Martin Haworth – author, and owner of ‘Roaming Scotland’- talks about how Highland Pictish carved stones inspired him to start a new business and write a historical trilogy.
During the course of a week-long sponsored walk to Tain, following in the pilgrim footsteps of Stuart Kings, we encountered the magnificent Pictish stone slabs at Nigg, Balintore and Hilton. Although this was only 15 years ago, there was little information in situ back then about what confronted us from an era that has been labelled as the ‘Dark Ages’. What intrigued was the fusion of pagan symbols with Christian art, inspiring curiosity and wonder.
These stones direct us to a fascinating encounter of the earliest Christian pioneers with the formidable warrior society of the Picts. The revelation from one side of the slab celebrates life in praise of the natural world, the thrill of the hunt, wrapped in the mystery of enigmatic symbolism. Move around to the reverse, the stones are marked with a huge cross embellished with elaborate designs. A mystical atmosphere still lingers about some of these ancient places, which causes us to walk that more slowly homewards, begging us to ponder the life and times of our forebears and the beliefs that inspired these outstanding feats of art. The co-existence of pagan and Christian expressions speaks of the grace and respect for indigenous beliefs of those pioneers who brought a vibrant faith in flimsy coracles from Ireland. The stones also stand testimony to the willingness of a warrior society persuaded to embrace an alternative worldview. Amidst the inter-tribal strife and brutality of the times, Christianity offered acceptance and sanctuary, as well as political integration into the wider world.
My fascination eventually inspired me to start up a ‘tour and walk’ business [ www.roamingscotland.com ] leading visitors to the less-explored wilds of Scotland with a focus on its ancient people and walking in their footsteps. Then, in April 2021, my historical novel, ‘Chosen Wanderers’ – part one in the ‘Z-Rod’ trilogy – was published. Set in the upheavals of Pictish Scotland in the 6th century and infused with prophetic utterances that unleash uncontrollable consequences, the book is described by many as ‘a gripping saga’. The plot centres around parallel stories involving two warrior ‘princes’ set on a collision course in their attempts to prove themselves worthy to be warlord over their tribe; and the adventures of robust Celtic monks armed only with a faith in a supreme God to face a militant society. The book is available from the usual sources, but a signed and inscribed copy can be ordered directly from email@example.com for the same price as on Amazon, with some proceeds credited to an emergency fund in the Philippines.