Celts of Scotland

Celts of Scotland (Alba)

The Celts of Alba, also known as Scotland, have captured the imagination of people worldwide through their rich history, unique culture, and traditions. They were ancient people who lived in the territory that is now Scotland, and they had to endure many hardships to survive the changing landscape of Great Britain.

Through sheer perseverance, they managed to carve out a distinct identity, now celebrated in poetry, literature, and film. The Celts of Scotland were not only people of great bravery and courage, but they were also highly skilled in various arts and crafts. They deeply understood nature, and their spiritual beliefs were closely intertwined with the natural world around them. Over the centuries, the Celts evolved and developed their distinct language, music, and customs, still visible in Scotland and the other Celtic Nations today.

Scotland has a long, ancient history that can’t possibly be covered in a single blog post. Researching your ancestor’s timelines helps to understand the history of the time and place. Putting your ancestors’ movements into a historical context will allow you to experience their lives more fully.

Ancient Picts of Scotland

Humans have inhabited Scotland for over 12,000 years since pre-historic times. The early inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, but over time, they became farmers, clearing forests to cultivate land for crops and domesticated animals. These early farmers, known as the Celtic Picts, spoke a form of Brythonic Celt, closely related to the Welsh language. Interestingly, the Romans referred to them as Picts, which means ‘painted ones.’

When the Romans invaded Great Britain in AD 43, the people of Scotland found themselves on the historical stage. Though the Romans encountered fierce resistance from the natives, they ultimately gained control over most of the lowlands of Scotland by the end of their conquest. The Roman occupation of Scotland lasted for several centuries, during which time the region experienced significant cultural and economic changes. The arrival of the Romans had a lasting impact on Scotland’s history and shaped its development over the centuries that followed.

The Romans called the region Caledonia and called the natives Picts, meaning painted or tattooed people. They seem to come under an umbrella for several native groups in northern Britain whom the Romans saw as barbarians.

Did you know that back in ancient times, the Romans used to call the natives who adopted their culture as Britons? It’s fascinating to see how different cultures influenced and shaped each other throughout history.

The Romans Pushed Back

Various conflicts and wars between the native and the Roman Empire mark the history of Scotland. The Romans built the Antonine Wall in AD 160 as a defense mechanism but eventually retreated to Hadrian’s Wall in the south. The Roman occupation of southern Scotland lasted for only 45 years, but it significantly impacted early Scottish culture. The Romans altered the landscape by building forts, watchtowers, roads, and bridges. They also introduced the region to new languages, foods, drinks, and dresses. However, the Celtic people north of Hadrian’s Wall did not adopt the Roman culture and continued to maintain their traditions.

The Cultural Groups of Scotland

By the Middle Ages, four cultural groups didn’t just inhabit Scotland but rather a rich tapestry woven from various influences. Here’s a more nuanced look:

  • Strathclyde Britons: Inhabited southwestern Scotland, speaking a Brythonic language related to Welsh. Their kingdom eventually merged with the Picts.
  • Northumbrians: Anglo-Saxons from the south, speaking an Old English dialect. Their influence extended into southeastern Scotland, forming the mighty kingdom of Northumbria.
  • Picts: An enigmatic group inhabiting northern and eastern Scotland, whose language remains partially unknown (though likely Celtic). They eventually merged with the Gaels.
  • Gaels: Migrating from Ireland (not just Northern Ireland), these Gaelic-speaking people settled in western Scotland. Later, under King Kenneth MacAlpin, they united with the Picts, paving the way for the Kingdom of Alba (later Scotland). However, attributing the Scottish name solely to them is an oversimplification.

The Melting Pot of Great Britain

The Celts of Scotland are a mixture of many peoples that migrated to the UK and Ireland. You can’t discuss Scotland Celts without knowing the history of the other people who came to inhabit the UK and Ireland.

After the invasion of others, the Celts were pushed back to what is known as the Celtic Fringe of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man. I will have other blog posts about the individual Celtic Nations.

Scottish Timeline (Taken from the Family Tree Scottish Genealogy Guide)

  • 122 – Romans built Hadrian’s Wall, which formed the boundary between Roman Britain and native-ruled lands.
  • 300-500 – The Scotti, Gaelic speakers from Ireland, settled in present-day Scotland.
  • 397 – Saint Ninian, the first bishop of Galloway, establishes a church at Whithorn. The region became Christianized in the centuries that followed.
  • 795 – Viking raids begin in Scotland.
  • 843 – Kenneth MacAlpine, a Scotti, takes the Pictland throne.
  • 1297 – During the Wars of Scottish Independence, William Wallace and the Scots defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
  • 1306 – Robert the Bruce is crowned King of the Scots.
  • 1320 – Scots assert their independence in the Declaration of Arbroath.
  • 1482 – Scotland’s modern boundaries are solidified.

Final Thoughts

Are you curious about your family history? If so, you’re not alone! Many people find it fascinating to learn about their ancestors and their origins. I love researching the Celts of Scotland – maybe because I have quite a few Scottish ancestors myself! But I’m also intrigued by my Irish and Welsh roots.

If you’re into genealogy like I am, please share your thoughts and comments below. Let’s learn more about our family histories together! Happy meandering. Slànte Mhath!

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