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Dunnichen Hill

This is the site of the Battle of Nechtansmere found between the Picts and the invading Northumbrians of King Ecgfrith. The battle took place at 3.00pm on 2 March 685AD. The Picts had been subjugated under Drust, a puppet King supported by King Oswui of Northumberland. When Oswui died in 672AD the Picts (called Picti ‘painted ones' by the Romans) overthrew Drust. The new king, Ecgfrith sought revenge on the Picts and started a campaign against them, which included the massacre of a Pictish army at Grangemouth.

Bridei, king of the Picts was the cousin of King Ecgfrith and at Nechtansmere he ambushed the Northumbrians.

Bede, AD 731 wrote the following account:
‘Egfrith, King of Northumbria, rashly led an army to ravage the province of the Picts. The enemy pretended to retreat, and lured the king into narrow mountain passes, where he was killed with the greater part of his forces... Many of the English at this time were killed, or forced to flee from Pictish territory.'

Ecgfrith was drawn further into Pictish territory and was possibly heading for the Pict fort at Dunnottar. Bridei let the Northumbrians see a warband on a part of Dunnichen Hill, which the Northumbrians decided to engage. What they did not realise is that the warband was only a part of a much larger Pictish force waiting in ambush. The Northumbrians where in a poor defensive position and were slaughtered. In Aberlemno Churchyard a Pictish carved stone commemorates a battle which has been suggested could have been Nechtansmere.

In winter 1950 Miss E Smith found herself walking on the battlefield late at night after she had accidentally run her car into a ditch. Over a 12 minute period she observed men in Pictish like outfits with fire brands searching through battlefield corpses.


Ian Topham

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