Step back into the firey beginnings of Scottish history
It is often forgotten that the Vikings used to reign parts of Scotland.
Since 1980, Largs has held an annual reminder in their Largs Viking Festival. The celebrations mark the last mainland battle between the Scots and Norse – The Battle of Largs.
Since the 12th century, the Norwegians ruled the Hebrides and Western Seaboard of Scotland. The Scots wanted the area for themselves, so they attacked the Norse villages, murdering residents in brutal armed raids. The King of Norway, Haakon Haakonarson, was ready to fight back.
The Last Battle
Haakon anchored a massive Viking fleet off the Isle of Arran in 1263. Reports indicate that there were 120 ships carrying 20,000 men.
King Alexander III of Scotland was a canny sort, however, and waited for the Scottish weather to disrupt them. Several longships were beached by the turbulent weather, so Haakon took to the shore the next morning with 1,000 men to salvage their cargo. At this moment, the Scots struck. The Battle of Largs eventually ended in stalemate after an intermittent shooting match.
King Haakon planned to return to fight the next year, after he travelled to Orkney for the winter. He died in December, however, leaving his son Magnus the Lawmender to make the decision.
Magnus had no desire to continue the fight, he gave up the Hebrides and Isle of Man to Scotland. In return, he received 4,000 marks in silver and an annual payment under the Treaty of Perth. Scotland also accepted Norwegian rule over Shetland and Orkney.
Celebrating Largs’ Viking Victory
If the outcome of the Battle had been different, it could well be a different Scotland we’re living in now.
For this reason, Largs Viking Festival commemorates the event with 8 days of celebrations. The town itself has Viking street names – Haco Street is named after King Haakon, and Danefield Avenue was coined after the Viking language. There is even a Viking statue outside the Main Street chippie.
The main attraction of the town, which is open during the festival, is the Vikingar! exhibit. Here, visitors can learn how the Vikings once lived with interactive exhibits.
If that’s not enough, there’s a Viking Village open from 11am every day, hosted by the re-enactment group Sword of Dalriada for a first-hand, authentic experience.
Viking Festival 2018
This year the festival runs from September 1 – 9, and highlights include owl handling, pipe bands, country dancing and a jazz orchestra. There’s a Bavarian Beer and Bratwurst evening on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, complete with live entertainment. And, on the same day, the annual Haakon Haakonarson lecture will focus on women in early Viking Scotland.
The last weekend boasts the Viking Festival of Fire – a torchlit parade which begins at the Viking Village. It includes fire dancing, the burning of a longboat and a spectacular firework display. Reely Jiggered, the Scottish folk rock band, will perform on Sunday, August 9. And, Red Devils Freefall Team will wow crowds.
Scottish food and craft fayres, along with a global market, will be open on the town’s promenade all week. All events are free, apart from a small entry fee for the Viking Village.