History Files

Gaelic British Isles & Ireland

Kingdoms of Caledonia


Map Kings of Dal Riada / Dál Riata (Gaels in Britain)

Natives of the Ulster region of Ireland, the Dal Riada Scotti came under pressure from the powerful Clan Uí Neill, from whose ranks were drawn the Irish high kings. From the latter end of the fifth century this extended clan of Scotti migrated en masse to settle on the western coast of Pictland, in the modern region of Argyllshire. The area had been home to the Epidii tribe during the Roman period, but the newcomers quickly founded their own kingdom, settling Dunadd as their capital.

Dal Riadan control thereafter expanded in a piecemeal fashion, with stops and starts as they were alternately made vassals of the Picts or became their overlords. Perthshire fell to them first, then Lothian, after which, hemmed into the south by the powerful Northumbrians, they turned north, gaining Mar and entering the Highlands. This was the heartland of the Pictish kingdom, and it was here that they faced their stiffest opposition. It was a furious battle, much of which has been lost to history, and one that they looked like losing until disaster befell the Picts in 839. The Scotti were now in command of all of Pictland and they would gradually create a unified northern kingdom which would be known as Scotland.

The origins of the Dal Riada are fairly obscure in that they lie in Ireland's mythological period. However, this is late enough that a certain amount of truth may be included in the stories. Deda mac Sin was the legendary founder of the Clanna Dedad, the royal family of the Erainn people of the Munster region of southern Ireland. The later Síl Conairi (or Sil Chonairi or Conaire, meaning 'Seed of Conaire') were septs of the Erainn which descended from Clanna Dedad via High King Conaire Mór (from 63 BC), son of Eterscél Mór and a descendant of Deda mac Sin. These septs were the Corcu Baiscind (or Corcu Baiscinn), Corcu Duibne, Dál Riata, and Múscraige, all of which were claimed to descend from Connaire Cóem, king of Munster in the second century AD. The meaning attributed to Argyll is confirmed by the original spelling, Arregaithil, which in Gaelic is Erra-Ghaidheal, meaning the bounds of the Gaels (Scots) from Ireland.

(Additional information from Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500-1286, Volume 1, Alan Orr Anderson (Reprinted with corrections, Paul Watkins, Stamford 1990), and from External Link: De Situ Albanie (possibly written in the fourteenth century according to F T Wainwright, and discussed in the Oct 1978 Caithness Field Club Bulletin).)

? - 474


King of Irish Dál Riata.

c.485? - 500


Led the Dál Riata migration?

c.500? - 501

Fergus Mór ('the Great') mac Erc

Son of Erc.

c.501 - 507

Domangrat / Domangort mac Fergus


c.507 - 537

Comgall mac Domangrat


c.537 - 558

Gabrán (mac Domangrat?)


c.558 - 574

Conall mac Comgall

Son of Comgall mac Domangrat.


St Columba, a descendant of the high kings of Ireland, follows in the footsteps of the Irish Scotti to spread the Celtic Church into Dál Riata and Northern Pictland. Arriving with twelve companions, he is granted land on Iona where he founds a monastery in order to introduce the Picts along the western coast to Christianity. Visiting the king, he wins his respect and subsequently plays a major role not just in winning converts for the church but also as a diplomat.


The Dál Riatans are defeated in battle against the powerful King Brudei of the Northern Picts.

c.574 - 607

Aedan mac Gabrán

Son Gabrán. m Domlech, Pictish dau. of Maelgwyn of Venedotia.


Báetán mac Cairill of the Ulaid is said to force the king of Dál Riata to pay homage to him at Rinn Seimne on Islandmagee, near Larne in modern County Antrim. This may take place in 574 or early 575, making the king in question Áedán mac Gabráin. Ulster sources also say that Báetán collects tribute from Scotland. Urged by Columba, an alliance is formed by his enemies, Áed mac Ainmuirech of the Northern Uí Neill and Áedán mac Gabráin.

It was entirely possible for a powerful king such as Báetán mac Cairill of the Ulaid to collect tribute from 'Scotland' in the sixth century (or more accurately, the Dál Riata colonies), but 'Scotland' as a name didn't exist until at least the tenth century, showing that a later hand was behind some of the writing in the annals


Llywarch Hen of South Rheged counts Ynys Manau as part of his holdings. However, towards the later years of his reign, the Annals of Ulster record an expedition by the Ulaid (in the form of Báetán mac Cairill) to Ynys Manau. Báetán returns to Ireland in 578 after having imposed his authority on the island - temporarily as it transpires. Shortly after his death, in 582 the island is taken by the Dál Riata Scotti under Áedán mac Gabráin and may be ruled by a client king or lesser member of the ruling family. As Sennylt ap Dingat's family appear to retain their position, it must be they who become the client kings.


FeatureAedan's son, Gartnait, inherits the northern Pictish throne. Another son, Artur, has on occasion been confused with Arthur, dux Britanniarum and possibly even an emperor of Britain in the style of several Romans before him (see feature link).


Aedan invades the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia and attacks King Æthelfrith at the Battle of Degsastan. By fighting and defeating Dál Riata, Æthelfrith secures the alliance of Dál Riata's enemies, the southern Picts. His northern flank is now safe and he turns his attention south and west. The defeat also means that Alt Clut's northern border becomes much more secure, as Aedan seems to have a reputation in later Welsh tales as being 'the Treacherous'.


Cineadh Cerr (Kenneth the Left Handed)

Son of Conall mac Comgall? Ruled for 3 months.

c.608 - 620?

Echoid Find mac Aedan / Eochaid Buide

Son of Aedan mac Gabrán.

c.620? - 623?

Kenneth mac Conall

Son of Conall mac Comgall?

c.623? - 629?

Ferchar? (Fergus) mac Cu?

Son of Cineadh Cerr.


Cineadh Cerr (otherwise shown as Connad Cerr), king of Dál Riata in 607, may also be joint king with Echoid Find mac Aedan in the 620s, during which time the Dál Riata are clients of the Cenél Conaill clan of the Northern Ui Neill in Ireland. He is named as king of Dál Riata in this year when at Ard Corann he defeats Fiachnae mac Demmáin, king of Ulaid.


Cineadh Cerr is killed along with two descendants of Aedan mac Gabrán at Fid Eóin, fighting against the Cruithne of Dál nAraidi led by Máel Caích. The Annals of Ulster show the battle in 629 while the Annals of Tigernach have it in 630, although both of them place it before the death of Eochaid Buide. The Book of Ballymote contains an entry that associates Cineadh's descendants with 'the men of Fife', meaning the Picts with whom the Dál Riata are slowly becoming integrated.

c.629? - 642

Domnal Brecc mac Echoid

Known in Welsh as Dyfnwal Frych. Killed at Strathcarron.


High King Domnall mac Aedo is confronted again in Ireland by Congal Cáech and the Ulaid, who are allied to Dál Riata's Domnall Brecc, and also by the Cenél nEógain of Tír Eoghain (a junior line of Ailech until the twelfth century). With Domnall are the Síl nÁedo Sláine, the clan of former High King Aed Sláine mac Diarmato of the Southern Uí Neill. Congal Cáech is killed at the subsequent Battle of Mag Rath (Moira in County Down), which is a decisive victory for Domnall mac Aedo.

The seaborne Battle of Sailtír (which lies off the coast of Kintyre) takes place on the very same day, between Domnall's vessels under the command of his nephew, Conall Cóel mac Máele Cobo, and ships belonging to the Cenél nEógain and Dál Riata. Again the high king's forces win the day, and the Dál Riata seem to lose their lands in County Antrim as a result of the defeat.


Unable to recover from the events of c.597, the Annals of Ulster note pithily 'the battle of Glenn Muiresan and the besieging of Eten' of the Guotodin. No more is mentioned, not even the outcome of the battle. The monks on Iona record that the attacker is Domnal Brecc, and defeat for the Britons is clearly implied as the battle leads to the siege. Din Eidyn apparently falls to Oswald of Bernicia (soon afterwards, it seems).


The death of Oswald of Bernicia possibly sparks a contest between the northern powers for control of the Firth of Forth and the former Guotodin lands. Eugenius (Owen) of Alt Clut and Domnal Brec fight at Strathcarron, to the east of Din Eidyn, with the Irish king being killed and Eugenius Owen briefly claiming his throne.

Internecine wars between Cenéls Loairn & nGabráin.

642? - 678

Fergar (Fota/ Fearchar Fada) Longus?

Ruled all Dál Riata, from Clan Baedan. Died 697.

664 - 680

Malduinus / Maelduin

Ruled jointly or just a section of Dál Riata?


Eochal Lyus?

Negarth mac Coneval

fl c.697 - 698

Alrinch Ellac mac Fergar Longus

Son of Fergar. Amberkeletus / Ainbhceallach mac Fearchar. Died 724?

--- mac Fergar Longus

Sealbhach mac Fearchar, killed Amberkeletus?

M. mac Alrinch?

--- mac M.

--- mac Eochal Lyus

Fergus mac ?

His son, Angus, rules the Pictish kingdom for a time.

700 - 719

Selbach (mac Eogan?)

Possibly the son of one 'Eogan'.

711 & 717

The Annals of Ulster record two battles between Alt Clut and Dál Riata. The first in 711 is at 'Lorg Ecclet' (location unknown), while the second in 717 is at 'the rock called Minuirc' (also unknown but sometimes identified with Clach nam Breatann, the 'stone of the Britons' - traditional marker of the border between Picts, Scots, and Britons). Both would appear to be renewed border skirmishes between the two kingdoms, although neither is particularly conclusive. Both kingdoms retain the same king afterwards and no other details are recorded, which should be the case if the outcome is significant.

719 - 721


721 - 741

The kingdom temporarily collapses and three Cenéla dissolve into at least seven families.

723 - 726



726 - 733

Eochaid 'the Venomous'



Mordacus / Muredach

Possibly claimed the throne for a short time.

732 - 734

High King Flaithbbertach mac Loingsig of Ireland is regularly opposed by another king of the Northern Uí Neill, Aed Allán mac Fergal, king of Ailech. In 732, Flaithbbertach is defeated by Aed in battle and his cousin, Flann Gohan mac Congaile, is killed. A rematch takes place the following year, and another cousin is killed, Conaing mac Congaile.

Aed is reportedly allied to the Ulaid and the Ciannachta of Glenn Geimin in 734, when he inflicts yet another defeat on the high king in Mag nÍtha. Flaithbbertach is forced to appeal to the navy of the Dál Riata for help but at the mouth of the Bann their fleet is destroyed. According to a less reliable account (in the Annals of the Four Masters), their men still help Flaithbbertach's forces to win the day.

733 - 736


Ruler of part of Dál Riata. Former king of Pictland (726-728).

736 - 739


739 - 748

Angus / Oengus mac Fergus

Ruler of part of Dál Riata. Former king of Pictland (728). Died 761.

741 - 748

Divided kings defeated by Picts. Dál Riata is re-united over next few years.

748 - 778

Aedh Finn mac Eochu


Aed Finn invades Pictland and re-establishes Dál Riatan independence. Clearly the attack is enough to disrupt Pictish strength or unity without generating major retaliation. In fact, within a decade what would seem to be a Dál Riatan king is also ruling Pictland.

758? - ?

Eochal Ueneuofus mac E*albi

Dunegal mac Selbach

Alpin mac Eochal

Died 834.

778 - 781


King of Dál Riata & Pictland. Father of Constantine of Pictland.

781 - 792

Domnall / Donald mac Constantine


789? - 807

Conall mac Tadc / Taidg

Ex-Pictish king (785-789).

807 - 811

Conall mac Aedan

811 - 834

Dál Riata ruled by Picts through natural succession, under Constantine mac Fergus until 820 and then his brother Angus until 834. Constantine mac Fergus is often counted in Scottish lists as Constantine I, probably due to his simultaneous rule of Pictland and Dál Riata and the likelihood that his father also bears Dál Riatan ancestry.

834 - ?


c.836 - 839

Eoganan / Uven mac Angus

Of Pictland.

? - 839

Aedmac Boanta

Brother(?) and therefore heir to the throne.


The line of descent of Pictish kings is broken when the Pictish army is destroyed and Eoganan is killed by Vikings. Pictland eventually merges with Dal Riada through intermarriage to become Scotland, although a few Picts still appear to rule the north for a time.

839 - 850

Cináed / Kinet (Kenneth) I mac Alpin

First king of Alba (Scotland).


Kenneth rules from Scone (Fortriu, modern Forteviot), capital of the Southern Picts.


After killing the final Pictish ruler (an event known as McAlpin's Treason), Kenneth rules Pictland and unites most of the country, a feat which is extended to cover all Scotland by subsequent kings.

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