The History Of The Norse Settlements In Ireland During The Viking Age

During the late 8th century, the Norsemen commenced to set sail from Britain to Ireland and starting from the mid 9th century they built significant settlements which will later expand into present-day Dublin, Limerick, or Cork.

At first, their incursions into the British Isles consisted of raiding and plundering Catholic monasteries and transporting the loot back to native Scandinavia. They would also take slaves from among the indigenous Gaelic-speaking population. It seems that the Viking raiders who pillaged the eastern coastline of Ireland were initially of Norwegian descent. Subsequently, they were followed by other organized groups of Danish Vikings.

Along with the passing of time, some of the Norwegian Vikings who attacked the Catholic abbeys decided to settle down in Ireland and they eventually constructed settlements in the areas of contemporary Dublin (Dyflin), Limerick (Hlymrekr), Cork, Wexford, Waterford (Veðrafjǫrðr), Carlingford, Strangford, Lough Foyle, Annagassan, Arklow, Youghal, and Lough Ree.

Reconstruction of the early Scandinavian settlement of Dublin. Image source: www.olddublintown.com

As the 9th century progressed, the Norwegian Vikings (known in Irish as ‘Fingall’) were followed by the Danish Vikings (known as ‘Dubhgall’) and thanks to the navigational technology of their dragon carved longships — known as ‘drakkars’ — they sailed quickly and easily through the channels and rivers of Ireland after they crossed the Irish sea. Consequently, The Norsemen established an early settlement of Dublin in 841, the one in Cork in ca. 846, and Waterford in 850. The latter was re-founded by the Norsemen at the round of the 10th century.

Since the establishment of their first settlements on Irish soil up to the early 11th century, the Norsemen gradually seized power in Ireland and became quite influent to the point where the natives themselves would forge military alliances with them in order to compete for the hegemonic power over the control of the whole island.

So it was that from the 9th to the 11th century, early medieval Ireland had been marked by relentless skirmishes between various Irish-Norse factions that would battle each other and control sparse portions of the petty kingdoms scattered all along the island for a brief period of time.

As the 10th century came to an end, the Vikings were reduced to a minor power in Ireland, being ultimately driven away in large numbers after the Battle of Clontarf, which took place in 1014 near what is now Dublin. The remaining Norse settlers assimilated in the Irish culture and continued to be merchants, seamen, and fishermen.

Below you can watch a short documentary film on the Norse presence in Ireland made by AppleBox Media for Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.

Documentation sources and external links:


5 Responses to The History Of The Norse Settlements In Ireland During The Viking Age

  1. Espen Johnsen says:

    Celts (haplogroup) R1b used Drakkar before sails was known in Scandinavia. Celts travelled amass to Norway and some to Iceland already from around year 500 and became the people in modern times identified as Norse. The later “Norse” settlements in Ireland the so called proto Norwegian haplogroups does not exist or only in small percentages so it seems like the “Norse” refereed to in the article consisted of people with the same haplogroups as the people they settled in with, it’s just that they came back with centuries apart. That is why it is so few with “Norwegian” haplogroups left in Ireland, Normandy, Sicily and other places the Norse pretty much settled.

    https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/4500-year-old-boat-galway-viking-discovered

    • Kevin Dirmann says:

      I’m haplogroup R1. You know anything about that? My overall DNA has me showing Finnish, Swedish, Scottish and Irish ancestry. She was born in Ireland. Given her family name, it was pretty easy to connect the dots. I’m descended from Vikings who settled in The Hebrides, eventually mixed with mainland Scotts, became Gallowglass warriors (my gma’s family name is a well documented Gallowglass family), and after Scotland lost its war for independence, they settled in Ireland.

      • There are two assertions in this article that I would like to address. The first one is the prevailing assertion of “dubgaels” referring to Danish Norse and “fingaels” to Norwegian Norse. I have addressed this before but here I go again. —— As it is doubtful that even the Danish Norse identified themselves as Danish, though they may have in the later half of the Viking era, the Norwegian Norse certainly did not – DID NOT. Norway was split into many smallish kingdoms and people identified with these. The fact that both Danish and Norwegian Norse spoke “the Danish language (i.e. almost Icelandic by today’s languages), that did not help them to identify as a group. They fought each other allied to the various Irish and Scottish factions that were the rage in the area at the time. Dub-Gael more likely refers to the Norse living and fighting with the Dublin based Norse. In a rivalry at the height of Norse Dublin, the opposition was led by Aud Fin…. of North Uist. It is likely that the Norse fighting as allied forces with Aud were referred to as Fin-Gaels. ——— The second assertion is that the Norse gradually disappeared into the Gaelic majority and lost their “Norse language and Loveland-identity”. Yes no question, many did, especially those who were not leaders of lands in the area. They married into Gaelic families and during Brian Boru’s ethnic cleansing of Norse speakers they would have dropped their former identity as fast as a hot potato. The leaders however could not do that. Their identity was known and even if they were largely Gaelic by DNA they were not known as such. A lot of those found their way to Iceland and are ancestors to the Icelandic indigenous population. Refer Icelandic Clan-books.

      • This comment is relevant, even if you detect that I have said this before. There are two assertions in this article that I would like to address. The first one is the prevailing assertion of “dubgaels” referring to Danish Norse and “fingaels” to Norwegian Norse. I have addressed this before but here I go again. —— As it is doubtful that even the Danish Norse identified themselves as Danish, though they may have in the later half of the Viking era, the Norwegian Norse certainly did not – DID NOT. Norway was split into many smallish kingdoms and people identified with these. The fact that both Danish and Norwegian Norse spoke “the Danish language (i.e. almost Icelandic by today’s languages), that did not help them to identify as a group. They fought each other allied to the various Irish and Scottish factions that were the rage in the area at the time. Dub-Gael more likely refers to the Norse living and fighting with the Dublin based Norse. In a rivalry at the height of Norse Dublin, the opposition was led by Aud Fin…. of North Uist. It is likely that the Norse fighting as allied forces with Aud were referred to as Fin-Gaels. ——— The second assertion is that the Norse gradually disappeared into the Gaelic majority and lost their “Norse language and Loveland-identity”. Yes no question, many did, especially those who were not leaders of lands in the area. They married into Gaelic families and during Brian Boru’s ethnic cleansing of Norse speakers they would have dropped their former identity as fast as a hot potato. The leaders however could not do that. Their identity was known and even if they were largely Gaelic by DNA they were not known as such. A lot of those found their way to Iceland and are ancestors to the Icelandic indigenous population. Refer Icelandic Clan-books.

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