A Tarbat Discovery Centre local history resource Hilton Stone Nigg Stone Shandwick Stone

Who were the Picts?

The Picts were made up of various tribes or kingdoms who spoke a Celtic language and are believed to have descended from the native peoples of Scotland. The Picts had a prehistoric religion but were later converted to Christianity. The name Pict comes from the fact that the Romans referred to the as the Picti, meaning ‘painted people’, with reference to the many tattoos their warriors wore. The Romans never conquered the north of Scotland. Indeed they built Hadrian’s wall (begun in AD122) as the northern frontier of the Roman Empire to keep the Picts out! Much knowledge of the Picts is now obscured by the mists of time, but the work of the University of York and Aberdeen University at Portmahomack and on the Fearn Peninsular is gradually shining a light on these mysterious people.

Our Pictish Heritage


Pictish art is acknowledged as some of the most beautiful in the world and is admired and studied by scholars world-wide. The many carved stones and cross-slabs they left behind are as enigmatic as they are beautiful. They are covered in mysterious symbols, such as the crescent and v-rod, the double disc and z-rod, mythical beasts and intricate scrolls and knots.


Their code has yet to be cracked. Scholars understand more of the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ than they do of this Pictish symbolism. The Fearn Peninsular is fortunate to have some excellent examples of Pictish stones at Nigg, Shandwick and Hilton-of-Cadboll (replica) that are believed to mark the boundaries of the Pictish monastery at Portmahomack.

Follow the pictish trail to see the stones then visit Tarbat Discovery Centre at Portmahomack to find out about the Picts.