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You can move up and down the timeline using the date bands: the bottom band moves you along centuries quickly and the middle bank moves along decades. Click on individual events to see more details and description.

Timeline of Scottish History

A timeline of events in Scottish History!. Scroll through a growing chronology of events and click on them for more details and links

History Timeline

A series of articles that chronicles Scotland's history through the ages right up to the present day. Articles provide a summary overview of our history and also link to useful and interesting external resources for even more information.

10 Top Moments in History

1. St Columba Founds a Monastery on Iona

In 563 this fiery Irish missionary went into self-imposed exile on Iona (known as the “home of Christianity” in Europe), and here he founded a monastery. Columban monks travelled widely, consolidating the Christian faith and thus unifying Scotland’s tribes into one nation.

2. Battle of Bannockburn

Facing an English onslaught in 1314, the Scots – led by Robert the Bruce – achieved a dazzling victory. By defeating the English, the Scots won back their nation and their pride. Their right to independence was ratified by papal bull in 1329, though the war with England continued for another 300 years.

3. Battle of Flodden

To assist France, James IV invaded England in 1513 and met the enemy just over the border at Flodden. In the massacre that followed, some 10,000 Scots died, James included, and, as his heir was still an infant, a power struggle and an era of instability ensued. - read more

4. John Knox Leads the Reformation

Scotland was a Catholic country when Mary Queen of Scots ascended the throne. But in 1559, a revolutionary preacher called John Knox denounced Catholicism and heralded the Reformation. Protestantism was introduced to Scotland, and for the next 150 years religious intolerance was rife. - read more

5. Union with England

When Elizabeth I died without an heir, James VI of Scotland succeeded her. He became James I of England in 1603, thus uniting the crowns. After Scotland was bankrupted by the disastrous Darien expedition, which failed to establish a colony in Panama, union with England became an economic necessity. The 1707 Act of Union united the Scottish and English parliaments, effectively dissolving Scottish Parliament.

6. Battle of Culloden

In 1745, James VII’s grandson “Bonnie Prince Charlie” secretly sailed from France to Scotland to reclaim the British throne. He amassed an army which fought its way to a panic-stricken London. Short of their goal, the “Jacobites” returned north. The Hanoverian army, aided by royalist Scots, slaughtered the rebels at Culloden, the last battle fought on British soil.

7. Industrial Revolution

James Watt’s transformation of the steam engine heralded the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which had a profound effect on Glasgow in particular. The demand for steam forced every coalmine into maximum output, and the production of cotton, linen, steel and machinery boomed. Glasgow became known as “the workshop of the Empire”.

8. World Wars and Emigration

Of the two world wars, it was the 1914–18 war that claimed the most lives: 74,000 Scottish soldiers and almost as many civilians. In addition to this, between 1901 and 1961, 1.4 million Scots emigrated to seek better lives elsewhere.

9. Return of a Scottish Parliament

In a 1997 referendum, the Scots emphatically voted to re-establish a Scottish Parliament. This opened in 1999, returning the political forum to the heart of Scotland after an absence of 292 years.

10. SNP Gains

Scotland voted against independence in 2014, but the Scottish National Party (SNP) achieved an unprecedented result in the 2015 UK election, gaining 56 out of the 59 seats in Scotland; these MPs now sit in the UK Parliament at Westminster.

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Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke

Trumpan Church, or Kilconan Church as it was once known, sits just east of the shores of Ardmore Bay on the edge of the Waternish peninsula, has a dark and bloody past. 

On the first Sunday of May in the year of 1578 a raiding party of MacDonalds from Uist glided silently around Dunvegan Head into Ardmore bay on the isle of Skye, unnoticed by anyone and bent on vengeance. It was a Sunday morning, and many of the people had gone to worship in the local church. Slowly and silently the MacDonald men moved in on the building and piled brushwood against the door of the building and set it alight, trapping all who were within the walls.

Picture the dismay of the worshippers when there is a loud shout at the church door, and they turn to see the door guarded by armed men, triumphant and without pity. Escape is impossible. Resistance is useless, for the men are unarmed in the church. As the congregation stand there, the women and children terrified, the men defiant yet powerless against the claymores that guard the narrow door, wisps of pungent smoke enter the church and soon the crackle of flames is heard.   Shrieks and wailings echo through the doomed building, while outside a piper plays wild and scornful music to drown the cries of the dying.  Unperceived in the dense smoke, a teenage girl manages to squeeze through a narrow slit at the corner of the church severing one of her breasts in the process.

She managed to warn the MacLeod’s in Dunvegan. Waving the famous Fairy Flag, an army of MacLeods wreaked their revenge in a swift and bloody savage counter attack. Every member of the raiding party was slaughtered as they couldn't sail to freedom as the tide was so low they could not launch their boats. The battle was named the ‘Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke’ (’Blar Milleadh Garaidh’ in Gaelic) so called because, when all was over, the corpses of the MacDonalds were dragged off and thrown at the side of a stone and turf dyke whereupon the dyke was simply toppled over the dead MacDonalds, so heinous was their act of butchery that it was deemed they did not warrant a decent burial.

It is said that for many years after the battle the bones of the dead MacDonalds could be seen sticking out from the toppled dyke, a gruesome reminder of an awful event.

It’s hard to imagine standing here today that a peaceful congregation gathered together in a church, a place of sanctuary, supposedly, and every man, woman and child being slaughtered. It's even harder to imagine when you stand here listening to the wind and a few distant seabirds that this slaughter actually happened. Now we have to ask ourselves, did the MacDonalds just go about setting fire to churches full of MacLeods?

Or was there more to this story? For a number of years there had been continuous feuding between Clan MacDonald and Clan MacLeod.

During the winter of 1577, this feud came to a terrible climax on the Isle of Eigg. The tradition runs that a small party of MacLeods had landed on that island, whereupon some of the MacLeods staying on the island became too amorous with the local maidens. They were seized, bound hand and foot, and set adrift in their own boat, but managed, to reach Dunvegan. Forthwith, to avenge them, the MacLeod Chief sailed for Eigg. Seeing his overwhelming force the inhabitants of the island, some three hundred and ninety five in number, took shelter in a great cave called St. Francis, also known as the Massacre Cave,  which had a single narrow entrance. Their plan seemed successful.

Macleod searched the island, but failed to find them, and at last set sail. Looking back, however, the MacLeods spied a man on the top of the island. Returning immediately, by means of his footsteps in a sprinkling of snow which had fallen, they traced him to the mouth of the cave. There they demanded that the persons who had set their men adrift should be given up for punishment, or as we say in Scotland, "A square go". This was refused whereupon MacLeod ordered his men to gather huge amounts of heather and brushwood.

This was piled against the mouth of the cave and set on fire, Their intention, apparently, was to drive the MacDonalds out into the open but as they could not pass the flames at the cave entrance, none of the MacDonalds managed to escape and the blaze was kept up until all within were suffocated to death. Several centuries later the bones of those who perished were gathered together and reverently interred. Only one family escaped the massacre because they had taken refuge in a different cave.

When news of this slaughter reached the MacDonald chief, the outcry of the clan could be heard for miles around and they in turn, then planned their awful revenge on the MacLeods. This tit for tat mentality went on as almost a way of life until these two clans until 1601  when they finally ceased to wage war on each other after one final and bloody conflict on Skye at Coire ne Creiche in the Cuillins..

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Stone Destiny

Stone of Destiny

Like the Great War before it, the Second World War pulled Scotland and England together in a fight against a common enemy - Germany.

Old rivalries and tensions between the two countries were put aside as the whole of Britain put its shoulder to the wheel to defeat the Nazis.

It was during the war, however, that the seeds of the idea of Scottish independence were quietly being sewn - seeds which, just over half a century later, would germinate in the country once again winning home rule.

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Battle of Scawton Moor

also known as Battle of Old Byland

Since 1314 King Robert the Bruce had sought a peace treaty in order that the war ravaged realm of Scotland could recover. Edward II was obdurate and impervious to the pleas from his lords, so, each year, the Bruce instigated forays into northern England to extract tribute and booty to help rebuild a bankrupt Scottish economy. He hoped the raids would put pressure on the English barons to persuade King Edward II to negotiate a peace treaty which would recognise Scotland as an Independent Kingdom with himself as its rightful king. Accordingly he sent Sir James Douglas (The Black Douglas) and Sir Thomas Randolph (The Earl of Moray) in a series of wide ranging raids into Northumberland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Durham and Yorkshire to extract tribute which for a medium sized town was 2000 silver merks or £1,300 English pounds (worth £140,000 by today's standards.)

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Treaty of Northampton 1328

The Treaty of Northampton in 1328

The Treaty of Northampton was the formal document that concluded the First Scottish War of Independence. However, one thing we can conclude about the Treaty of Northampton is that it is easy to get confused about the Treaty of Northampton.

On the one hand, it is sometimes referred to as the Treaty of Edinburgh, which unhelpfully risks confusion with the other Treaty of Edinburgh of 1560. For another thing, it was concluded in one month, endorsed in a later month and then backdated to an even earlier date, just to add another level of confusion. To add one final confusing ingredient, it was made between the English and Scottish Kings, neither of whom were actively present at its ratification.

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After 2000 - The March to Independence

When historians look back on the beginning of the 21st century and study Scotland, the subject will surely be the question of independence. This article explores how Scotland changed after 1997 as it moved from being seemingly a firm advocate of the union towards an increasingly excitement and enthusiasm for greater independence.

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