in the footsteps of kings, saints and Viking warriors...
is known of the early inhabitants of Kintyre, except they
were Pictish . Early history is linked to the kingdom of
Dalriata. Dal Riata were the people who came from Ireland
(the same people were referred to as the Scotti). After battles
with the Picts, they were initially forced to return to Ulster.
In AD503, the Dal Riata returned under the conduct of the
three sons of Erc; Lorn, Angus and Fergus, who became the
founders of the kingdom of the Scots.
When the country was divided up, Islay was handed to Angus. On the mainland,
Lorn took the northern portion while Fergus took Kintyre and Argyll. Lorn died
a short time later and Fergus added his brother’s territory to his own,
becoming sole monarch of Dalriata.
Fergus died in AD506, and when he died the kingship was passed on to his son
Domangart and from there to Domangart's two sons, firstly Comgall, who like
his father appears to have ruled during peaceful times. Gabran took up the
kingship after Comgall and his reign was a little less peaceful with battles
with the Picts. By this time there were four distinct areas of the Dal Riata.
These four areas now covered all of Argyll, Kintyre and the Inner Hebrides.
Gabran was succeeded by nephew Conall who gave Colum Cille (St. Columba) the
island of Iona.
The next king was Aedan, son of Gabran, succeeding his uncle Conall. Aedan
was the first king of Dal Riata to be consecrated on Iona by St. Columba,
It is Aedan who is credited with being
the greatest king of Dal Riata. Through intermarriage with
the Picts he established the ultimate nucleus of Scotland.
He was succeeded by Kenneth MacAlpin who was recognised as
king of all Scotland, ruling from AD843 to AD858. He was Pictish
on his mother's side and carried the royal line of Gabran from
his father Alpin.
Kintyre, after the removal of Kenneth, soon became prey to the Vikings. From
the late eighth century the western coast was frequently raided by the Vikings.
The most significant legacy that the Vikings brought was their longboats, giving
to the Scots their first lessons in seamanship. It was about this time that
the fort, still visible today was built at Carradale Point.
Against this background we find a new Gaelic aristocracy beginning to emerge
in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Enter Somerled, Ri Airir Gaidheal, Ruler
of the coastland of the Gael. Somerled was a descendant of Godfraidh mac Fergus,
Lord of the Hebrides, who died in A.D 853. The family of Somerled had always
been associated with the Scottish Dal Riata. There are many stories of how
he drove the Norse from the western shores of what is now Argyll.
Saddell Abbey is reputed to be the burial place of Somerled. He founded the
Abbey but was killed in 1164 before the Abbey was completed. The Abbey was
finished by his son soon after 1200. It became a major stone carving school
and the Abbey today shows some examples of their work.
Somerled's ancestral lands were those of Lorn in Argyll, and the isles of Mull,
Coll and Tiree. He took control of Kintyre, the Isle of Arran and much of the
rest of the West Coast from the Vikings. His eldest son Dugall, founder of
Clan Dugall, inherited the ancestral lands. Somerled had two other sons, Angus
and Reginald, by the daughter of the Norse king of Man. Reginald had two sons,
Donald, founder of Clan Donald, and Ruairi. Clan Donald held Kintyre, Morvern,
Ardnamurchan and Islay, while Clan Ruairi ruled over the area from Knoydart
to Moidart along with the islands of Eigg and Rhum.
Clan Ruairi's lands were brought under Clan Donald's control with the marriage
of John of Islay, of Clan Donald, with Amie, heiress of Clan Ruairi. The political
influence of Clan Donald was strengthened when John subsequently divorced Amie
to marry Margaret, daughter of the heir to the throne of Scotland. By the time
of his death in AD1387, John the 'Lord of the Isles' controlled Argyll and
the whole of the Hebrides.
John's son Donald was the second Lord of the Isles. His son, Alexander, the
third Lord of the Isles, was eventually recognised as the Earl of Ross after
AD1438. However, the expansion of Clan Donald's powers and territories brought
them into increasing conflict with the Scottish Crown. The Highlanders had
become a law unto themselves, with the Lordship acting as a kingdom within
a kingdom. In AD1493 by the time of John, the fourth, and last, Lord of the
Isles, the power of the Lordship was finally broken.
In the early 16th century, King James IV held a Parliament in Kintyre. In AD1536,
King James V found it necessary to make a voyage to the Western lands and he
repaired the castle at Kilkerran, just outside Campbeltown and left in it a
garrison to intimidate McDonald of Kintyre. Before the King had sailed out
of Campbeltown loch, McDonald and his followers took the castle by force and
hung the governor from its walls!