6.8 Transport and Movement

Land Routes

It is assumed Roman roads would have continued to be used, to some degree, over the period, although there is little evidence to support this. Carved stones commonly depict warriors on horseback and this is considered the most likely form of elite, terrestrial transport over any significant distance. We also know from a lost, but recorded, stone at Meigle that wheeled transport was available (Henry and Trench-Jellicoe 2005, 232, fig 15.7). A two-wheeled, covered ‘cart’ is shown, but presumably four-wheel vehicles were also available. A similar depiction of a horse-drawn cart or chariot on a cross-slab was recorded at Newtyle in 1569, but is also now lost (Henderson and Henderson 2004, 218–9). Evidence for vehicles may be in short supply, but as greater numbers of finds are reported through the Treasure Trove process, it may be possible to reconstruct overland routes by the spread of objects like harness mounts (eg Hall 2007a).

Meigle stones 10 and 11, showing a two wheeled horse drawn cart ©️ HES


There are only a small number of early medieval boats from the inland waterways of Perth and Kinross (see above, Boat building 6.6.6). However, it is clear that the early routeways through Perthshire cluster mainly on the rivers and lochs which shape its upland glens and water its fertile river valleys. The most powerful lords of the area were the earls of Strathearn, and the earliest evidence for long-distance trade built up around the tidal reaches of the Tay at Perth (above, Economic Networks 6.6.1), with major royal centres further along the river at Scone and Dunkeld.


Some of the clearest evidence for the movement of people within Scotland comes from the Highland glens of Perthshire. It is here where we have some of the earliest evidence for Gaelic culture spreading to the east of Scotland from Dál Riata, largely in the form of saints’ cults and Irish-style Christian material culture such as handbells (see above, Christian Sites 6.7.2 and Other Religious Artefacts 6.7.5). The place-name Atholl seems to mean ‘New Ireland’, referring perhaps to its distinctive population of Gaelic-speakers from early on (Clancy 2010a; 2010b).

A number of early medieval dress items made in the 8th and 9th centuries also bear evidence for shared fashions across east and west as mediated through the Perthshire glens (above, Clothing and Dress 6.5.3). Many of these potentially tell us a great deal about the movement of Viking Age armies across the region. The Crieff mounts are an important set of finds – a pair of chip-carved silver-gilt harness mounts of a kind only rarely found in Scotland (NMS X.FC 3 and X.FC 4). These are particularly fine examples of the class, with distinctive human and bird heads, and insets of imported amber and rock crystal. They were supposedly found with a bronze belt or harness loop (NMS H.TXB 94) which may relate to their function as horse gear, or their reuse in this capacity (Spearman 1993). In recent years other chip-carved harness fittings and enamelled mounts of similar date have been found through metal-detecting at Dunning (TT16/19), Cambusmichael (MPK15390), Cargill (MPK15361), and Carpow (MPK15357; Hall 2007a). Further enamelled mounts have recently been discovered at Fowlis Wester (Perth Museum 2013.127) and Guildtown (Perth Museum 2019.42). Such fittings are frequently found reused in Viking Age graves in Norway (Wamers 1985; Youngs 1989), indicating they were in active use during the early viking raids in Britain and Ireland. Indeed, the Crieff mounts show signs of at least one episode of reuse, suggesting they may have been lost in a Viking Age context (Spearman 1993). An enamelled harness pendant from Cambusmichael also looks to have been modified into a pendant, suggesting Viking Age reuse (Hall 2007a, 71–2).

Bronze gilt mount in an Irish style, set with crystal and decorated with a smiling human face and two peacock heads, a Christian device associated with the risen Christ, 8th century, from Crieff ©️ NMS
Bronze gilt Irish style mount ornamented with interlaced work and crystal, 8th century, from Crieff ©️ NMS

Stray finds of Viking Age date are sparse but growing (PKARF Early Medieval 6.5.3; PKARF Early Medieval 6.5.4). Antiquarian finds of Viking Age artefacts from Perth have been mentioned above (Economic Networks). An enigmatic pair of Scandinavian oval brooches acquired in the late 18th century in Errol (MPK6444) by the Literary and Antiquarian Society of Perth (now Perth Museum, accessions 144 and 144A) have an uncertain provenance. At one time it was accepted that they had been found locally (Greig 1940, 100–1) but more recently it is thought that they were brought to Errol from elsewhere (Graham-Campbell and Batey 1998, 104). Metal-detecting has added significantly to the visibility of the Loch Leven and Culross area (the latter in the former old county of Perthshire), including finds of ring-pins, strap ends and other dress items (Buchanan 2012, 232–4, 237–8). These join an older find of a ring-pin from Dunkeld (MPK2479; NMS X.FC 235; Fanning 1983, 338 no 29) and a more recent one from Castle Craig broch mentioned above (Other Material Culture 6.5.4). Possible Viking Age weapons are dealt with below.

Pair of Viking brooches found in Perth ©️ Perth Museum and Art Gallery

In contrast to the number of finds with Irish or Hiberno-Norse parallels, there are very few items of Northumbrian or Danelaw origin in the region, despite an overall high amount of reported metal-detecting activity. Blackwell (2018, 407, Table 5.16) reports only four sites with Anglo-Saxon finds from Perth and Kinross, three of which were from excavations and discussed above: the glass vessels from Dundurn, the purse mount from Aldclune, and the glass bead from Fortingall. To this we can now add the Anglo-Saxon segmented bead from Lair, Glen Shee (MPK4456). The only Northumbrian find not from an excavation is a metal-detected ‘raquet headed’ pin with ring and dot decoration of 8th–10th-century type from Blackhill House (MPK2441), between Dunkeld and Clunie (Blackwell 2018, 174–5). There are also Northumbrian strap ends from Logierait and Stanley (above, Other Material Culture 6.5.4).

Stray finds representing the last part of the early medieval period, the 10th and 11th centuries, are more sparse, but highly significant in a national context. Already mentioned are 11th-century imported ceramics from excavations at Perth, the Inchaffray bell-shrine and the Dull coin hoard, deposited around 1025.