The Scots of Dalriada by Rowena Kinread

Today I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from Rowena Kinread’s newly released novel, The Scots of Dalriada, as part of a blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club. The Scots of Dalriada is set in fifth century Scotland and Ireland.

Beth ties her cloak securely round her neck, picks up a basket and exits the fortress.

Immediately, a gale force wind engulfs her, ripping at her garments with an icy grip. Beneath her the sea froths and waves crash against the rocks shooting spray across her path. She turns to walk around to the back of the stronghold and starts climbing the steps, hewn out of the rock, which lead between the twin peaks the fort is built below. They rise, almost vertically, each side of her, soaring into the sky. She hurries towards the narrow gateway, guarded by two bored-looking soldiers. Seeing her approach, the one nudges the other and grins. He stands astride the path, legs wide apart, a spear in one hand and blocks her passage.

“What’s your business, fair maid?” he asks. He is glad of some distraction and finds it amusing to intimidate her.

“Get out of the way, you stupid gowl! The mistress wants some mushrooms, and I wouldn’t like to be in your boots, if she tells the master you hindered me.” 

The soldier steps quickly aside, scowling. “All right, no need to get nasty. Got hair on yer teeth, ‘ave yer?”

“Something you’ll never find out,” she retorts, pushing past him. She presses on, breathing more freely now that she had got past the gatehouse and more or less into freedom. She feels like a prisoner in the castle, only able to come and go with a valid reason. Those soldiers are a right pain in the neck, she thinks, not for the first time. One worse than the other, more bored than was good for them. Not many guests came and went, regardless of Ceredig’s status as king of the Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde. She walks quickly towards the forest, glad to enter the leafy shelter from wind and rain. She starts to search for and pick mushrooms, to validate her absence. Briefly she wonders if she should mix some poisonous fungi amid the cep, chicken of the woods and chanterelles she finds, but dismisses the thought immediately. The cook would notice and anyway, the king didn’t eat alone. 

After half an hour, she hears a whistle and looking up, sees the cook on the path below her. She scrambles down through the trees, eager to find out what the cook has to tell her. 

 “Right,” the cook greets her. “Let’s get this straight right from the start, I haven’t met you here and I’ve told you nothing.”

“Don’t worry, I’m discreet,” Beth tells her, intrigued.

“Aye an’ I’m sorry for your mistress but it’s dangerous in the castle, don’t trust anyone! There’s a woman, lives here in the forest. She’s knowledgeable ‘bout all women’s troubles. I don’t say she can help, but you can ask.”

“Thank you. Where can I find her? And what’s her name?”

“You must carry along this path for half a mile, then take a right turn, go another two hundred yards and then a left turn. You’ll see a wooden house of sorts, it’s hers. She has a tame fox; it’ll growl when it sees you. Stay still an’ she’ll come out. Her name is Wulfhild but everyone calls her ‘the Wolf’.”

“The Wolf?”

“Aye, you’ll see why. I’m off then, good luck!”

“Thank you then and goodbye.”

Beth walks on as told and finds a wooden shack leaning against a beech tree, half-hidden by bushes and more trees. A fox lies across the entrance. As Beth approaches, it stands up and growls in a deep, guttural gurgle. It sounds menacing and Beth is glad that she has been pre-warned. She stands still, not budging an inch. Eventually, a small woman appears from indoors. Her face is covered with dark hair; she has more facial hair than a man. When Beth glances down, she sees that the back of the woman’s hands are almost furry. The Wolf is also inspecting Beth. “There are no signs yet,” she says. “I may be able to help you.”

“What? Oh no!” Beth answers realising. “I’ve come for my mistress.”

 “They all say that.”

“No, no. You don’t understand, it’s the other way round. My mistress wants a baby!” When The Wolf remains silent, Beth adds, “Her name is Rhianna, she is wife to Ceredig, the king.”

“It’s true then, he’s taken another. I’m afraid I can’t help you, the problem lies with him, not with your mistress.”

Beth wonders how she can know this, but looking at her, realises she does. She sits down defeated on the forest floor. 

“I fear for her life!” She tells The Wolf. He beats her violently. She refuses to eat, won’t leave her room, and barely speaks. Her eyes have lost their lustre. He won’t leave her alone until she’s with child.”

The Wolf remains silent, considering what Beth has told her. She disappears into her hut and returns minutes later, her hands full. 

“Give your mistress five drops, three times daily,” she says, giving Beth a flacon of tonic. “It will decrease her monthly bleeding. Tell her to rub this jelly into her vagina, the act will hurt less. This paste is for her bruises. Put this borage into hot water with honey. Make her drink it. It will help her appetite and drive away her sorrow.” 

Beth looks at the remedies in front of her. “You mean she should pretend that she’s with child?”


“But what when he finds out?” 

“For the present it is important that your mistress becomes well again. Return to me in three months.”

It wasn’t the solution she’d been hoping for, but as Beth starts walking back to Alt Clut, the medicines hidden in her basket under the mushrooms, she begins to see the possibilities. A miscarriage maybe or better still, Ceredig’s death in battle. All in all, it’s not been a waste of time, she thinks.

Back at the castle she goes straight to Ceredig’s personal guard and says she wishes to speak to the king. She is ushered into a large room where he sits at a table, poring over a map. Beth curtsies.

“Yes?” he asks.

“My Lord, it is very early yet, and I am not sure, but my mistress is unwell. She has morning sickness and spells of dizziness. I think she may be with child!”

“What? But that is good news, yes!” Ceredig thrusts his fist in the air. “And what does she say, will it be a boy?”

“My Lord! As yet we are not sure that she is with child. But her monthly bloods are late. I would not have said anything, but due to her— condition, forgive me, Lord, but maybe it would be prudent not to visit her tonight.” Beth blushes.

“Yes, of course. Tell my wife not to expect me for a while. Let me know of any change.” With a wave of the hand, Beth is dismissed.

Beth is jubilant. It had been easier than she had thought, and she hadn’t exactly lied. She goes to the kitchen and boils water for the special herbs. She also makes porridge and adds honey and cream skimmed from the top of the milk jug. She enters Rhianna’s chamber and sees her sitting in her chair next to the fire. She puts the food and drink on a side table next to her. Rhianna turns her head away. Beth kneels down by Rhianna’s feet and takes her bony hands in hers.

“Mistress, listen! The master won’t bother you tonight.”  Rhianna looks up with a flicker of interest.

 “Nor any day soon,” Beth adds.


“That’s a long story, including the adventure I had with a ‘wolf’ this afternoon. Now drink and eat and I will tell you.”

Rhianna picks up her beaker and begins to drink. When she stops drinking, Beth refuses to continue her story. Finally, the tale is finished, the porridge also. Rhianna begins to come alive.


Fergus, Loarn and Angus, Princes of the Dalriada, are forced into exile by their scheming half-brother and the druidess Birga One-tooth.

Fergus conceals himself as a stable lad on Aran and falls helplessly in love with a Scottish princess, already promised to someone else. Loarn crosses swords against the Picts. Angus designs longboats.

Always on the run the brothers must attempt to outride their adversaries by gaining power themselves. Together they achieve more than they could possibly dream of.

Fergus Mór (The Great) is widely recognised as the first King of Scotland, giving Scotland its name and its language. Rulers of Scotland and England from Kenneth mac Alpín until the present time claim descent from Fergus Mór.

Full of unexpected twists and turns, this is a tale of heart-breaking love amidst treachery, deceit and murder.

The Scots of Dalriada is available at
Universal LinkAmazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Rowena Kinread

Rowena Kinread grew up in Ripon, Yorkshire with her large family and a horde of pets. Keen on travelling, her first job was with Lufthansa in Germany.

She began writing in the nineties. Her special area of interest is history. After researching her ancestry and finding family roots in Ireland with the Dalriada clan, particularly this era.

Her debut fiction novel titled The Missionary is a historical novel about the dramatic life of St. Patrick. It was published by Pegasus Publishers on 29 April 2021 and has been highly praised by The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and the Irish Times.

Her second novel The Scots of Dalriada centres around Fergus Mór, the founder father of Scotland and takes place in 5th century Ireland and Scotland. It was published by Pegasus Publishers on 26 January 2023.

The author lives with her husband in Bodman-Ludwigshafen, Lake Constance, Germany. They have three children and six grandchildren.

For more information about Rowena and her books click on the links below

More information on the Coffee Pot Book Club and other works of quality historical fiction can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

Book Title: The Scots of Dalriada
Author: Rowena Kinread
Publication Date: January 26th, 2023
Publisher: Vanguard Press
Pages: 287
Genre: Historical Fiction

4 thoughts on “The Scots of Dalriada by Rowena Kinread

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.