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Dál Riata

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Surnames/tags: Scotland Ireland Dál Riata
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A part of British History and is co-managed by the Scotland Project and Ireland Project.

Dál Riata

The Kingdom of Dál Riata (also known as Dalriada or Dalriata) was a Gaelic kingdom on the western coast of Scotland and part of the Kingdom of Ulster. In the late 6th and early 7th century Dál Riata included roughly present day Argyll and Bute, and Lochaber in Scotland, and also County Antrim in Northern Ireland.

the kingdom of Dalriada at its height 0580 - 0600 - Wikipedia: Briangotts

This image of the lands of Dál Riata is shown with north oriented to the left, reflecting a world view for people of the time who would have understood their relationship between the Western Isles and Ireland in this way.

In Argyll, Scotland, the kingdom of Dál Riata consisted initially of three kindreds -

The Cenél Loairn (north and mid-Argyll; the district of Lorn) the descendants of Loarn mac Eirc . The Morvern district was formerly known as Kinelvadon, from the Cenél Báetáin, a subdivision of the Cenél Loairn.
The Cenél nÓengusa (Islay & Jura) the descendants of Óengus Mór mac Eirc
The Cenél nGabráin (Kintyre) the descendants of Gabrán mac Domangairt
a fourth kindred, Cenél Chonchride in Islay, was seemingly too small to be deemed a major division.
By the end of the 7th century another kindred, - The Cenél Comgaill; the kindred of Comgall, (eastern Argyll & Bute; the district of Cowal) the descendants of Comgall mac Domangairt

By the end of the 7th century another kindred, Cenél Comgaill (kindred of Comgall), had emerged, based in eastern Argyll. The Lorn and Cowal districts of Argyll take their names from Cenél Loairn and Cenél Comgaill respectively, while the Morvern district was formerly known as Kinelvadon, from the Cenél Báetáin, a subdivision of the Cenél Loairn.

Dál Riata is commonly seen as having been a Gaelic Irish colony in Scotland founded by Irish colonists who brought with them Christianity; writing; and new technologies, which were not inherent in Pictland. Some archeologists, like Ewan Campbell, have argued against the idea that Dál Riata was an Irish colony. The inhabitants of Dál Riata, along with every Celtic nation, are often referred to as Scots (Latin Scoti), a name that in earlier times was used by the Romans to refer to "raiders". They are referred to here as Gaels, an unambiguous term, or as Dál Riatans.

The kingdom reached its height under Áedán Mac Gabráin (r. 574-608), but its growth was checked at the in 603 by Æthelfrith of Northumbria. Serious defeats in Ireland and Scotland in the time of Domnall Brecc (d. 642) ended Dál Riata's "golden age", and the kingdom became a client of Northumbria, then subject to the Picts. There is disagreement over the fate of the kingdom from the late eighth century onwards. Some scholars have seen no revival of Dál Riata after the long period of foreign domination (after 637 to around 750 or 760), while others have seen a revival of Dál Riata under Áed Find (736-778), and later Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín). The kingdom's and its lands lost the Viking Age, and its people likely merged with the Picts of the Kingdom of Fortriu and others, some likely fleeing south to Galloway and others back to Ireland.

The name of the kingdom is preserved in the etymology of the Dalradian geological series, a term coined by Archibald Geikie because its outcrop has a similar geographical reach to that of the former Dál Riata.


  • Many thanks to Valerie Willis for the long hours putting this together.


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