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King Arthur at Barry Hill, Alyth

Barry Hill, Alyth - 'The King Arthur Conspiracy’ by Simon Andrew Stirling places the original, historical Arthur firmly in Scotland rather than the 12th century attribution to South west England and describes events of the late 6th century up to Arthur’s death in 594.

Sirling places the site of Arthur’s final battle of Camlan between Blairgowrie and Arthurbank on the plain south of the Isla. A standing stone at Arthurstone, which was removed during estate improvements in 1790 was said to have commemorated his fatal wounding.

The battle resulted from the elopement of Guinevere, also known as Gwenhwyfar or Guanora, with the rebel Mordred.

Following the defeat of Mordred and death of Artur, Guanora was taken to the nearby fort on Barry Hill and executed in the pass, known as Bealach Gabráin, between Barry Hill and the Hill of Loyal to the west. She was then buried at Meigle. The Vanora stone once stood at the entrance to Meigle churchyard.

Barry Hill, Alyth
 
According to Stirling, the iron age fort on Barry Hill was a stronghold of Áedán Mac Gabráin, a Gaelic prince born around the year 530 who became King of Scots, with the support of Columba, on the death of his father Gabran in 559. Áedán married Domelch, a daughter of the Welsh king Maelgwyn. Their son Gartnait would succeed his uncle Bruide as King of the Picts in 584, while their daughter Muirgein (Known in later stories as Morgana) was honoured as a saint of the Celtic church. Both were born at Bealach Gabráin. However, Áedán’s son Artur who we know as Arthur, was conceived in a liaison with Creirwy, daughter of Clydno, king of Lothian (Gododdin). Cynon, son of Clydno, (now known as St Kentigern) was abbot of the religious community of St Serf in Loch Leven and Arthur was born there.

So why ‘Barry Hill’, I looked in vain for an older name for the hill fort, until I realised the name is bàrr righ – the height or summit of the king. While Barry Hill may not be particularly high, it does afford spectacular views up and down Strathmore. The Royal palace appears to have been situated in the bealach below and the name survives in Balloch House.

Arthur was not a King - this was a 12th century invention of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the source of much romantic nonsense in subsequent centuries – he was a Prince and illegitimate son of Áedán Mac Gabráin. Áedán was a king of Dál Riata, (574 to 609) not of the Picts. However, at this time, the Dalriads had intermarried with the Pictish royal line and appeared to control much of southern Pictland. The source for this is Adomnán, biographer of Columba who was a contemporary of Áedán. Sources for the life of Áedán include Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum; the Irish Annals of Ulster and the Annals of Tigernach; and Adomnán's Life of Saint Columba. Adomnán listed Artúr in the Senchus fer n-Alban as a son of Áedán and stated that Artúr and his brother Eochaid Find were killed in battle in 590.

To illustrate the interconnection between the Gaels and Picts at this time, A O Anderson in “Early Sources of Scottish History A.D 500–1286” has suggested Gartnait son of Áedán may be the same person as Gartnait son of Domelch, king of the Picts, whose death is reported around 601, It has also been argued that Gartnait's successor in the Pictish king-lists, Nechtan, was his grandson, and thus Áedán's great-grandson.

Watson, “History of the Celtic Placenames of Scotland’, p112, stated that the district of Gowrie was named after Gabrán, and that Aedán was brought up among the Britons, he ruled the district of Gowrie and was described as Prince of the Forth before he become king of Dalriada.

Simon Stirling in his blog scene of arthur's last battle says: “According to Whitley Stokes, editing and translating the Martyrology of a 9th-century Irish monk called Oengus, Muirgein daughter of Áedán was born "in Bealach Gabrain".

The Gaelic term bealach, meaning a "pass" or "gorge", usually appears as "Balloch" on today's maps. There is a "Balloch" which runs along the feet of Barry Hill and the adjacent Hill of Alyth in Strathmore. Furthermore, this "Balloch" or bealach was in a region named after the grandfather of Artúr and Muirgein. Gabrán ruled the Scots for twenty years until his death in about AD 559 and gave his name to the region of Gowrie (a corruption of Gabrán). The "Balloch" near Alyth was in Gabran's land (Gabrain) and lies close to the town of Blairgowrie, which also recalls the name of Arthur's grandfather. The "Balloch" at the foot of the Hill of Alyth was almost certainly the "Bealach Gabrain" or "pass of Gowrie" where Arthur's (half-)sister, Muirgein daughter of Aedan mac Gabrain, was born.”