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Credit: VisitScotland/ Paul Tomkins
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The Mystery of Sueno's Stone

By Corey Anderson

Easy to miss when driving through the town of Forres on the A96, Sueno’s Stone is worth stopping by for. This 21ft high Pictish monolith, from around the ninth or tenth century, is the tallest carved standing stone surviving in Scotland, and currently encased in a glass chamber after falling victim to the elements and unfortunate vandalism.

Intricately carved from sandstone to tell a story, a large ring headed cross with a surrounding knotwork design feature on the front (or western) face indicates a religious or memorial significance. The rear (or eastern) face appears to be the account of a bloody battle with various warrior figures and beheadings split across a series of panels. While many Pictish stones have been moved from their original location, Sueno’s Stone is believed to stand where it was first erected.

Theories abound regarding which battle could be represented in the stone. Suggestions include the defeat of the Picts by Kenneth MacAlpin in 841 AD, or perhaps a monument to Dubh, King of Alba after he won a battle near Forres in 966 AD. In fact, the name “Sueno” derives from a popular interpretation that the battle signified King Sweyn Forkbeard (or Sueno) fighting the Scots. The mystery surrounding the stone’s origin has even extended into literature, local legend suggests Sueno’s Stone is where Shakespeare’s Macbeth met his three witches at a crossroads and that their souls are trapped within the stone.

Intricate carvings etched onto the Sueno Stone, Forres, Moray Image provided by VisitScotland/ Paul Tomkins

The intricate carvings on the Sueno Stone, Forres, Moray.

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