Centuries ago, the Vikings left their mark on Ireland. Dublin and Waterford particularly can boast of fascinating evidence of the influence of the Vikings who arrived in the 8th century. They began as invaders, but as fierce as they were, even the Vikings could not withstand the charm of the Irish. So they settled in and integrated, bringing some of their ways and adapting to local norms at the same time. They had a great influence on the motifs used in early Irish design.
In July 2012, more Vikings arrived in Ireland. They invaded County Wicklow, but mercifully they were far more civil than the first wave of Vikings. These came not from Scandinavia but from Hollywood. Sure they created some mayhem and intrigue, but it was all for the small screen. Now the popular History Channel show Vikings is preparing its sixth and final season.
The series’ plot followed the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok, a character based on and named for a real Viking. In the show, Ragnar is a farmer who follows his dream of invading and pillaging foreign shores. He is, of course, a ferocious warrior and the show features epic, vicious battles. Website IMDB gives the show a ‘severe’ rating for its ‘violence and gore’ and ‘frightening and disturbing scenes’ and a ‘moderate’ rating for ‘sex and nudity’. (US versions of the show were censored.) But amid all that was far more gentle star, quietly stealing scenes. County Wicklow, known as the garden of Ireland, was the location for many scenes.
Vikings in County Wicklow
The serene beauty of Wicklow doesn’t really call to mind plunder and mortal combat, but in real life and in the show, it did experience its share of Viking violence. Just south of Dublin, Wicklow is famous for its beautiful gardens and rolling, forested hills. The ruined monastery of Glendalough and the manicured grounds of Powerscourt Estate have long drawn visitors from all over the world. But now the popular television drama has inspired people to seek out more of wonderful Wicklow.
Loch Tay, also known as Guinness Lake, is one of the main locations for Vikings. It doubles as Kattegat, but it is private property. You can’t just drop by for a visit, but you can find organized tours that include it. It’s much easier to visit Powerscourt Waterfall on the Powerscourt Estate at the edge of the very charming village of Enniskerry. The manmade but still lovely Blessington Lakes also star in Vikings. Many a longboat has sailed on those shores, as well as many more mundane boats. It’s a very popular spot for Irish families to visit. During summer, the wildest crowd you are likely to encounter is small children enjoying the school break and hoping for a chance to pillage an ice cream van, but if you are lucky enough to get there before they finish filming the final season, you could bump into some of the Vikings cast members.
It wasn’t only the delightful scenery that attracted the show’s producers. Wicklow is also home to Ashford Studios. Less than an hour outside of Dublin, this state of the art production company has mountains, forests, beaches and iconic rolling green fields on its doorstep. That makes it an appealing place for Vikings and many others.