It’s believed that the first Vikings in Ireland arrived on Irish shores around the late 8th century and repeatedly invaded the Irish coastline from the 9th to the 11th century.
After landing on the Emerald Isle, the Vikings – who named themselves the “black foreigners”, a term which evolved into “black Irish” – terrorized the Irish people with raids on towns and monasteries from the 9th to 11th-century.
However, they also had an undeniable and significant role in shaping and influencing many of Ireland’s largest cities which, still to this day, have strong links and ties to the Vikings.
In this article, we will list what we believe are the top five places that were raided by Vikings in Ireland.
5. Glendalough, Wicklow – one of Ireland’s most ancient monastic sites
Glendalough is an ancient monastic site that is located in the stunning Wicklow National Park. The monastery became a target for a widescale Viking invasion in the 9th century as the Vikings raided the monastic city in the hopes of finding valuable relics.
While this Viking raid resulted in the destruction of many sites on the monastery, Glendalough as a whole survived and continued to remain one of Ireland’s most important ancient monastic sites.
Glendalough is still a popular tourist attraction to this day and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
4. Ferns, Wexford – the once capital of Leinster
At one time in history, Ferns in Wexford was considered to be the capital of the province of Leinster. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Vikings in Ireland decided to raid and occupy the historic town and the surrounding areas during the 9th and 10th century.
As part of their raid in Ferns, the town’s monastic site was targeted. The ruins of Ferns Castle and St. Mary’s Abbey still stand to this day as a reminder of the effects of the raid.
3. Dunmore Cave, Kilkenny – the scene of a terrible massacre
The County of Kilkenny has had many interactions with the Vikings throughout its history, but one moment stands head and shoulders above any other for terrible reasons.
After a Viking raid in the Dunmore area around 928 AD, many Irish people retreated to Dunmore Cave in an attempt to get to safety and avoid the brutality of the oncoming Vikings. Unfortunately, the Vikings found them and are said to have massacred over 1,000 people in the cave. In 1999, historians and archaeologists found the bones of the slaughtered alongside many Viking treasures hidden within the cave.
Dunmore Cave can still be visited this day and, knowing its history, it can be an eerie place to experience.
2. Rathlin Island, Antrim – the first location to be invaded by Vikings in Ireland
Rathlin Island in County Antrim is commonly believed to have been the first location in Ireland that was invaded by Vikings in the late 8th century.
During the Viking raid, Rathlin Monastery was destroyed. It was but the first of many monastic sites targeted by the Vikings, as they went on to raid the Inishmurray and Inishbofin Islands.
Rathlin Island is also famous for being the only known site in Ireland outside of Dublin to contain their own Viking cemetery.
1. Waterford – Ireland’s oldest city
The city of Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city and was founded by the Vikings in 914 AD. In particular, the Viking Triangle area in Waterford City is an area of great historical importance. It is still surrounded by old Viking walls.
One of the main attractions to this day in Waterford’s Viking Triangle is Reginald’s Tower, the only landmark in Ireland to have actually been named in honour of a Viking.
Reginald’s Tower now stands as a museum that is home to ancient Irish Viking treasures. Outside it stands a replica of the traditional Viking longboat that was used by Vikings in Ireland.
If you want to learn a bit more about this, check out the Vikings Tour Ireland from our list of the ten best river cruises in Ireland.
That concludes our list of what we believe were the top five places that were raided by Vikings in Ireland. Are there any other places that have been shaped and influenced by Viking raids in Ireland that you think should have been added to this list?
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