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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Thursday 15 April 2010


My short break after Easter took us up to the West Highlands for a few days.

After my business trip to Stornaway (see earlier blog) it was interesting to be in the heartland of the original Lord of the Isles, Somerled. I picked up a book I hadn't seen before by Kathleen MacPhee, Somerled, Hammer of the Norse. Interesting title as there are those who argue that Somerled himself was of Norse descent. Others that he was a Gael and yet others a Scot.

The book gives a concise guide to Scotland and the West, in particular during the 11th and 12th Centuries. The imprtant role of of the Vikings based in Dublin, Man and Orkney as well as their home in Norway. Somerled ruled what is roughly modern day Argyll. The Scots kings of the period had no effectve rule over these territories, as military might depended on a powerful fleet, and that meant longships.

This was the transition from a Celtic Scotland based on the rule of the Earls, to a feudal Scotland with the introduction of Norman knights, with names more familiar in later centuries like Bruce. I feel another opportunity to field my Normans coming on!

There are many of the coastal castles that can be visted including my personal favourite Castle Tioram. I didn't get to visit it this time. But we did get to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, always worth a visit with its new visitor centre.


  1. So nice to come across a post on Somerled. Having explored my genealogy, I discovered that Somerled was my 21st great-grandfather. My mother's father mentions him being an ancestor in a letter to my mother sent to her 70 years ago. My grandfather Lamont was of Scottish descent and the family emigrated to Prince Edward Island early in the 19th century. He knew the names of all the Lamont clan leaders going back, and the MacDonald clan as well.

    1. That's an impressive family background. It's a pity that we don't know more about his life, given the sources are limited. In particular his death at Renfrew. I attended an interesting conference some time ago which examined what we do know. It may be fiction but I like Nigel Tranter's take on him. http://balkandave.blogspot.com/2021/12/lord-of-isles.html.