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Kintyre Coastline

Kintyre History

Kintyre is a narrow peninsula in the far West of Scotland, which extends a distance of approximately 30 miles, from Tarbert in the North to the Mull of Kintyre in the South. Along the middle or spine of Kintyre, runs a line of hills which rise to a maximum height of approximately 2000 feet. Along the West coast runs a narrow fertile strip of land which is exposed to the frequent Atlantic gales. The Eastern coast is more fertile, being protected as it is by the line of hills. Prior to modern roads being constructed, Kintyre remained relatively isolated from the rest of Scotland, access being gained from the sea. As late as the 1960's it was common to travel from the central belt of Scotland (Glasgow) to Campbeltown by paddle steamer.

Nothing is known of the early inhabitants of Kintyre, other than they were of the Pictish race. The early documented history of Kintyre is firmly linked to the kingdom of Dalriata (the Scots). Dal Riata was the name of the people who came to Kintyre and the far West of Scotland from Ireland. About AD250 in Ireland, there existed four main families of the Erainn stock, who were considered the original inhabitants of Eire. One of these families was the Dal Riata. About AD253 one of the Dal Riata chieftains Caipre Riata (also known as Cairbre Reudh or Red Haired Cairbar) emigrated with his people to South Kintyre from Ulster. The same people were referred to as the Scotti or Atascotti by the Roman scholar Ammianus Marcellinus, author of the Notitia Imperii, writing in the 4th Century. These were the original Scots peoples making their initial forays from Ireland to Scotland. The Dalriata established a colony for some 200 years before, in AD446, being driven back to Ireland during conflicts with Pictish tribes.

A portion of early text refers to the area around Campbeltown as Dal-ruaidh, which it translates as the portion of Ruadh and the people as the Dalruaidhini, which was shortened or corrupted by Latin writers to Dalriad and the people as Dalreudini. There appears to be some consistency in these names as even today an area and street in Campbeltown are known as Dalaruan.

In AD503, the Dal Riata returned in force under the conduct of the three sons of Erc; Lorn, Angus and Fergus, who became the founders of the second kingdom of the Scots or as they were referred to, the Dal Riata. At that time the three sons must have been advanced in age for they all received the benediction of St. Patrick, who died in AD446. Of these sons of Erc, Angus seems to have died soon after his arrival, for we here no more of him. In the division of the country, the island of Islay probably fell to his share as, after his death we find it possessed by his son Murdach, whose wife Erca after Murdach's death married his cousin German to whom she bore Felim the father of St. Columba.

On the mainland Lorn took the northern portion while Fergus took Kintyre and Argyll. Lorn died a short time later and Fergus added his brothers territory to his own, becoming sole monarch of Dalriata. Fergus mor mac Erc has stood ever since at the beginning of the lists of Kings of Scots.

Fergus died in AD506, and when he died the kingship was passed on to his son Domangart. From there the kingship was passed on 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 seems to have been fraught with battles with the Picts. By this time there were four distinct sections of the Dal Riata. The Cenel Gabrain, whose leaders were most frequently the kings of Dal Riata, coming from the royal line of Fergus mor Mac Erc; the Cenel Loairn (Lorn), the Cenel nOengusa (Angus) and the Cenel Comgall.

These four main peoples now occupied all of Argyll, Kintyre and the Inner Hebrides. After Gabran the kingship went to his nephew Conall. It is Conall who is reputed to have given Colum Cille (St. Columba) the island of Iona, in agreement with the king of the Picts.

If you would like to visit this area as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

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