Compared to neighbouring Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England, few records of 9th- and 10th-century events in Scotland survive. The main local source from the period is the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, a list of kings from Kenneth MacAlpin (died 858) to Kenneth II (Cináed mac Maíl Coluim, died 995). The list survives in the Poppleton Manuscript, a 13th-century compilation. Originally simply a list of kings with reign lengths, the other details contained in the Poppleton Manuscript version were added in the 10th and 12th centuries. In addition to this, later king lists survive. The earliest genealogical records of the descendants of Kenneth MacAlpin may date from the end of the 10th century, but their value lies more in their context, and the information they provide about the interests of those for whom they were compiled, than in the unreliable claims they contain.
For narrative history the principal sources are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Irish annals. The evidence from charters created in the Kingdom of England provides occasional insight into events in northern Britain. While Scandinavian sagas describe events in 10th-century Britain, their value as sources of historical narrative, rather than documents of social history, is disputed. Mainland European sources rarely concern themselves with affairs in Britain, and even less commonly with events in northern Britain, but the life of Saint Cathróe of Metz, a work of hagiography written in Germany at the end of the 10th century, provides plausible details of the saint's early life in north Britain.
While the sources for north-eastern Britain, the lands of the kingdom of Northumbria and the former Pictland, are limited and late, those for the areas on the Irish Sea and Atlantic coasts—the modern regions of north-west England and all of northern and western Scotland—are non-existent, and archaeology and toponymy are of primary importance.