Ancient Monuments

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Dunachton Lodge, symbol stone 75m SSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Badenoch and Strathspey, Highland

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Latitude: 57.1179 / 57°7'4"N

Longitude: -3.9489 / 3°56'55"W

OS Eastings: 282089

OS Northings: 804678

OS Grid: NH820046

Mapcode National: GBR J9MX.7VM

Mapcode Global: WH4JC.9CT6

Entry Name: Dunachton Lodge, symbol stone 75m SSW of

Scheduled Date: 18 May 1925

Last Amended: 10 March 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM937

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: inscribed stone

Location: Alvie

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Badenoch and Strathspey

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument is a Pictish symbol-bearing stone likely to date from the 6th to 8th centuries AD.  The stone is located within the private walled garden of Dunachton Lodge, on a natural and level terrace.  It lies about 240 m above sea level.

The monument is a freestanding symbol-bearing stone, set in a modern stone base.  The stone is about 1.4m tall, 0.4m wide and 0.12m in depth. The stone is granite or gneiss with quartz inclusions and is decorated with an incised carving of a stylised deer head.  It was discovered in 1870, serving as a door lintel, when an estate stable was undergoing demolition to provide building material for Dunachton Lodge.  The stone was set into a base and displayed near Dunachton Lodge from 1870 until present.  

The scheduled area is a circle on plan, measuring 1m in diameter, centred on the monument and includes the remains described above, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The symbol stone appears to be well-preserved for such a monument type.  Only very minor weathering has affected the incised carving; the stylised deer head is easily viewed with the naked eye. The current form of the stone may not be original but relate to its use as a lintel.

Scientific study, such as detailed laser scanning, could reveal previously unrecorded detail and provide more information on the stone to help our interpretation of the imagery, the possible purpose of the stone and its date or chronological development.  The carving has the potential to enhance our knowledge and understanding of Pictish society, the development of insular art in Britain, and the technical aspects of stone-carving in the early historic period.

Contextual Characteristics

Although the original location of the stone is not known, it is closely associated with the locality and probably from the vicinity. The Picts used symbols in a range of contexts, but the majority of surviving examples are found carved on stones. The earliest examples are found on unshaped stones (around 200 examples survive). This monument has been categorised as a Class I symbol stone (unworked stones with symbols only incised, with no cross on either side) and probably date to the 6th or 7th centuries AD.

Pictish carved stones are generally found north of the River Forth with concentrations in Perthshire and Angus, Aberdeenshire and Moray, Inverness-shire, Caithness and Sutherland and the Northern Isles. There are no other recorded Pictish symbol stones within a 10km radius of the monument. However, there are a concentration of Pictish symbol stones along Strathspey. These include a Class I Pictish symbol stone discovered at Ballintomb (Canmore ID 139356) around 26km to the north northeast, a pair of Class I Pictish symbol stones at Congash (Canmore IDs 319516 and 319517 and scheduled monument reference SM2662) around 32km to the northeast and another at Inverallan (scheduled monument reference SM2456, Canmore ID 15702). The siting of Dunachton symbol-bearing stone is of significance as it appears to be an outlier of the main Strathspey group.

There are other Pictish remains in the area including a barrow cemetery around 17km northeast at Pityoulish (Canmore ID 15389 and Scheduled Monument 13633). Around 27km southwest of Dunachton is the impressive and well-preserved Pictish fort of Dun-da-lamh (Canmore ID 24310 and Scheduled Monument 4361).

Associative Characteristics

It is assumed the symbol stone was originally erected close to its present site. It was first recorded as being recovered during the demolition of a stable in 1870.  The building stone used for estate buildings was most likely to be locally sourced suggesting that the symbol stone is from the Dunachton area.

The placename of Dunachton may derive from Dun-Nechtan or "fort of Nechtan".  King Nechtain was of royal standing within the Pictish kingdom and his death is recorded in 732AD.  King Nechtain may have had a stronghold at Dunachton, or in the vicinity, and this symbol stone could be related to this.

The Battle of Dun Nechatin or Nechtansmere, between the Picts and Northumbrians in 685AD, was believed to be held in the Grampian Mountains, east of the Strathspey area. However, recent research has suggested that descriptions of the battlefield location and recorded movement of troops involved, indicates the battle took place in the Dunachton area. This theory is strengthened by the close relation of the name of the battle and the local place name, as detailed above. Thisimportant battle may have taken place in the vicinity of the Dunachton symbol-bearing stone.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it is a rare, well preserved and stylistic example of Pictish carved art.  The monument has the potential to contribute to our understanding of Pictish art and monumental sculpture and potentially community and cultural contacts in the early historic period. The monument is part of an important wider historical grouping of Pictish sites, including a substantial fort and other symbol stones, all located along the southern section of the River Spey and its tributaries. The loss of the monument would affect our ability to understand Pictish society, which inhabited much of Scotland north of the Forth between the 4th and 10th centuries AD, particularly as the historical record covering this region in this period is extremely limited.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 14913 (accessed on 14/07/2016).

Highland Council HER reference number MHG4440 (accessed on 14/07/2016)

Allen and Anderson, J R and J. (1903). The early Christian monuments of Scotland: a classified illustrated descriptive list of the monuments with an analysis of their symbolism and ornamentation. Edinburgh

Fraser-Mackintosh, C. (1866). Dunachton Past and Present.

Foster, S M. (2004). Picts, Gaels and Scots: Early Historic Scotland. London.

MacBain, A. (1922). Place names: Highlands and islands of Scotland. Stirling.

Mack, A. (1997). Field guide to the Pictish symbol stones. Balgavies, Angus.

Mulholland, H. (2015). Surveying the Symbol Stones.

Ritchie, A. (1989). Picts: An Introduction to the Life of the Picts and the Carved Stones in the Care of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Edinburgh.

Stevenson, J. (1998). Pictish Symbol Stones. Edinburgh.

Stuart, J. (1856). Sculptured stones of Scotland, vol. 1. Aberdeen

Woolf, A (2006), 'Dun Nechtain, Fortriu and the Geography of the Picts', The Scottish Historical Review, 85 (2): 182–201.


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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