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Battle of Mortlach

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The battle took place near the Giant's Chair and the monastery of Mortlach, Banff 11 miles (N. E.) from Keith.


Scots were victorious


The Scots - King Malcolm II

  • Strength
  • Commanders and leaders
  • Malcolm II
  • Casualties and losses

Three of the Scottish generals fell in the first attack

  • Kenneth, Thain of the Isles:
  • Dunbar, Thain of Laudian and
  • Graeme, Thain of Strathern.
  • Captives

The Danes

  • Strength
  • Commanders and leaders
  • Casualties and losses
  • Captives


Malcolm II had been beaten by the Danes the preceding year, forced to leave them in possession of the province of Moray. He returned from the south with a reinforced and powerful army anxious to expel the intruders.


The Vikings approached from Carron House on Speyside and camped at a Little Conval King Malcolm's army came from the East via Glen-fiddich and camped on the other side of the river at Auchindoun. The two armies met near the monastery of Mortlach beside the river Dullan Water which ran in between the two armies.

Initially the Danes achieved the upper hand. The Scottish troops were forced to retreat and many were slain.

King Malcolm fell on his knees facing the chapel and prayed to God and St. Moluag for victory, in return for which the King promised to build a cathedral church on the site of the chapel.

The Scots attacked again and the Vikings retreated. King Malcolm is supposed to have thrown the Danish general Enetus off his horse and strangled him. The Scots pursued the Vikings towards Balvenie Castle. They dug the grave pits in the grounds of the castle and buried the dead there.

King Malcolm's vow to build a cathedral on the site of the chapel to mark his victory was not fulfilled. Instead history records: "he made the chapel three spear-lengths longer – a spear-length is four metres." Three skulls of Danes slain in the battle were inserted in the north wall.


As it was the first in a series of decisive victories for Malcolm II the Battle of Mortlach had major historical significance. The last of these was in 1014 when the Danes finally signed a peace treaty with Scotland, agreeing to cease their invasions. It ended a century of warfare and secured Scotland as an independent country.

Notable connections

Mortlach Battle Stone

A large stone, said to have been placed over the grave of the Danish general who was killed by Malcolm in the battle of Mortlach, now forms part of a fence. There is an upright stone, about seven feet high, having a cross and representation of two animals on one side, and on the other a snake, rudely sculptured.

  • Address: Mortlach Kirk, Dufftown, Aberdeenshire, Grampian, Scotland
  • Attraction Type: Prehistoric Site - Carved Stone
  • Location: In the Mortlach kirkyard, south from the main square in Dufftown (also signposted from the A941 entering Dufftown from the east)
  • Location map OS: NJ324392
  • Opening Details: Open access site, usually accessible at any reasonable time

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