Scotlands History

Vikings

The Vikings were Norsemen who came to raid and pillage, to trade and to settle in Scotland.

They were expert sailors who made their way across the treacherous North Sea in longships from Norway and Denmark from the late 8th century. The Vikings sailed as far west as Greenland and North America.

The pagan Vikings raided Christian monasteries in search of gold and silver, food and slaves. Monks wrote in horror of their attacks – seeing dreadful omens in the sky.

In this year terrible portents appeared over Northumbria and sadly affrightened the inhabitants: there were exceptional flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine followed soon upon these signs, and a little after that in the same year on the ides of June the harrying of the heathen miserably destroyed God's church in Lindisfarne by rapine and slaughter.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, AD 793

The Norse began to settle in Scotland and gradually merged with the local people. In the west of Scotland, in the Hebrides, the locals and the Norse became known as the Gall-Gael. Orkney and Shetland and the north of Scotland were dominated by the Norse for hundreds of years.

Before the Vikings came as raiders their ancestors were probably traders who visited Scotland. The Vikings love of battle was matched by their love of feasting and epic poetry. Their gods and goddesses included Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya and Skadi.

  • Image of a Viking helmet on sheepskin
  • Image of Viking shields

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