Vikings were fearsome warriors that came from Scandinavia. That is an area at the very north of Europe, and includes the countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. They were also extremely skilled seafarers and went on long sea voyages very far away from their northern homes. They travelled to Britain, mainland Europe, and even as far as Iceland and Greenland. Of course, they also came to Ireland and, as everyone knows, they had a big influence on Irish life.
The first Norsemen arrived in Ireland in 795, when they raided and burned a church on Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin. They raided hundreds of Irish monasteries because they were very wealthy. They had plenty of silver, gold and lots of livestock that they could kill for food.
Most of the Norse raids took place along the coast or rivers. They soon became famous among the Irish for their skills at sea and their incredible ships. The Norsemen had their own types of ships and boats that had never been seen in Ireland before. These ships had big square sails and a great band of men to work the oars and take them across the rough seas. They were the best built ships in Europe at the time. Eventually, the Irish would learn their great ship-building skills.
The Norsemen had lots of different types of boats. A trading boast was called a knorr, and a war ship was called a longship. The Norsemen were extremely proud of their longships. They were very fast and could navigate through shallow waters and narrow rivers. Some longships could even carry up to 100 men!
Each of these ships had a fearsome dragon-head or serpent-head carved onto the prow (front of the ship). These dragonheads let the people know just how strong and fearless the warriors were. They also believed that this would scare off all of the sea-monsters and evil spirits.
Soon the Vikings began to settle in Ireland as the winters weren’t nearly as cold and harsh as in their homes in the north. Some of Ireland’s major towns and cities were established by the Vikings e.g. Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Wicklow and Cork. As they settled into life in Ireland , they passed on their seafaring skills to Irish sailors. The Irish then started to build better ships. This meant that they could travel further on the seas and start trading with more distant places.