The ‘Dark Ages’ & Early Christianity (AD 400–1000)

With the withdrawal of the Roman legions from southern Scotland in the 5th century, the local British tribes were increasingly vying with the Angles of Northumbria for control of the rich land in and around East Lothian.

The principal British tribe in the area was the Votadini, or Goddodin, whose main tribal centre was on Traprain Law.

Many local place names have British origins, such as Linton (Llanton), Dunbar (Dyn Barr) and tref yr neint, ‘homestead of the streams’ better known to us as Tranent!

Evidence of Anglian settlement has been discovered at several places in East Lothian, including:

  • under Dunbar Swimming Pool
  • Kilspindie Castle at Aberlady
  • the Seabird Centre in North Berwick

Although no remains are now visible at the above sites, the outline of two large halls can be seen at Doon Hill to the south of Dunbar.  These were originally thought to date to the Anglian period, however recent research now suggests that they may be of prehistoric date.

East Lothian was also an important location for early Christianity in Scotland, and was associated with saints such as Kentigern (also known as Mungo) and Baldred. Pilgrimage brought travellers to East Lothian from as far as Europe, and many sites catered for these holy visitors.

They would stay and pray at Aberlady, Haddington and North Berwick and then continue on their journey.  It is said that pilgrims would travel from Aberlady via Bothans (Yester) over the Lammermuirs and across to Holy Island.

From the 12th century, a ferry carried pilgrims from North Berwick to Earlsferry in Fife on the route to visit the holiest of shrines, the tomb of St. Andrew.  Even today, some pilgrimages still take place, like the annual pilgrimage from Whitekirk to Haddington.

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