10 facts about the Vikings in Ireland that you didn’t know

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.

Ireland Before You Die’s overview of facts about Vikings in Ireland

  • Amongst many impressive feats, the Vikings established the first trade routes from Ireland. They were between Ireland, England and Scandinavia, in the process introducing many new things.
  • The Vikings were also responsible for creating the first Irish coin, the ‘Hiberno-Norse’ in the 10th century. They were created by Viking leader and King of Dublin Sitric Silkbeard.
  • Furthermore, Silkbeard also ordered the construction of the famous Christ Church of Dublin back in 1028. This is Dublin’s oldest working structure.
  • The Vikings were responsible for creating Ireland’s first city; Waterford! Established in 914 AD, this is Ireland’s oldest city.
  • In total, Viking settlement in Ireland lasted for around 300 years from the 700s AD. However, much influence still remains today, with its structures, culture and beliefs.

10. Viking rule in Ireland was ultimately short-lived

One of the top facts about the Vikings in Ireland is that their reign was 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 was the first city of Ireland, another of the top facts about the Vikings in Ireland.

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.   

LEARN MORE: Beyond Waterford, see some of the other top places that were raided by Vikings in Ireland

8. Many original Viking settlements still remain

Many Viking settlements still exist in Ireland, another of the top facts about the Vikings in Ireland.

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

The Vikings established Ireland's first trade routes, another of our top facts about the Vikings in Ireland.

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.

READ: You can learn more about this on the Vikings Tours Ireland, from our list of the ten best river cruises in Ireland.

6. The Vikings undoubtedly transformed Ireland in the Middle Ages

The Vikings brought arts, language and culture to Ireland, another of the top facts about the Vikings in Ireland.

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 of the top facts about the Vikings in Ireland is that the Vikings had 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.’

READ MORE: The Vikings left a huge legacy in Ireland. For example, read IB4UD’s article on the top 10 Irish surnames that are actually Viking

4. The Vikings created Irish currency

The first Irish currency was created by the Vikings, the Hiberno-Norse.

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

The Vikings built the Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland's most famous church.

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

Viking ancestry is far more common than people may think. Many surnames come from the Norse.

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

The Vikings brought rabbits to Ireland due to being easy sources of food as well as reproducing frequently.

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!

Your questions answered about the Vikings in Ireland

Still have some questions? Then you are in the right place! Below, we have outlined the most frequently asked questions from our readers and online about the Vikings in Ireland.

What are some interesting facts about the Vikings in Ireland?

In the tenth century, the Vikings established the towns of Waterford, Dublin, Limerick and Wexford, and they also minted Ireland’s first coins.

What did the Vikings do in Ireland?

Furthermore, the Vikings also established trade routes from Ireland. They also conducted lots of raids in Ireland, starting off by attacking coastal monasteries then going inland.

What were Irish Vikings called?

The Irish Vikings were known as “Norsemen” or “Norse Gaels”.

Did Vikings raid Ireland?

Yes. The Vikings raided Ireland frequently. They first started to take place in 795 AD, later appearing on major river systems and establishing more fortified bases.

NEXT: Read about how a 1000-year-old Viking house was preserved under an Irish supermarket

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