ANGUS AND Perthshire have experienced mixed fortunes in the development of an important inventory of historic Scots battlegrounds.
Dunkeld has been added to almost 40 sites as part of the latest batch in the Historic Scotland list, but there remains no place for Dun Nechtain, near Forfar, the claimed setting in 685AD for what has been described as a pivotal clash in the nation’s early history.
Historic Scotland commissioned the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology to carry out the work across the country.
Dr Iain Banks and Dr Tony Pollard of the centre completed the investigations and they are remaining in contact with local historians, including Angus campaigners who want to see their site added to the list but have been told that the absence of firm evidence of the exact location is a stumbling block to inclusion.
Added to the inventory in the most recent batch are: Blar-na-Leine (1544), Dunbar I (1296), Dunkeld (1689), Glen Livet (1594), Inverlochy I (1431), Langside (1568), Loudoun Hill (1307), Roslin (1303), Sauchieburn (1488), Skirmish Hill (1526) and Tippermuir (1644).
Dr Banks said: “The Inventory of Scottish Battlefields is the first time that Scotland’s iconic battlefields have been given any protection, and it has been a privilege to be involved in the creation of the inventory.
“These sites preserve the last traces of historical events that shaped the nation of Scotland through history, and there is no substitute for visiting the battlefields for understanding what happened in each battle.
“What we have found when researching the battlefields is that there is never any difficulty in persuading people of the importance of a particular site; the most difficult job has been explaining why individual battlefields have not made it on to the inventory.
“We have been really astonished at the high levels of enthusiasm for the preservation of battlefields at the local level people are fascinated by them and want to see them preserved.”
That enthusiasm has been no more in evidence than in Angus, where historians did their best to make the case for the inclusion for Dun Nechtain, the scene of the Pictish defeat of the invading Northumbrians under King Ecgfrith.
Angus cultural services director and Pictish expert Norman Atkinson, who has met with Historic Scotland representatives to discuss the Dun Nechtain claim said he is hopeful consideration of further excavation might unearth more firm proof of the Angus battleground.
There is a competing theory over the site of the battle being at Dunachton in Badenoch, but Mr Atkinson believes the recorded timing of the event would have made it impossible for that to be the location.
“This battle is meant to take place in the ninth hour of the Sunday, and a horseman had to make it through unfriendly territory to tell Ecgfrith’s widow on the Monday morning,” he said.
“In friendly territory, with a change of horses, that’s possible but friendly territory would have stopped at Fife.”
The Angus site will come into the spotlight next spring when Dunnichen Heritage Society welcome Dr James Fraser, an eminent historian who wrote a book on the subject, to talk in May.