Dál Riata

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Dál Riata (also Dalriada or Dalriata) was a Gaelic overkingdom on the western coast of Scotland with some territory on the northern coasts of Ireland. In the late 6th and early 7th century it encompassed roughly what is now Argyll and Bute and Lochaber in Scotland and also County Antrim in Ireland.[1]

In Argyll it consisted initially of three kindreds: Cenél Loairn (kindred of Loarn) in north and mid-Argyll, Cenél nÓengusa (kindred of Óengus) based on Islay and Cenél nGabráin (kindred of Gabrán) based in Kintyre; a fourth kindred, Cenél Chonchride in Islay, was apparently considered too small to be considered a major division. By the end of the 7th century a fourth 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,[1] while the Morvern district was formerly known as Kinelvadon, from the Cenél Báetáin, a subdivision of the Cenél Loairn.[2]

Dál Riata is commonly viewed as having been an Irish Gaelic colony in Scotland, although some archaeologists have recently argued against this.[3] The inhabitants of Dál Riata are often referred to as Scots, i.e., Latin scotti, a name for the inhabitants of Ireland; its original meaning is uncertain but it later refers to Gaelic-speakers, whether from Ireland or elsewhere.[4] They are referred to here as Gaels, an unambiguous term, or as Dál Riatans.[5]

The kingdom reached its height under Áedán mac Gabráin (r. 574-608), but its expansion was checked at the Battle of Degsastan 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 Dal Riata after the long period of foreign domination (after 637 to around 750 or 760), while others have seen a revival of Dal Riata under Áed Find (736-778), and later Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín, who is claimed in some sources to have taken the kingship there in c.840 following the disastrous defeat of the Pictish army by the Danes): some even claim that the kingship of Fortriu was usurped by the Dál Riata several generations before MacAlpin (800-858).[6] The kingdom's independent existence ended in the Viking Age, as it merged with the lands of the Picts to form the Kingdom of Alba.

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