England and the far NORTH, otherwise know as Scotland

Viking Expansion Into Scotland

 

image.jpg

The earliest Viking activity in Scotland was the attack on the monastery of Colmcille on the island of Iona in 795. Just two years after the raid on Lindisfarne. Over the next 50 years the raids continued unabated around the western coasts. 

 

Loch Houren leading to the Isle of Skye

Loch Houren leading to the Isle of Skye

By the mid-9th century the emphasis on raiding turned to settlement. By 900 AD settlers, mostly Norwegians, were well established in the islands and along the western and northern coasts from Galloway to the Moray Firth. In Orkneys and the Shetlands the native Celts were completely overwhelmed by the newcomers. In the Hebrides and the south west they were soon intermarrying with the Norse producing a hybrid people known to the Irish as the Gall-Gaedhil ("foreign Gael"), from which Galloway gets its names. Resulting influence on the Norse from the Celts was the adopting of Christianity before 900 AD.

         "They plundered the Hebrides, reaching the Barra Isles, where a king called Kjarval ruled .... There was a fierce battle ....  After many had fallen on both sides, the battle ended with the king taking flight with a single ship ..."   -Grettir's Saga

 

Guests from Overseas. Nicholas Roerich. 1901

Guests from Overseas. Nicholas Roerich. 1901

The most important effect that the Vikings had on Scotland during the 8th and 9th century's was the brake up of the existing power structure. In 800 Scotland was devided into four ethnic groups: the Picts of the Highlands, the Scots of Dalriada, the Britons of Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons of Nortumbria. All four suffered from Viking attacks, but the Scots seem to have been weakened less then there counterparts. Taking advantage of this and turning circumstances to their advantage, they overran the Picts in 844, the Strathclyde Britons in the 920s and the Lothian in 973, to create the kingdom of Scotland. 

 

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

Norse contacts with Scotland certainly predate the first written records in the 8th century, although their nature and frequency are unknown.  Excavations at Norwick on the island of Unst in Shetland indicate that Scandinavian settlers had reached there, perhaps as early as the mid 7th century, consistent with dates produced for Viking levels at Old Scatness so the Scandinavian influences in Scotland and Britian it self have been impacting the area for centurys.

Today the Norse influence remains mainly in place names. In Orkneys, Shetland, and Caithness, almost  all placenames are of Scandinavian character. Scandinavian placenames are also evident in the Isle of Man, Cumbria, Yorkshire and the East Midlands in East Anglia, the Hebrides and Galloway. 

Wooden boat building is still very prominent in Scotland. FIfe, Glasgow, Wick and Edinburgh are still very active in the trade. The double ended and clinker built design of the Viking age ships are still very common and can be seen throughout the northern coasts and outer islands. The influence of the Norse exspantion in Scotland and Britain remain a common to this day, further expressing the importance of there endeavors.

 

A medieval map of Britain from the manuscript of the Abbreviatio Chronicorum of Matthew Paris, dating from the 1250s.

A medieval map of Britain from the manuscript of the Abbreviatio Chronicorum of Matthew Paris, dating from the 1250s.

Map of the Viking exspantion in Britain

Map of the Viking exspantion in Britain

Isle of Skye with sheep. (Sheep are not Vikings) 

Isle of Skye with sheep. (Sheep are not Vikings)