History of Perthshire
A visitors guide

Ardoch Roman Fort Braco
The following is an overview of the History of Perthshire as a whole.

I have set out this page to present a generalisation of what Perthshire was like over the 9 Millennium. More specific information can be found by going to the town or village in a specific area or earldom within the boundary of Perthshire. The relevent link can be found in the right hand column. I have set parameters for:

Prehistory Period-Prehistoric Perthshire - 7000 BC to AD 500

Roman Occupation - 7000 BC to AD 500

Dark Ages - AD1 to AD830

Middle Ages - AD830 to AD1559

Early Modern Times 16th & 17th century

Modern Times Late 17th century onwards.


Prehistory Period

Interglacial Scotland had almost certainly been occupied by people - after all the British Isles have been occupied off and on for an amazing 500,000 years, but any trace of these earliest settlers has either eroded away or not yet been found. Soon after the end of the last Ice Age people began to start looking for fresh places to find food in the north. Britain was still linked with Europe via a land bridge until the seas finally began rising, cutting off this link. This allowed people to walk straight across from the Continent as well as coming up from southern Britain.

The First Settlers (7000 BC to 4000 BC)
After the end of the Ice Age 6000-5000 BC, the temperature gradually increased sufficiently allowing the return of plants and animals to the Scottish landmass. Of course it was not known as Scotland back then. It was possible for small groups of dwellers to reoccupy the country. These were predominantly nomadic hunter gathers. Initially they walked the country side living off an impressive array of accessible food sources; nuts, berries, seeds, roots and fungi, fish, sea birds and shellfish and a variety of animals. It is not clear precisely when these first groups arrived, but radiocarbon dates obtained from early mesolithic sites elsewhere in Scotland indicate that, in some areas, at least, settlement was under way by 6000 BC. Although there is no mesolithic sites of this date found in Perthshire, it is reasonable to believe occupation would have been established.

The Earliest Monument Builders (4000 BC to 2500 BC)
By the end of the 5th Millennium BC most of the ground that was to be permanently settled in Perthshire over the next millennia had already been explored and was probably well known to groups of mesolithic hunters.

The Age of Round Cairns and Cists (2500 BC to 1500 BC)
There is no clear-cut break between the neolithic period and the Bronze Age but, from the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, a number of changes in the archaeological record become apparent. There have been few cairns excavated in Perthshire. Chambered and long cairns ceased to be built or at least used in the traditional way during this time and multiple burial-sites of the neolithic was replaced by single inhumation or ceremonial burial, with individual graves grouped into clusters and, in some cases, covered by cairns.

The Age of Settlements (1500 BC to AD 500 BC)
In the centuries after 1500 BC there is a profound change in the archaeological record. The pattern of life established in the neolithic period, which continued to develop during the first half of the Bronze Age, is replaced by a new order. For the first time settlement sites become common, with hardly any of the previous ceremonial and burial sites completely disappear. Of all the Scottish counties, Perthshire appears to have the greatest variety of settlement types - hut-circles, ring-ditch hut-circles, ring-ditch timber round-houses, souterrain settlements, crannogs, homestaeds, ring forts, duns, brochs, defended settlements, and forts.

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Roman Occupation AD71 to AD213

In Roman times, there was no such country as Scotland. The Romans knew this part of Britannia as Caledonia. They got as far as Inverness in their conquest, and subdued the Picts. They realised there was little benefit for them in Caledonia. A major battle at a place called Mons Graupius. There has been much debate as to where this actually took place, but after many years it is almost certainly somewhere in Central Scotland, at Dunning in Perthshire. The Romans defeated the tribes but was not followed up. Roman forts litter southern and central Scotland, the Gask Ridge being one specific group. The Antonine wall was also built across Scotland between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth. Originally planned as the same construction as Hadrian's Wall in the north of England which it was intended to replace as the frontier of Britannia it was modified to be built of stone topped with turf with forts along its length. More forts were built north of it. The Picts were fierce warriors and the benefits did not justify the negatives. It was not that they couldn't conquer Scotland, but chose that it was an unnecessary venture - not easy to govern and little reward in taxation.

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Dark Ages - AD1 to AD830

The beginning of the new millennium has been describe in the previous account of the land north of Britannia. For nearly 400 years the Caledonia's had be subjected to the ruthless interference of Roman forces. The Romans, under the command of Gnaeus Julius Agricola was appointed governor of Britannia about 78 AD. He had marched into Northern Britain in order to quell the ‘rebellious’ tribes who lived there. Although not recorded on any of the Scottish or Irish lists of Pictish kings, the first undoubted chieftain or king of the Picts on whom we haven't any reliable documentation was the leader of the Caledonians at the battle of Mons Graupius in 83 A.D. His name was Calgacus, which is the Latin form of a very old Celtic word ‘Calgach’, probably meaning ‘The Swordsman’, and derived from ‘Calg’, signifying anything sharp, like a spear or sword. There are a total of seventy nine (79) Pictish kings covering some 800 years ruling over what was later to be known as Scotland.

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Middle Ages - 1072 to 1559

The birth of Alba was a slow process of amalgamation of a number of tribes Picts, Scots, Britons and Anglo-Saxons living in this northern part of Britain. However, there was a long way to go yet, and not all possible avenues of development led to Scotland. Around AD790 the Viking started their ruthless raids on the north and western isles. To make things even worse the developing Christian inhabitants were also confronted with the invader paganism. The Dal Riatan dynasty which had seceded the Pictish kingship also found itself under Viking attack. Based in Fortiu in Perthshire, these kings proved no match for their aggressors, failing to protect their people. Out of this demise came Kenneth MacAlpin who became king of the Scots and the Picts around AD843. Ats time moved on more Vikings settled in much of north Scotland and involved in political aspects. The church played a critical part in the development of Alba was growing and often became involved in the gradual coming together of weaker kingdoms like Northumbria and Strathclyde. In 1559 John Knox gave his famous sermon in St John's Kirk in Perth.

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