The Gaelic name of every mountain, lochan, stream and
glen in Rannoch stirs the imagination and reminds us of the culture of
ancient Caledonia. Here the Celtic way of life reigned supreme and its
traditions still linger, traditions which have their roots far back in
history. During the Roman invasion of Scotland Rannoch was inhabited by
the Picts. These were a race of people from the same stock as the Celts.
They were divided into tribes each with its chief. The possession of
cattle and land was of prime importance to them, as was pride in their own
fighting qualities. So raiding neighbouring tribes was common practice
with them. Nevertheless they were an intensely religious people whose
priests were called Druids. Their gods were in every stone, tree and wild
creature. Every spring, hill or river had a being to appease. They
believed in the immortality of the soul when they would pass from one from
of life to their Nirvana, the gold land of Tir nan Og, the land of eternal
youth, wherein there is ‘naught save truth, and where is neither age nor
decay, sorrow nor sadness, nor envy nor jealousy, hatred or haughtiness’.
The Picts by their very nature were warlike, and they
loved fighting. They had plenty of opportunity for this because living on
the other side of Drumalban, which is the old name given to the great
mountain range west of Rannoch that divides the streams flowing to the
Atlantic from the streams flowing to the North Sea, was another race of
Celts called Scotti. The names means bandit and was a very appropriate
name for these people. They had been driven out of Ireland and they had
established themselves in what is now Argyll. They were a troublesome
people and they waged continuous war with the Picts of Rannoch.
Whether it was Scot escaping from Picts of Picts
escaping from Scots, Rannoch was an ideal place in which to take refuge.
No large force could enter unknown to wary lookouts, and fugitives could
disappear into the dense forests or hide in the hills and corries.
Nevertheless the fierce exchanges went on around the loch in which it
seems that the Picts were more successful than the Scots. But, both being
warlike by nature, the struggle might have gone on for ever. But it so
happened that the Scots had adopted a form of Christianity before leaving
Ireland, and St. Columba, the most famous of Scottish missionaries gave
them his support at this time.
He, like the Scots, had been driven out of Ireland and
he had landed in Iona with his 12 disciples where he had established a
monastery. In AD 563 he made a famous journey to the King of the Picts at
his capital in Inverness and pleaded the cause of Christianity and that of
his kinsmen. The king promised to allow Columba to continue his
missionary work and he promised to refrain from making war against the
Scots. So the intense warfare died down, although tribal feuds and cattle
raiding, which were second nature to them, continued as part of the way of
life of these early Celts.
Although they have adopted a modicum of Christianity
their pagan beliefs were still strong. Even when Christianity had become
firmly established the age old Celtic beliefs still persisted and became
blended with the new religion.