Scotlands History

Battle of Dunnichen

On 20 May AD 685 a force of Northumbrians under King Ecgfrith faced King Bridei’s Picts at the Battle of Dunnichen. The Northumbrian Angles were annihilated.

The Venerable Bede wrote of King Ecgfrith:

… rashly leading his army to ravage the province of the Picts … the enemy made show as if they fled, and the king was drawn into the narrows of inaccessible mountains, and slain, with the greatest part of his forces

Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People‎, c AD 731

In the mid 7th century Northumbria extended from the Forth to the Humber. It was one of the most powerful kingdoms in Britain, but by AD 685 King Ecgfrith of Northumbria had over-stretched himself. As his army reached north Angus, they were lured into a trap by Bridei son of Beli, king of Fortriu.

At Dunnichen, on a boggy site surrounded by steep hills, Bridei’s Pictish warriors lay in wait. A few Picts pretended to run from the Northumbrians. When Ecgfrith and his army followed they were ambushed and slaughtered.

Here the northern expansion of the Angles was halted, and the Pictish kingdom was consolidated.

Dun Nectan is Gaelic, meaning the ‘hill-fort or stronghold of Nectan’ (a Pictish king). The Angles called the battle site ‘Nectansmere’; the ‘mire of Nectan’. To the Welsh, and possibly the Picts, it was ‘Lin Garan’; the ‘Pool of the Heron’.

A Pictish symbol stone at Aberlemno near Dunnichen may commemorate the battle.

  • trees in a forrest

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