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A History of Rannoch

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.

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