Scotlands History

Somerled, King of the Isles

Somerled was a leader of the Isles in the 12th century. Somerled, meaning ‘summer traveller’, was a common Viking name. Somerled started out as ruler of Kintyre and in 1140 married Raghnailt, daughter of Olaf King of Mann and the Isles.

In 1153 both David I of Scotland and Olaf of Mann died. The new king of the Isle of Mann, Godred II Olafsson, was unpopular. Somerled took command of a rebellion against Godred; leading a fleet with more than 50 warships against him. Godred fled to Norway and Somerled became King of Mann and the Isles.

At this point, Gaels and Vikings came under a single lord and began to share a common culture. They were known as the ‘Gall-Gaidheal’.

Somerled founded Saddell Abbey in 1164. He was slain during a campaign at Renfrew against King Malcolm IV. Somerled’s descendants, the Lords of the Isles, included Angus Og of Islay who fought alongside Robert the Bruce.

  • Photo of sunset across the sea with islands and hills in the background

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