Ireland was influenced by Scandinavia long before Ikea built their massive shop in north Dublin. The first wave of Scandinavian invaders were rather different, however. Sure, they brought some interesting fashions and built a lot, but their ventures didn’t pull in bored families with a bit of dosh to spend.
The Vikings were a pretty intense lot. Even if time travel were an option, going back to their early days in Ireland probably would not be many people’s first choice of how to learn about them. But their impact on this island was massive. Their eventual assimilation into Irish society and the way the society also evolved from their influence are fascinating topics. From the enduring popularity of their horned helmets to the thrill of finding a buried hoard of Viking treasure while out ploughing, Viking heritage is still strong in Ireland. So how and where can a visitor today get up close and personal with the Vikings in Ireland?
Viking treasures and artefacts have been found all over Ireland. The evidence suggests that they did tour around the place, which is no surprise. If the Vikings were homebodies, they never would have landed on these shores. But they tended to settle along the east coast, and that is where they’ve left the most trace of their lives. So if you’re looking to embrace the Viking aspect of Ireland, you can learn a lot in a few counties on the Irish Sea.
On the Viking Trail: Dublin, Waterford and Wexford
Dublin began as a Viking settlement. Today you can see tourists by the dozen sporting wool or plastic hats with Viking horns. But there is much more. If you really want to get a grip on the Vikings, Dublin is the place to start. Dublinia is a museum near Christchurch, the heart of the old Viking settlement where visitors can have a hands-on visit to the past. Try on some Viking fashions beyond the standard headwear and drop by a Viking home to hear some poetry. It’s a great way for people of all ages to get some insight into life as a Viking. The National Museum of Ireland also has a lot of information on Vikings as well as occasional children’s activities. Their Viking gallery displays silver and gold jewelry, coins, and even a board game from hoards found around Ireland.
In Wexford, you can really get into the spirit of Viking life. Specifically, you can get into a Viking house and boat at the National Heritage Park just outside Wexford City. Wexford is actually a Viking name. Is it really a coincidence that this city boasts Ireland’s premier opera festival?
Just down the coast Waterford also takes its name from Norse. Its Viking heritage is in the air of the ancient streets. If that is a bit vague for your tastes, you can pop by Reginald’s Tower, Ireland’s oldest civic building. Who knew the Vikings had civic buildings? We don’t tend to think of their bureaucratic side. In the nearby Medieval Museum, you can see one of the most famous pieces of Viking jewelry in Ireland, the Waterford Kite Brooch.