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A brief history of Scotland


Scotland’s history stretches back thousands of years. From tribal Celts to noble clansmen, mysterious standing stones to lavish castles, you’ll find signs of our complex history all over the country.

Step back into Scotland’s fascinating past and discover the amazing places where you can experience it for yourself.

4000-3000BC Neolithic Scotland

This prehistoric period saw the birth of village and farming life. On Orkney, find one of the best preserved settlements in Europe at Skara Brae as well as an amazing stone tomb at Maeshowe. Part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, these monuments are an UNESCO World Heritage Site and older than the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge!

3000-500BC Rituals and Tribes

The Bronze Age brought a focus on ritual activity, with standing stones such as those at Calanais playing an important role. The Iron Age then saw the beginnings of Celtic culture as the Picts and other tribes settled. Step back in time at brochs, Iron Age circular towers which are only found in Scotland. You can even stay in some!

500 BC-800AD Invasion

The arrival of the Roman Empire heralded the beginning of Scotland’s recorded history. However, the Romans never truly conquered Scotland and only got as far as building the Antonine Wall. Much of the wall still survives as another World Heritage Site. Then came the fearsome Vikings, celebrated today at festivals including Up Helly Aa and the Follow the Vikings Festival.

1000-1600AD Building a Kingdom

Scotland as we know it began forming in 1000 AD. Over the next 600 years, towns were established and castles and abbeys began being built across the country. Many recognisable figures from Scottish history lived during this period, including Macbeth, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots and Robert the Bruce. Find out more about them in our Famous Scots eBook.

18th Century, The Jacobite Risings

The Jacobite Risings were marked by rebellions and battles which led to the tragic Battle of Culloden that changed the Highlands of Scotland forever. Visit Culloden Battlefield to find out more about the events before, during and after the last battle fought on British soil. Outlander is set during this period and features many Scottish historical locations.

19th Century, Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution

Scotland’s greatest minds helped shape the world during the Age of Enlightenment, including Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. Industrial life then took over at the turn of the 19th century. The Forth Bridge is one of the industrial wonders of the world, and you can experience the fascinating story of a cotton mill village at New Lanark.

Objects that Shaped Scotland's History

Discover the amazing objects that have contributed to Scotland’s past, from the Lewis Chessmen to Dolly the Sheep, and find out where you can visit them today.

Find out more
Experience Scotland's History For Yourself
Step back in time