Re-drawing the Map: The Lost Dark-Age Kingdom of Rheged


This week has seen the announcement that archaeological research at a site in Galloway has suggested it may have been at the heart of a “lost kingdom” from the Dark Ages.

Artist’s reconstruction of the stronghold. DGNHAS/GUARD ARCHAEOLOGY LTD

Trusty’s Hill is an early medieval fort at Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway. The hillfort comprises a fortified citadel defined by a vitrified rampart around its summit, with a number of enclosures looping out along lower-lying terraces and crags. The approach to its summit is flanked on one side by a circular rock-cut basin and on the other side by Pictish Symbols carved on to the face of a natural outcrop of bedrock. This Pictish inscribed stone is unique in Dumfries and Galloway, and southern Scotland, and has long puzzled scholars as to why the symbols were carved so far from Pictland and even if they are genuine.

The Galloway Picts Project, launched in 2012, aimed to recover evidence for the archaeological context for the inscribed stone, but far from validating the existence of Picts in this southerly region of Scotland, the archaeological context instead suggests the carvings relate to a royal stronghold and place of inauguration for the local Britons of Galloway around AD 600. Examined in the context of contemporary sites across Scotland and northern England, the archaeological evidence from Galloway suggests that this region may have been the heart of the lost Dark Age kingdom of Rheged, a kingdom that was in the late sixth century pre-eminent amongst the kingdoms of the north.

Rheged has long been thought to be somewhere in Cumbria. However, these recent excavations, led by Ronan Toolis, suggest otherwise.

This is an undeniably important development: the new evidence helps to illuminate our understanding of politics and culture at a time when the cornerstones of the kingdoms of Scotland, England and Wales were forming. Rheged was a place of great innovation and importance, and until now, it’s contribution to Scotland’s history and culture has been greatly under-appreciated.


The Lost Dark Age Kingdom of Rheged: The Discovery of a Royal Stronghold at Trusty’s Hill, Galloway, by  Ronan Toolis and Christopher Bowles, will  be launched on Saturday 21st January at the Murray Arms Hotel in Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway.

The book is available to buy now from Oxbow Books.

You can also read more about the announcement on the BBC website.