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Hilton of Cadboll Description of stone

Event ID 1017543

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Early Medieval Carved Stones Project


Hilton of Cadboll (St Mary), Ross and Cromarty, Pictish cross-slab fragments

Measurements: (reconstructed) H 3.50m, W 1.42m, D 0.21m

Stone type: fine-grained micaceous quartz sandstone

Place of discovery: NH 8730 7688

Present location: National Museums Scotland (X.IB 189) and Seaboard Centre, Balintore.

Evidence for discovery: the stone stood in its original stone setting at Hilton of Cadboll from the late eighth century onwards. It fell in the 12th century or earlier, and in the mid 12th century it was re-erected in a new stone setting close by. There is archaeological evidence for an attempt to remove the carving on face A in the late 16th century, and the slab snapped and fell again around 1676 during re-working of face A for the purpose of re-using it as a gravestone. The lower portion of the slab remained in situ. It lay at Hilton of Cadboll until the late 1860s when it was taken to Invergordon Castle and set upright in the grounds. In 1921 it was sent to the British Museum in London, but after a campaign to have it returned to Scotland it was sent to the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh later that same year. The lower portion was retrieved by excavation in 2001 and is displayed in the Seaboard Centre in Balintore, and more than 3000 fragments of the carving removed in the 16th and 17th centuries are in NMS in Edinburgh.

Present condition: the intact carving is in good condition, but most of face A and a small part of the carving of face B is missing.


One of the finest Pictish cross-slabs, this rectangular stone is carved in relief on both broad faces. The narrow faces are plain but there are traces of slight protuberances on each, which have been chipped away. Only the lower part of the original carving of face A survives, bordered by a roll moulding within which there is the two-stepped base of a cross, also outlined by a roll moulding. The base contains diagonal key pattern and triple spirals, and it is flanked by elongated and entwined animals, with traces of figural panels above. The upper part of this face has been re-worked as the memorial of Alexander Duff and his three wives 1676. The decorative scheme of face B is almost intact within a plain flatband moulding. A frame of vine scroll inhabited by birds and quadrupeds is completed at the top of the slab by an elongated and ornately decorated double disc and Z-rod symbol. Within the frame are three almost square panels outlined by roll mouldings.

The top panel contains a crescent and V-rod symbol decorated with key pattern and triple spirals and two large discs filled with interlace. The middle panel contains a hunting scene with four horseriders, one of whom is a female riding side-saddle and wearing a penannular brooch, with a companion on his horse close beside her. In front of her there is a mirror and comb, and behind the following hound are two robed trumpeters. The lower two horsemen are armed with circular shields, swords and spears. In the foreground two hounds harry a fleeing deer. The lower panel has a central equal-armed cross within a circle, surrounded by interlinked triple spirals.

This cross-slab has been very fully described and discussed in James, Henderson, Foster and Jones 2008.

Date: late eighth century.

References: ECMS pt 3, 61-3; Fraser 2008, no 123; James et al 2008.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2017

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