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Tantallon Castle, East Lothian

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The history of Scotland

The history of Scotland is as fascinating as it is complex. There were tribal Celts and ancient, face-painted Picts, Roman conquerors and audacious red-headed Vikings, fallen monarchs and powerful warrior-royals, noble clansmen, great explorers, pensive philosophers, bright inventors, and all that came with them and the remnants they left behind including astonishing signs of their presence and sophistication.

Think ancient and mysterious standing stones, fine castles and lavish stately homes, striking architecture, derelict fortresses, world-famous feats of engineering and more! From the Scottish Borders to Orkney and from Fife to the Isle of Skye, fierce battles, cruel ridings and bloody risings were won and lost, lasting unions were forged, and new discoveries and world-changing inventions were made.

The list could go on as the history of Scotland stretches back thousands of years. Relive the past and witness the wondrous monuments that today proudly tell their stories.

A Brief Timeline of Scottish History

Scottish Prehistory 

4000 BC – Early Neolithic settlers are living in places like Skara Brae and building incredible structures like the Calanais Standing Stones.

700 BC – Iron Age heralds better weapons and tools, more organised communities and trade. 

Early Scottish History

79 AD – Arrival of the Romans – they build defensive structures like the Antonine Wall.

411 AD – Romans leave Britain altogether.

563 AD – Columba arrives on Iona, bringing Christianity.

800 AD – Vikings arrive in Scotland.

Medieval Scotland

1040 – Scotland’s famous early king Macbeth assumes the throne of Scotland.

1297William Wallace fights at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

1306Robert the Bruce crowned king of Scotland.

1320 – Declaration of Arbroath written.

1542Mary Queen of Scots becomes queen of Scotland.

The Jacobite Era

1603 - The Union of the Crowns. James Stuart becomes James I of England and VI of Scotland.

1707 – Act of Union between Scottish and English crowns. 

1746 – Battle of Culloden ends the Jacobite cause.

The Enlightenment 

1759Robert Burns is born.

1771Walter Scott is born.

1800 – Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution well underway.

Scotland Today

1999 – Scottish parliament reconvened for the first time in 300 years. 

Sources: NTS, Scotland.org.uk

5 fun facts about the history of Scotland

  1. Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn! 
  2. Scotland invented golf and is known as the ‘Home of Golf’.
  3. ‘Braveheart’ was actually Robert the Bruce’s nickname – not William Wallace’s.
  4. In the 19th century, during the industrial boom, Glasgow was one of the biggest cities in the world.
  5. From the 8th century to the 15th century, Orkney was under Viking rule. 

Want to know more? Check out these 10 interesting facts about Scotland.

Share your history moments using #scottishhistory and #visitscotland!

FAQs about Scotland’s history 

How was Scotland created?

The first humans are believed to have arrived in Scotland around 8000 BC after the last ice age. But the geological history of the country stretches back billions of years. Lewisian gneiss rocks, thought to be some of the oldest in existence, first formed around 3 billion years ago. Find out more about Scotland’s geology and geosites

When was Scotland founded?

Scotland emerged as a sovereign state in the early Middle Ages, around the middle of the ninth century. People had been living in the area we now know as Scotland for thousands of years before that.

Who was the first Scottish king?

Kenneth I (810 – 858) is usually considered the first Scottish king and founder of Scotland, which was then known as Alba. He established a royal dynasty to which later monarchs could trace their lineage.