to view when visiting this charming region of Scotland.

Picture courtesy of: Anne Burgess (Wikimedia Commons)