Pictish Stone, Hilton of Cadboll

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Thu, 2009-12-24

This is a replica of one of a series of high quality stones found in the area. This particular 8th Century Hilton of Cadboll Pictish Stone has been carved by Barry Grove and he is still working on the other side of it. The original stone is housed in Edinburgh Museum. This is a beautiful piece or work and is set on the site of an ancient chapel. It was discovered near Glenmorangie House in Ross-shire. This will provide a unique opportunity to see how original stone(s) might have looked. It is an upright cross-slab of rectangular shape 7 3/4 feet high by 4 1/2 feet wide.

The Hilton of Cadboll Stone is a magnificent Pictish carved cross-slab, bearing a Christian cross on one side and hunting scenes on the other.
The Hilton of Cadboll stone originally stood near the ruins of the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was used as a gravestone in 1676 when the ornamentation on one face was removed and a 17th century inscription substituted.

The main panel depicts a woman mounted on horseback, accompanied by other mounted figures, musicians and animals in a detailed hunting scene. A mirror and comb symbol is to her left. Above are a crescent and Vrod and at the top, a double disc and Z-rod.

The lower part, was left in the ground and forgotten, then rediscovered in 2001. Being buried for so long it was protected from weather and so the intricate details of the carvings are still clear. The front shows the stepped base of a cross, surrounded by typical pictish designs. The survival of this detail is exciting because the carving on the rest of this side was removed in the 17th century. The back shows the fabulously decorated border which ran all the way round the surviving face of the stone. The upper part was set up in 1870 in the grounds of Invergordon Castle.

Afterwards it lay near the seashore until c.1811 and was later removed to Invergordon Castle for preservation. After residing in a chapel near the village of Hilton od Cadboll for centuries, it was removed to Invergordon Castle, then the British Museum in London – provoking a public outcry. It has since been returned, to the National Museum of Scotland.

The stone is important for its artistic quality, its archaeology, and the story it tells. A new archaeological research post at the National Museum of Scotland has been created and new findings on Scotland’s ancient past published in a book in 2011. There have been three small digs at the site, funded by Historic Scotland, that have found parts of the stone struck off in the 17th.c.

Also recently the first Pictish throne built in over 1,000 years unveiled at National Museum of Scotland. The throne was commissioned by The Glenmorangie Company and National Museums Scotland to aid understanding of the Early Historic people of Scotland and their society. The Company has a natural association with National Museums Scotland as the museums’ collections include the eighth-century Hilton of Cadboll Pictish Stone, which was discovered near Glenmorangie House in Ross-shire and is the inspiration for the emblem that adorns Glenmorangie’s bottles.

This period of Scotland’s early history between 300-900AD has many myths associated with it and is widely accepted to warrant more research. The Pictish throne is the first to be built in over a thousand years and was created by master furniture maker Adrian McCurdy whose design was inspired by depictions on some of the first Pictish sculptured stones to feature important people seated on thrones.

The throne will go on display first at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre from 1 December and at the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain, Ross-shire, next year. It will be displayed at other sites later. It will focus attention on the Easter Ross group of Pictish stones and draw attention to the others – Rosemarkie, Dingwall, Strathpeffer, Nigg, Shandwick, Edderton, Portmahomack. Hilton of Cadboll provides further evidence for a local redware pottery industry, presumably using the Carse clays of either the Dornoch or Moray Firths.

History In Brief:
Long before the Scots, Vikings or English discovered this far flung corner of Easter Ross, it was homeland of one of the tribes of the Picts. Fifteen hundred years ago Pictland extended from just North of the central belt of Scotland to the Northern Isles. These Picts farmed, hunted and fought between themselves over the fertile land and lochsNigg Stone of Caledonia. Craftsmen produced superb sculpture and metalwork, jewellery and weapons. they went to war for their king against neighbouring states, such as the Angles of Deira and the Irish of Dalriada.

Gradually, between 600 and 800 AD, most of the Picts were converted to Christianity. It is during this time that the acclaimed carved stones for which the Picts are famous were produced.

Carved in relief on both faces these stones remain somewhat of a mystery- what function did they serve, what do the symbols indicate? The later slabs usually contain a cross as well as numerous Pictish symbols. Three of the finest examples of this type were produced in the Tarbat peninsula. Hilton of Cadboll a listed historic monument of Scotland.

The Pictish Trail
The Pictish Trail takes you from Inverness to Golspie in Sutherland, exploring the mysterious and beautiful carved stones made by the Pictish people who lived in the area from 3rd to 9th Centuries AD. Click here for more details.

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Pictish Stone, Hilton of Cadboll

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