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The Arrival of the Gaels in Scotland. The beginnings of Gaelic Scotland. Scotland Around 600AD. DAL RIATA. The Gaels in Scotland. D ál Riata is the name of the Gaelic kingdom which in the period c580s-630s was located in today’s Argyll in Scotland and Antrim in northern Ireland.

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The arrival of the gaels in scotland

The Arrival of the Gaels in Scotland

The beginnings of Gaelic Scotland

The arrival of the gaels in scotland


Around 600AD


The gaels in scotland
The Gaels in Scotland

  • Dál Riata is the name of the Gaelic kingdom which in the period c580s-630s was located in today’s Argyll in Scotland and Antrim in northern Ireland.

  • The kingdom in Scotland was itself divided into three smaller units.

  • The history of Dal Riata is well documented.

The gaels in scotland1
The Gaels in Scotland

  • A chronicle was written in Iona from the early 600sAD and survives up to the year 747AD.

  • Dal Riata is the setting for many of the episodes in the life of St Columba.

  • The military and financial life of the kingdom is reflected in the Senchus fer nAlban.

The gaels in scotland2
The Gaels in Scotland

  • Archaeology also tells us a great deal about this kingdom, espcially from Dunadd.

  • Because of these sources we have more information about this part of Scotland for the period pre-1200 than any other part.

  • The most powerful king in the early period was Aedan mac Gabrain.

The gaels in scotland3
The Gaels in Scotland

  • He was the first ordained king of a Scottish kingdom. He was ordained by St Columba himself in 574 AD.

  • He had influence from Northern Ireland to Orkney, and into Pictland and Northumbria.

  • Their strength came from the Ui Neill initially and then from the Northumbrians.

The gaels in scotland4
The Gaels in Scotland

  • Usually Dal Riata has been seen as an Irish colony- an extension of the Dal Riata in Ireland founded by Fergus Mor.

  • But today, it is thought that the beginnings of Gaelic culture in Scotland were part of a more general movement east that predates the time of Fergus.

The gaels in scotland5
The Gaels in Scotland

  • Dal Riata as a kingdom seems to have ceased to exist between 740-840. The Picts may have destroyed the kingdom at that time.

  • The later period after this is dominated by the name of Kenneth Mac Alpin.

Kenneth mac alpin 858
Kenneth Mac Alpin (?- 858)

  • Kenneth Mac Alpin (Cinaed mac Ailpin) was probably of Dal Riata stock but became king of the Picts in the mid 9th century (c840-858AD).

  • A century after his death he was portrayed as destroyer of the Picts and founder of the Kingdom of Alba (Scotland).

Kenneth mac alpin 8581
Kenneth Mac Alpin (?- 858)

  • Obviously he did not destroy the Picts.

  • He may have united the kingdoms of Gaelic Dal Riata and Pictland.



Colum Cille of Iona

Columba c 521 597
Columba (c.521-597)

  • Columba was one of the defining Irish churchmen of his time.

  • He is especially associated with the founding off the monastic centres of Iona (Scotland), Derry and Durrow (in Ireland).

  • His influence was wide-spread, and led to at least forty settlements in both Ireland and Scotland.

  • He became one of the most revered of the early Irish monastic leaders in the Age of the Saints.

Columba c 521 5971
Columba (c.521-597)

  • The earliest account of St Columba’s life was apparently written by one Cumméne, abbot of Iona from 657 to 669. This work is only known from an extract.

  • The later Vita Columbi was written by St Adomnán, ninth abbot of Iona (679-704AD). Despite this work being an account based on miracle stories mainly, it is the main source for much of what we know about Columba.

The book of kells

  • Where and when?

  • It seems most likely that the manuscript was produced in Iona (elements of Pictish art), and parallels with Iona stone crosses.

  • Possibly the ms was transferred to Kells in 807 at the height of the Viking raids.

The book of kells the temptation of christ
The Book of Kells: The Temptation of Christ.

  • At one level the most plausible explanation is that the upper half depicts Christ being tempted by the Devil to throw Himself from the top of the Temple in jerusalem by saying that the angels will save him, and the lower half depicts the Last Judgement.

  • However a more symbolic interpretation has also been suggested.

The book of kells the temptation of christ next slide
The Book of Kells: The Temptation of Christ (next slide)

  • The upper half then represents not only the Temptation but also the newly-baptized Christ full of the Holy Spirit reading Isaiah in the pulpit of the synagogue to an assempled congregation (the episode immediately after the Temptation).

  • The vines then represent the Eucharist, while the peacocks and snakes draw attention to the concepts of eternity and resurrection.


  • The Gaelic language was introduced into western Scotland in part as a result of the growth of the kingdom of Dal Riata, but also because of the gradual spread of Columban Christianity into Pictland and the Lowlands.

A gaelic history of scotland
A Gaelic History of Scotland

  • The Celtic-speaking majority in Scotland was made up of Britons in the SW, Gaels in the west and Picts in the remaining areas to the north and the east. (Picts are first mentioned in 297AD).

  • There is no real suggestion that most of the Picts were any different to their southern Celtic neighbours (names like Calgacus, Argentocoxos, Mailchon suggest they were basically the same).

A gaelic history of scotland1
A Gaelic History of Scotland

  • The various Celtic peoples of early Scotland were gradually integrated into a Gaelic identity which was itself altered by their influence.

  • In the later centuries AD, the north of Scotland was also colonised by Norse (Viking) settlers,

  • And already earlier the SE by Anglo-Saxons (Angles).

  • They were minorities to begin with, whilst the large interior remained Celtic and maintained links with centres of learning and culture in Ireland.

A gaelic history of scotland2
A Gaelic History of Scotland

  • During the centuries of Gaelic-Pictish interaction, a ‘bilingualism’ of the two forms of Celtic must have been the norm.

  • There was a long process of linguistic shift, and cultural assimilation between the two peoples. The church as much as anything encouraged the final integration of the Picts into Gaelic culture.

  • The Irish saint Columba (Colum Cille, died 597AD) played a key-role in this process.

A gaelic history of scotland3
A Gaelic History of Scotland

  • One remarkable document reveals the interaction between Gaels (of Dal Riata), Britons (of Strathclyde) and Picts in 697AD, when St Adomnán’s treaty was ratified by the three peoples giving protection to women, children and clergy from the ravages of war.

  • This treaty took effect not only in the land of the Scots-“Scotland” but also in Ireland.

A gaelic history of scotland4
A Gaelic History of Scotland

  • But by the 10th century Scotland was becoming a kingdom of its own, dominated by Gaelic-speaking kings and chieftains.

  • The advent of feudalism changed many aspects of the new Scottish kingdom.

  • When King David of Scotland came to the throne (1124), he granted the first feudal settlements in southern Scotland.

Britons and angles
Britons and Angles

  • The most enduring of the British Celtic peoples in Scotland were the Strathclyde Britons based around Dumbarton Rock or Alt Clut. This kingdom probably covered Dumbartonshire, Ayrshire.

  • Another was centred on Dundonald, and was called the kingdom of Manaw.

The britons of strathclyde

The kingdom of Strathclyde probably derived from the earlier Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

In the 8th century their capital was called Alt Clut- Rock of the Clyde, today known as Dumbarton.

Map of Strathclyde

The Britons of Strathclyde

The britons of strathclyde1
The Britons of Strathclyde Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

  • This Rock has been excavated and has revealed that it was build upon c6th century AD.

  • The Britons of Strathclyde were rich enough to import goods from France and the Mediterranean.

The britons of strathclyde2
The Britons of Strathclyde Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

  • Several kings of Strathclyde are recorded.

  • The earliest is Ceredig (5th century, possibly mentioned by St Patrick in his writings).

  • In the time of St Columba, the king was one Rhydderch ap Tudwal. He is know in Welsh sources as Rhydderch the Generous.

The britons of strathclyde3
The Britons of Strathclyde Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

  • The same king may have fought against the Angles (of Bernicia).

  • In the Life of St Kentigern (of Glasgow, another Strathclyde Briton), he is also mentioned, as a patron of the saint.

  • In another Welsh source (a poem- The Appletrees), he is depicted as the victor at the battle of Arfderydd.

The britons of strathclyde4
The Britons of Strathclyde Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

  • Possibly the kingdom’s of Dal Riata and Strathclyde were on good terms.

  • The Pictish king Bridei was the son of Bili (Beli), a king of Strathclyde.

  • Yet, there is evidence from Welsh medieval sources that the king of Dal Riata (Aedan mac Gabrain) fought against the Strathclyde Britons.

The britons of strathclyde5
The Britons of Strathclyde Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

  • By the late 8th centuryAD Strathclyde and Dal Riata seem to have lived in peace, but with the Viking attacks in the ninth century, Strathclyde was destroyed as a political entity.

  • With the union of Dal Riata and Pictland in 843, under Kenneth Mac Alpin, the remaining Britons would be overwhelmed.

The britons of strathclyde6
The Britons of Strathclyde Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

  • In 889, the last of the Strathclyde kings died, and the old kingdom annexed.

  • Many of the Strathclyde nobles fled to North Wales (Gwynedd) taking many of their literary traditions with them.

  • The British component of Scottish history has yet to be fully examined.

The britons of strathclyde7
The Britons of Strathclyde Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

  • In southern Scotland, early inscribed stones bearing British names are found in Galloway, in Lothian and in the Borders.

  • Perhaps even some of the alleged Pictish symbols carved on objects in southern Scotland may have been made by northern Britons.

The early ethnic groups in scotland
The early ethnic groups in Scotland Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

The angles bernicia
The Angles- Bernicia Damnonii (or Dumnonii) people.

  • In origin a British (Celtic) people, they were Germanic speaking.

  • Their expansion

  • By the 670s the Bernicians had captured all the lands of the northern Britons, although they also faced defeat at the hands of the Pictish king Bridei son of Beli in 685.