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The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain Ireland

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  188 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Alistair Moffat's journey, from the Scottish islands and Scotland, to the English coast, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland, ignores national boundaries to reveal the rich fabric of culture and history of Celtic Britain which still survives today. This is a vividly told, dramatic and enlightening account of the oral history, legends and battles of a people whose past stretches ...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Birlinn Ltd (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
To those of you who watch know those days when you are flicking tv channels and you come across a documentary and it is so atmospheric that before you realise it you have sat quietly, staring at the screen like a zombie, for an hour or more. Only speaking when you feel the need to say 'wow' as you learn some amazing tidbit about history, or animals...or whatever it is that the doco it about. Okay, now I have created scene here's my point. That is what this book was like.
The author,
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book written from a passionate perspective, which was both good and bad. The author is clearly biased and insists on a few incidents that are historically contested, but the overall content is great. It's a development of Celtic people in the British isles. I was personally more interested in the pre-roman phase, but there is much more medieval and modern content (still interesting). There's stuff about folklore, navigation, politics, religion, conversion to ...more
Pete daPixie
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-celts
A very enjoyable read, even if the size of the print is a strain on my old eyes. Alistair Moffat's 'The Sea Kingdoms' is a powerful historical odyssey to strange distant lands that our modern day map books cannot name. It's a Homeric journey from iron age to space age through the Celtic islands of Britain and Ireland. The book is packed with a fascinating range of information that encompasses the histories, languages, religions, myths and legends of a culture that has existed and barely survived ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poignant, in every sense epic

A fascinating retelling of the history of the Celtic nations of Britain, Moffat succeeds in a moving account. The descriptions are vivid and the prose flows. This is far from a staid list of dates and times; Moffat succeeds in capturing much of the spirit and the feel of the landscapes he described.. A compelling read.
Ashley Catt
Nov 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Very thorough, and an undeniably entertaining read. The thing is, in mainstream history, you are rarely presented with a book like this. Even with trends in history to write about those who have been ignored, the Celts seemed to have been passed over here too. It goes without saying that their history is worthy of consideration in terms of British history.

The main drawback of this book is it's romanticism. It's hard to feel in trustworthy hands when the book embellishes what it writes so much,
Deborah Ideiosepius
This is a difficult book to review, I find. I love the fact that someone was so into the Celtic history of the UK that they went around researching and visiting all the out of the way, forgotten kingdoms, fading languages, strange customs and half-forgotten stories. The combined stories are beautifully told in a writing style that I found flowed admirably. The amount of work that went into compiling this book is formidable.

So, the above elements of the book were absolutely riveting. It provided
Edoardo Albert
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the third book by Alistair Moffat that I've read and, as you'd guess given the fact that I've kept reading him, I've enjoyed them all. The Sea Kingdoms is an attempt at a history of Celtic Britain and Ireland but, by the nature of the subject and the sources, it's more a series of impressions and snapshots: places, events, people, all serving to illuminate some aspect of the other history of these islands, the history that has never been written but has been sung, recited, felt. It's as ...more
Dec 14, 2015 rated it liked it
A helpful history of the Celtic peoples of the British Isles and Ireland, organized in thematic (language, religion, etc.) and regional (Cornwall, Wales, Man, Ireland, Scotland) chapters. One complaint: Moffatt does a good job of diggin up the origins of family and place names, prverbial sayings and folktales, but he never helps us with the pronunciation of all these Gaelic and welsh knots of consonants and vowels. Take "piobhaireachd," for example. The English simplified the spelling to ...more
Dan Vine
Jul 07, 2014 rated it liked it
A very readable introduction to Celtic history but I wonder how scholarly it is. Having just read another of this author's works of popular history, on a subject about which I know more, I am reminded of my misgivings about this book that I read a few years back. Still I did enjoy it at the time even if I have subsequently come to doubt some of the more memorable claims that he makes.
Tim Martin
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Alistair Moffat has produced in this work one of the most intriguing and informative history books I have read in some time, covering the Celtic peoples, history, and traditions of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man (and to a much lesser extent Brittany in northern France) as well as of England itself. Too often the history of the British Isles is the history of the English, and in this book he seeks to show an entire element of British history now largely forgotten.

Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
The text of BBC serial, it's not a history, but contains a lot of history. It's not quite a travel tale, but based on travelling. An attempt to capture the survivals of the Celtic heritage in Britain - the actual survivals not the New Age rubbish. Does succeed very well in looking at British history from two unusual angles - the Irish Sea as the centre of a maritime civilisation that lasted for millennia, and the losers in the making of modern Britain.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the narrative. A little confused and repetitive in places, but i've re-read so obviously enjoyed it enough...
This is wonderful history, told like a mythic tale around a crackling campfire. It has the magic of misty islands and the gravitas of tall mountains and the romance of ancient poetry. I loved every lyric word of it.

The story of the kingdoms of the islands and the seaward looking coasts are actually relevant to our world in ways we have almost forgotten. The events of heroism, treachery and glory that built and destroyed these Celtic strongholds were not written and stored in archives, but
Nov 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
I would like to give the author of this book two gifts:

1. an editor

2. footnotes.

This is a very free-form history of Scotland, Wales, Isle of Mann, Ireland, and Cornwall (in that order of prominence in the book). There is a lot to potentially like about the book--an alternate look at British and Irish history centered on the the islands' original inhabitants is appealing. Unfortunately, most chapters wander all over the place, with little point and less structure.

The author argues that the
Caroline Gerardo
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My daughter is in College in Ireland. I read this book before she left, mostly out-loud in quips to her.
Books are part of the flow of my life, I am always shopping for more great ones, but family and friends seem to arrive at my open door, sometimes for the dinner on the stove, more often to pinch the latest book I read. Sadly someone "borrowed" this one before I finished. I will need to buy it again.
The book approaches history like that, telling tales and winding around a thing.
If you stole
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at a world not hidden, but mostly lost, the Celtic culture of history of the Islands comprising Ireland and Great Britain today with their remnant populations in Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man. Along the way, Moffat gives a wonderful view of where words have come from and the meaning behind current folklore and traditions.
Feb 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Understanding traditional Irish language a little more actually helps understand the place when traveling there...such a strong connection to the land and the vivid ways in which what we take for granted as everyday objects, feelings, movements and events are described makes for a higher level of appreciation. Brilliant.
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read about any country. Moffat doesn't load you up with dates to the point that you become unaware of what actually occured when. It's a satisfying read when you come away with a picture of a place that is informed, detailed, and poetic. An ode to the languages, the people, and, most importantly, the places passed through.
Jun 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Anyone interested in the Celts needs to read this history. Moffat has a fine writing style, so that the material is always accessible.
Apr 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Slow reading to take in all the historical facts presented, but very interesting and eye-opening.
David Comerford
Mar 26, 2013 rated it liked it
OK. Better than A Genetic Journey. I still think that I bought too many Alastair Moffat books, but if I was to choose 2 then they would be this one and The Faded Map.
Myra Thomson
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Myra by: No-one
Brilliant account of Celtic Britain. 'The best picture of the Celtic race yet written.' South Wales Echo says it all!!
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Any body interested in British history and cultural identity
Recommended to Peter by: Tschaka Roussel Milner
Excellent history of British Isles from the Gaelic point of view; a view centred on the Irish sea rather than London and on the interplay of different cultures rather than the predominance of one.
Sep 29, 2012 added it
This is an easy book to read, and sets out an unusual view point that does make sense.
Oct 02, 2016 rated it liked it
History on the lite side, mostly anecdotal.
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Alistair Moffat is an award winning writer, historian and former Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Director of Programmes at Scottish Television.

Moffat was educated at the University of St Andrews, graduating in 1972 with a degree in Medieval History. He is the founder of the Borders Book Festival and Co-Chairman of The Great Tapestry of Scotland.
“Over me green branches hang A blackbird leads the loud song; Above my penlined booklet I hear a fluting bird-throng. The cuckoo pipes a clear call Its dun cloak hid in deep dell; Praise to God for this goodness That in woodland I write well.” 0 likes
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