Scots & Orkneyingar, ~1000CE

In keeping with my love of ‘different’ periods, the transition between the so-called Viking Age and the Medieval is one that has appealed for some time, unfortunately not coming to fruition due to a lack of suitable figures and a distinct lack of info…

Some work on the ‘net and addition of various books to my library has now allowed me to feel comfortable creating forces for both the Lowland Scots and the Norse of this period.

The Norse are the easier of the two forces, basically later Viking figures in both mail and gambeson with a smattering of Normans with longer mail coats. Kite shields had certainly made an appearance by this time. I suspect fewer Dane-axes by now and those reserved for the Jarl’s personal retainers.

The Scots had considerable trade and inter-marriage between themselves and the Irish, Picts, British of Strathclyde, Saxons of Northumbria and the Norse of both Orkney and the Isles.

This would have led to a dilution of individuality between the groups and a closer commonality.

I can see NO justification for assuming that the Scots warriors who could hold their own against the formidible Orkneyingar were not wearing mail coats, carrying similar shields and fighting in a similar style – the so-called shieldwall.

Admittedly the Scots may well have fielded some of their historically effective light troops as javelin armed skirmishers and light cavalry to harass the enemy.

For the Scots, the rank and file spearmen would not have looked much different from those of the Saxon / Anglo-Dane fyrd – tunic or gambeson, spear and round shield. No ‘wild’ hair, probably clean shaven being Christian, cloth caps and plain helmets. Shields are liable to be plainer than the Norse and/or have ‘Pictish’ or ‘Christian’ motifs…

Some lighter troops from the highland fringe of the Scots, harking back to their Pictish origins may have been bare-legged, with lighter tunics and some cloaks (brat).

In a land where metal was scare, it may well be that older mail coats were repaired and used by ‘second rank’ warriors, or older men, while the nobles and ‘first class’ warriors were equipped with armour and weapons virtually indistinguishable from their opponents.

Remember also that MacBeth had Norman mercenaries fighting for him, and Normans had been present in Wales since at least the 1040’s so there was plenty of opportunity to observe the latest in equipment and tactics…

In ‘Armies of the Dark Ages 600 – 1066’ WRG, 1980, Ian Heath comments:

“Scots forces would have been heterpogenous to say the least, with lowland spearmen and Strathclyde Welsh little different from the Saxon Fyrd, highlanders and Scots spearmen and javelin little different from the Picts, Gall-Gael of very Irish appearance and well armoured Viking types probably riding to and from battle. Percentages are impossible to establish, though clearly the latter would have provided the nucleus of the army and lowland spearmen probably the greater proportion.”

Almost all the Irish and Pictish figures available are in short tunics, bare-legged and cloaks.

This is fine for the pre-Viking period, but we know that by the time of the Norse occupation and settlement of Dublin that even slaves wore trousers, in fact one of the insults of the period was to imply that someone couldn’t even afford trousers for their slaves!!!

The vast majority of those depicted with trousers are either workers or warriors, while the length could vary between knee-length to ankle-length. These were often checked patterns.

Cloaks were very common, usually plain, although embroidered or different coloured trims were worn.

The tunic is the hardest bit to pin down. Most sources refer to the leine, a long, flowing dress-like garment which could be hitched up to the knees.

Most of these references are of a slightly later period.

Tunic style garments, both long and short sleeved are frequently shown on warriors.

We are also in a transition period where stirrups are starting to appear in ‘Britain’, although I will reserve these for my heavier cavalry figures, the lighter ‘Pictish’ skirmishers will still be riding bareback or with a very light saddle.

There has also been a lot of discussion in both re-enactment circles and academically as to whether the famed shieldwall consisted of overlapping shileds, or simply of warriors in close formation with their shields touching edge to edge.

Overlapping certainly gives the greatest defensive protection but also limits the movement of the warrier within the formation.

Having the shields side to side gives both a defensive protection and a freedom to thrust swords and spears above or below the shields.

I will be modelling my figures in close formation with their shields simply touching edges.

16th January, 2021


Very much down to individual preference I’m afraid…

We do see some ‘interesting’ opinions from a few of the manufacturers – one produces a ‘MacBeth’ figure in full mail, helm, round shield, trousers and legwraps looking very Norse, while all his followers are clad only in tunic and cloak and are bare-headed!

I’m not convinced the personal bodyguard would not be equipped very similarly to their leader…

I’ll be using a variety of the Victrix plastic figures for my forces.

Vikings, Anglo-Danes and some Normans for my Norsemen; Vikings, Anglo-Danes, Unarmoured Gauls, Normans and some Greek Peltast bodies for my Scots.

I’m also waiting for a better look at their Unarmoured Persian spearmen and light cavalry to see whether the tunic clad bodies will give me more variety.

I’ve used a few pairs of bare legs from the Peltasts set to add to some Armoured Gauls to make some ‘old fashioned’ Scots in older mail coats.

Peltast bodies in short-sleeved tunics and bare legs can be used as javelin armed skirmishers with the addition of Anglo-Dane heads, weapons and a few smaller shields.

Scots skirmishers –

a mixture of Victrix Unarmoured Gauls, Greek Peltasts and Anglo-Dane bits.

Let me introduce you to the Old Gods…

1st February, 2021

Modelling the Scots…

As I’m a big fan of Victrix’s figures for the sheer quality in each sculpt I intend to use a mixture of their Ancient and Dark Ages sets for my 1000CE Scots force.


For the dismounted Thanes most of the figures are from the Viking or Anglo-Danes sets with a few from the Gallic Armoured Warriors set. (a couple of Normans will be added to the next group once they’re released)

Heads and shields are all from the Anglo-Danes or Saxon sets as I want them to look clean shaven or with minimal facial fair.

A couple of the figures have had their legs swapped for bare legs from the Greek Peltast set (some of the Peltast bodies are saved for use on my light cavalry, more on them later).

The Victrix / LBMS transfers for the round shields are marked as 1.56cm, 1.46cm, 1.39cm, 1.38cm, 1.3cm, and 1.29cm diameters to suit the various sizes of shields included within the kits. Personally I can’t see the difference between 1.39 and 1.38 or 1.3 and 1.29 cms!!!

I measured the shields as 1.7cm, 1.6cm, 1.5cm and 1.4cm diameter and cut all the shields off the sprues and bagged them by size for ease of use.

As I want my figures to have a more Celtic feel to them I wanted to use additional LBMS transfers and investigated which ones might fit…

This was not the easiest as on LBMS’s website all the sets are simply listed as ‘suitable for XYZ’s large shields’ without giving any dimensions!

I discovered that Gripping Beast’s Dark Age Large Round shield are 1.4cm diameter and their XLarge ones are 1.6mm diameter.

This allowed me to use a few of the ‘Irish’, ‘Dark Ages’ and ‘Arthurian’ Large sets along with a couple of the Dark Age XLarge ones.

I took some photos of the models before mounting them on their group base…

The first four dismounted Scots Thanes

The second set of dismounted Scots Thanes to complete the group of 8.

Close-up of the very Pictish / Celtic Boar symbol on a shield.


These light troops, individually based for use as skirmishers, are a mixture of Gallic Warriors and selected Greek Peltast figures.

Again, heads are mainly from the Saxon or Anglo-Danes sets. (The hooded head fits well with a Gallic Warriors cloak!)

A better picture of the six figure skirmish group of javelinmen.

The Leader for the skirmish javelinmen.

The first of the Scots Leaders, complete with bannerman…

And just to prove I haven’t forgotten about my Norse ancestors…

More photos once I’ve got the bases finshed on these ones!

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