From establishing trade routes to constructing the country’s most famous cathedral, here are ten facts about the Vikings in Ireland that you probably didn’t know.
The Vikings had a much more significant impact upon Ireland than many may think, with influences spanning across the political, cultural, and economic sectors of Irish life. From the introduction of language and currency to settlements and the “Viking Triangle”, these early invaders contributed to the country massively.
Check out our list of ten facts about the Vikings in Ireland below.
10. Viking rule in Ireland was ultimately short-lived
The Vikings initially settled in Ireland around 795 AD, where they continued to invade and establish settlements for the next two centuries until 1014 AD. They called themselves the “dark invaders” or “black foreigners”, which is where the term “black Irish” is thought to have originated. At the Battle of Clontarf the Irish High King, Brian Boru, defeated their army and put an end to Viking power in Ireland.
Surprisingly though, in the aftermath, the Vikings and Celtics were found to adopt many of each other’s customs and beliefs (possibly to advance their own cultures). So, although the Vikings were no longer in charge, their presence strongly remained.
9. The Vikings created Ireland’s first city
Waterford became the first main naval base to be established by the Vikings (914 AD), which makes it Ireland’s oldest city. Today, Ireland’s ‘Viking Triangle’ – named in acknowledgement of the triangular shape of the 10th-century walls – can be explored today through a guided tour where visitors follow in the Vikings footsteps around different cultural and heritage attractions.
8. Many original Viking settlements still remain
Though we are far from the days of the Viking rule in Ireland, many of their original settlements remain – including Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick, and Cork, which are all examples of early trading centres that have grown and developed into the popular towns and cities we know them to be today.
7. The Vikings established Ireland’s first trade routes
By establishing trade routes between Ireland, England, and Scandinavia, the Vikings were responsible for introducing many outside influences (from Europe and beyond) into society – everything from language, culture, and art to new goods and raw materials.
6. The Vikings undoubtedly transformed Ireland in the Middle Ages
Despite being known for their violent behaviour, the Vikings ultimately had a positive impact on Ireland by aiding advances in technology, visual artistic styles, language, metalworking techniques, art, and craftsmanship. All was a result of the very trade routes they worked to establish.
5. The Irish language has strong Norse influences
One fact about the Vikings in Ireland that you probably didn’t know is that the place names of big settlements, such as Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Strangford, Youghal, Carlingford, and Howth (among others), were all inducted into the Irish language by the wayfarers themselves.
Additionally, both the Irish and English languages are riddled with Norse words, such as ‘ancaire’ (‘anchor’), which stems from the Norse ‘akkeri’, and ‘pinginn’ (‘penny’) which comes from the Norse ‘penninger.’
4. The Vikings created Irish currency
Another intriguing fact about the Vikings in Ireland that you might not know is that the country did not have any official currency of its own until the 10th-century, when the first Irish coin, the ‘Hiberno-Norse’ (995-997 AD), was created by Viking leader and Norse King of Dublin, Sitric Silkbeard.
Similar in shape and style to the English penny of the time, the coins were made of silver and signed with Silkbeard’s name.
3. The Vikings built Ireland’s most famous cathedral
Despite their strong pagan beliefs, many Vikings who settled in Ireland grew to adopt Christianity. So much so that it was the Viking Norse King of Dublin himself who, alongside the coins, ordered the construction of the Christ Church Cathedral in 1028 AD.
One of today’s most popular tourist attractions, this former Viking church is Dublin’s oldest working structure. It holds enormous religious significance to this day.
2. Viking DNA/ancestry is more common than you might think
Some of today’s most common Irish surnames derive from these Scandinavian invaders who settled in Ireland and married native women. Surnames with direct links to Vikings include Doyle (‘son of the dark foreigner’), O’/Mc/Loughlin and Higgins (‘descendant of Viking’), Foley (‘plunderer’), and McReynolds (‘counsel’ and ‘ruler’).
1. The Vikings brought rabbits to Ireland
They are a good source of food due to their high reproduction rates. It was reportedly the Vikings who introduced rabbits to Ireland by bringing them aboard their longboats during lengthy journeys. We’re sure this is one fact about the Vikings in Ireland that you probably didn’t know!
So which of these facts about the Vikings in Ireland surprised you the most?
Let us know below!