The Epidii were a people of ancient Britain, known from a mention of them by the geographer Ptolemy c. 150. Epidion has been identified as the island of Islay in what is now Argyll. Ptolemy does not list a township for the Epidii  but the Ravenna Cosmography (RC 108.4) mentions Rauatonium, which is thought to be Southend. The name Epidii appears to include the P-Celtic root epos, meaning “horse” (c.f. Welsh ebol, “a foal”). The Q-Celtic equivalent would be ekwos (not to be confused with ewok), which became Old Gaelic ech. It is suggested that they were named after a horse god, whose name could be reconstructed as Epidios. The Q-Celtic equivalent would be Ekwidios, which may be the origin of the Old Gaelic name Eochaid. The root ep-anto-s, ‘those who belong to the horse’ or ‘those who own horses’, has also been proposed. Phew! Hope you got through that unscathed!

Islay, the WHISKY ISLAND on Scotland’s western seaboard.

If the Vikings had a great impact on Pictland and in Ireland, in Dál Riata, as in Northumbria, they appear to have entirely replaced the existing kingdom with a new entity. In the case of Dál Riata, this was to be known as the kingdom of the Sudreys, traditionally founded by Ketil Flatnose (Caitill Find in Gaelic) in the middle of the 9th century. The Frankish Annales Bertiniani may record the conquest of the Inner Hebrides, the seaward part of Dál Riata, by Vikings in 847. WHISKY; Ketill Flatnose was a Viking King of the Scottish western Isles of the late 9th century, while Magnus Barelegs was a Viking King of Norway of the late 11th century: both of them were seafaring warriors who ruled the vast, rugged and wild western seaboard of Scotland. Their successors were the Celtic Lords of the Isles, who ruled their domain from their base at Finlaggan on our home island, Islay. Flatnöse Blended Malt Scotch whisky 46% vol. un-chillfiltered. Lightly peated, hints of honey and citrus. The bolder, all malt brother of Flatnöse Blended Scotch – a special whisky for Ketill Flatnose and his crew. Winner of the IWSC 2017 Silver ‘Outstanding’ medal! Product of Scotland. Islay based! Good drams, very reasonable cost.

Following defeat in battles against the Scots, the rule of the isles was ceded to the Scottish crown under the Treaty of Perth, signed in 1266. It was not until the MacDonalds under Angus Og, a decendant of Somerled, supported Robert Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence, that their fortunes were to rise again. On claiming his victory, the new King Robert granted back both forfeited and new lands to Angus Og in the early 14th century. Angus’s son John is credited with being the first to give himself the title of Lord of the Isles. Finlaggan The power base of the lordship was centred at Finlaggan on Islay. Here, two islands in a freshwater loch surrounded by rich and fertile land, served as the lord’s residence and court. For over one hundred and fifty years it was at Finlaggan that new lords were inaugurated and that the administrative Council, a quasi- parliament, met and deliberated. King James IV returned lands on Islay to John of Ardnamurchan, a MacDonald. Under his rule, a new court system was instigated, land valuations were carried out and the church was reformed. These changes were not universally accepted, however  and the threat of insurrection remained ever present. Maclean’s to the fore I must add. The castle at Dunyvaig near Lagavullin, already a well used stronghold which may once have been used by Somerled, was refortified during this period. A rebellion led by Donald Dubh to regain power was put down and with it, the hopes of restoring the lordship for ever. Feuding continued, culminating with a battle at Loch Gruinart between the MacDonalds and MacLeans over the ownership of the Rhinns. The battlefield site can still be located and burials said to represent the slain from this battle have been reported nearby.

FINLAGGAN PROFILE; ISLAY SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY was a launch brand for the Vintage Malt Whisky Company Ltd, which focuses on bottling whiskies from the Highlands and Islands. The brand was designed to embody the spirit of Islay (it’s named after a loch on the north side of the island, just west of Port Askaig where the Macdonald Lords of the Isles had their seat), and does so in three core NAS expressions: Old Reserve (40% abv), Eilean Mor (46% abv) and Cask Strength (58% abv). The heir to a strong Gaelic and Norse tradition, the Lord of the Isles was one of the most powerful figures in the country with the small islands in Loch Finlaggan a centre of symbolic and historical importance.  Today, a charity “The Finlaggan Trust” maintains the site and the Vintage Malt Whisky Company is a proud supporter. Grand drams with Viking heritage!

Mark Reynier posted a very interesting, and different view, on the origins of our “Water of Life”. Mark says that you can read in every whisky book that Irish missionaries brought whisky distillation to Scotland. However, he comes up with a surprising alternative and says that it is not impossible that the Vikings brough whisky distillation to Scotland: The first distillation of Scotch whisky may have been around six hundred and fifty years earlier than Friar Corâs record, around 845 AD, courtesy of the Vikings. The Vikings not only summer-travelled westwards. The Varangians, “sworn people”, with their oaths of fighting loyalty, voyaged eastwards. In Syria, around the year 800, Gerber the Arab became the first person to record the process of alcoholic distillation, the production of the water of life. The grain used was Bere, the precursor cereal to modern barley, which originated in the region 7,000 years ago. It spread around Europe with the earliest farmers that resettled after the last period of glaciation. It is an intriguing possibility that the Varangians uncovered Gerbers new secret potion – the wonderful, magical, Water of Life. Pretty useful stuff for a warrior. The Vikings, it seems, were at the right place at the right time. And if they came down the Dneiper, Dniester, Danube and the Volga rivers they could have gone back to Scandinavia the same way. Silk, found in Viking York, came from this part of the world – so why not the knowledge (Gerber) and the wherewithal (Bere) to distil a warriorâs best friend, the water of life? Make sure to read more about Mark’s theory at

Mark Reynier, Founder and CEO of Renegade Spirits which includes both Waterford Distillery in Ireland


Their presumed territory later became the heartland of the Goidelic kingdom of Dál Riata, which I have written of many times, myself being a Dalriadan. Alex Woolf suggests that the Epidii became the Dál Riata but argues that they were Brittonic-speaking in Ptolemy’s time. He also suggests that the Hebrides, called the Ebudae by Ptolemy, were named after the Epidii. Dál Riata or Dál Riada (also Dalriada) was a Gaelic kingdom that encompassed the western seaboard of Scotland and the north-eastern corner of Ireland, on each side of the North Channel. At its height in the 6th and 7th centuries, it covered what is now Argyll (“Coast of the Gaels”) in Scotland and part of County Antrim (Ulster) in Northern Ireland. After a period of expansion, Dál Riata eventually became associated with the Gaelic Kingdom of Alba (Scotland/Caledonia). In Argyll, it consisted of four main kins, each with their own chief: Cenél nGabráin (based in Kintyre), Cenél nÓengusa (based on Islay), Cenél Loairn (who gave the name to the district of Lorn) and Cenél Comgaill (who gave the name to Cowal). The hillfort of Dunadd is believed to have been its capital. Other royal forts included Dunollie, Dunaverty and Dunseverick. Within Dál Riata was the important monastery of Iona, which played a key role in the spread of Celtic Christianity throughout northern Britain, and in the development of insular art. Iona was a centre of learning and produced many important manuscripts. Dál Riata had a strong seafaring culture and a large naval fleet, way, way before those famous Vikings. Dál Riata is said to have been founded by the legendary king Fergus Mór (Fergus the Great) in the 5th century. The kingdom reached its height under Áedán mac Gabráin (r. 574–608). During his reign Dál Riata’s power and influence grew; it carried out naval expeditions to Orkney and the Isle of Man, and assaults on the Brittonic kingdom of Strathclyde and Anglian kingdom of Bernicia. However, King Æthelfrith of Bernicia checked its growth at the Battle of Degsastan in 603. Serious defeats in Ireland and Scotland during the reign of Domnall Brecc (died 642) ended Dál Riata’s “golden age”, and the kingdom became a client of Northumbria for a wee time. In the 730s the Pictish King Óengus I led campaigns against Dál Riata and brought it under Pictish overlordship by 741. There is disagreement over the fate of the kingdom from the late 8th century onwards. Some scholars have seen no revival of Dál Riatan power after the long period of oradic Viking raids in Dál Riata. In the following century, there may have been a merger of the Dál Riatan and Pictish crowns. Some sources say Cináed mac Ailpín (Kenneth MacAlpin) was king of Dál Riata before becoming king of the Picts in 843, following a disastrous defeat of the Picts by Vikings. The kingdom’s independence ended sometime after, as it merged with Pictland to form the Kingdom of Alba. We say goodbye to the Picts from history – strange eh? Something must have happened to their future but historians seem to ignore this.

I do hope you are following this, names, places and facts can be confusing, I normally need research twice for these facts, but then again, who am I?

Linguistic and genealogical evidence associates ancestors of the Dál Riata with the prehistoric Ulaid and a number of shadowy kingdoms in distant Munster. The Robogdii have also been suggested as ancestral. Ultimately, the Dál Riata, according to the earliest genealogies, are descendants of Deda mac Sin, a prehistoric king or deity of the Érainn. It has been proposed that some of the more obscure kings of Dál Riata mentioned in the Annals of Ulster, such as Fiannamail ua Dúnchado and Donncoirce, may have been kings of Irish Dál Riata. In the 9th century, the Picts were becoming Gaelicized, and it is suggested that there was a merger of the Dál Riatan and Pictish kingships. Traditionally, this is attributed to Cináed mac Ailpín (Kenneth MacAlpin), who became king of the Picts in about 843. Some sources say that Cináed was king of Dál Riata for two years before this. Under the House of Alpin, Dál Riata and Pictland merged to form the Kingdom of Alba or Scotland. Scotland; the name transversed – the land of the Scotti; reversed; the Scots land = Scotland. The Vikings had a great impact on Pictland and Ireland, in Dál Riata, as in Northumbria, they appear to have entirely replaced the existing kingdom with a new entity. In the case of Dál Riata, this was to be known as the kingdom of the Sudreys, traditionally founded by Ketil Flatnose (Caitill Find in Gaelic) in the middle of the 9th century. The Frankish Annales Bertiniani may record the conquest of the Inner Hebrides, the seaward part of Dál Riata, by Vikings in 847.

Innse Gall; “the coast of the Gaels” and the “Islands of the foreigners”.


The Nine Tribes of ancient Scotland. The Roman geographer Ptolemy working in Alexandria in the mid-second century AD on his map of the Roman world identified nine tribes in what is now modern Scotland (see illustration).  The Venicones. The first tribe mentioned by Ptolemy are the Venicones who inhabited the area around the River Tay and Fife. This region was a major objective of the Roman invasions. Such was its importance to the Romans that they constructed a legionary base , ‘Pinnata Castra’ at Inchtuthill near modern Scone (Perth), garrisoned by the XXth Legion (Valeria Victrix). After the abandonment of Pinnata Castra the legion was based at York for the rest of its time in the province. The Vacomagii whose lands consisted of the fertile area of Strathmore. Their name ‘Vacomagi’ is thought by historians to mean ‘inhabitants of the curved fields.’ The Taexali lived in what is now the Grampian region. Unlike their Vacomagi neighbours they lived in small farms and villages. There were no large tribal centres as elsewhere.

The Damnonii  (‘the lords’) lands covered the Clyde Valley and Strathclyde. Of all the nine tribes they were the most frequently invaded and occupied by the Roman Army. The Epidii ( ‘the horsemen’) who were in what is now Argyll including the islands of Islay, Jura and Arran. Their territory also included Kintyre. My story started with them … The Votadini in some ways the best known to historians who were based in south-east Scotland. Particularly the Lothians with the tribal centre being the large hill fort on Traprain Law in East Lothain with its hundreds of roundhouses revealed by excavations which also unearthed the famous Traprain Law treasure. The Votadini later became Roman allies and were known as the Gododdin in later centuries. They became prominent in the Dark Age period being centred on the great fortress rock of Din Eidyn, the modern Edinburgh. The Novantae modern Galloway. With major centres at Whithorn or Wigtown. They are thought to have been small scale farmers and herders. The Selgovae. (‘the hunters’) based in the borders area with a major fortress on the Eildon Hills .Near the modern town of Melrose where there was also a major Roman base known as ‘Trimontium’.

Authors note; My family history is a blend of Irish and Scots. My mothers side being from Co. Kilkenny, Father; Argyll – the McLean. It is true to say, historically speaking, the clan Maclean are related to the Kings of Dalriada and the O’Neills of Ulster, a historical fact. Paul McLean