The Dark Ages were a time of great change.

From the early 5th century to the middle of the 7th century Dumfries and Galloway formed part of the British kingdom of Rheged. Christianity was already well established across much of the area and by AD 450 Christian communities such as Whithorn were centres for missionaries working further north among the southern Picts. Trade was important and Whithorn and the Mote of Mark near Rockcliffe were rich enough to import wine and other luxury goods from continental Europe.

By the end of the 7th century much of the region had been absorbed into the powerful and ever expanding Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. An Anglian bishop had been appointed at Whithorn by AD 730 and for the next hundred years Dumfries and Galloway, along with much of northern England, basked in a period of wealth and prosperity. Some of the most beautiful examples of Christian stone carving, such as the Ruthwell Cross, were made at this time by Northumbrian craftsmen.

Things changed dramatically during the middle years of the 9th century. Northumbria collapsed in the wake of Viking attacks and south-west Scotland was at the mercy of politically ambitious groups to the north and west. Annandale and Nithsdale were taken into the new British kingdom of Strathclyde and by 1018 had become part of the Kingdom of the Scots.

The same period saw Galloway come under increasing Scandinavian and Irish influence. By the 10th century this area was the centre of a thriving trading network linking Dublin, the Isle of Man and north-west England. Galloway, unlike Annandale and Eskdale, was to stay independent of the Scots and English until the 13th century.

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