8.6.2 Textual sources relating to battles

In historical accounts, south east Scotland is recorded as the site of many battles; however there is little corroborating archaeological evidence. Among the most prominent battles recorded in historical records we can highlight the following (for overviews of the source material see Fraser 2009 and Woolf 2007). A more recent suggestion for the site of the battle is Western Dawyck, near the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders (Breeze 2020: 61).

The Battle of Degsastan was fought in 603 between Dál Riata and Bernicia. Dawston in Liddesdale in the Scottish Borders is proposed as a likely possibility for the site of the battle (Anderson 1922: 123; McLaughlan 2015). A more recent suggestion for the site of the battle comes from Breeze (2020: 61) who proposes Western Dawyck, located near the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders.

The Annals of Tigernach (AT 640.1) and Annals of Ulster (AU 638.1) record the siege of Etin (believed to refer to Edinburgh) in 638. This siege is thought to represent Bernician expansion into Lothian.

According to the Chronicle of the Kingdom of Alba, the Battle of Athelstaneford (MEL888) took place in c 832, and has since been the supposed origin of the Saltire (see The Scottish Flag Trust). A further significant battle is mentioned in the Chronicle, whereby Cináed mac Ailpin, as part of raids carried out on the Kingdom of Northumbria c 848-858,’ burned’ Dunbar and ‘seized’ Melrose.

In 934, King Æthelstan of England is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as going into Scotland with both land and sea forces and laying waste to a large part of it (ASC 934).

The Chronicle of Melrose records raids carried out by Olaf Guthfrithsson in 941 on the Anglian church at Tyninghame.

During the reign of Indulf mac Causantín (r. 954–62), Edinburgh is said to have been abandoned to the Scots (CKA 39).

A battle between Malcolm II (Máel Coluim mac Cináeda, d. 1034) and Constantine the Usurper (Constantín son of Cuilén, d 997) supposedly occurred at Newbridge in 995, and some stray finds found during the 19th century have been attributed to the battle, but this appears to be local legend based on garbled reading of the regnal list to explain encounters with long cist burials.

The Battle of Carham is another conflict recorded in multiple historical sources as having taken place between the Scots and the English probably in 1018 (McGuigan 2018). The Battlefields Trust is currently working with the Carham 1018 Society in the hopes of establishing the original site of the Battle of Carham, an often-overlooked event which played a deciding factor in where the Scottish/English border is situated today (Carham 1018 Society). Although it lies slightly beyond the study area within Northumberland, there is the potential for research to uncover the routeways taken by the Scottish army for the battle.