The Last Viking Returns

A Visit to Ireland, Favourite Holiday Resort of the Vikings.


A Visit to Ireland, Favourite Holiday Resort of the Vikings.

The Vikings, or Ostmen as they called themselves, ruled Dublin for almost three centuries, though they were defeated and expelled by the Irish High King Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.  The last Norse King of Dublin, Hasculf Thorgillsson, tried recapture the city with a Scottish / Norse army, but the reconquest failed and Thorgillsson was killed.

Evidence of the Viking rule lasted a long time, especially the Thingmote, a huge mound near Dublin Castle. It was the site where the Norsemen assembled and made their laws and held courts, though it was flattened years later in 1685. Viking Dublin also had a large slave market where slaves or Thralls, as they called them, were sold by the Norse and the Irish chiefs.

I have decided that as soon as I retire, or The Last Viking becomes an overwhelming, out-of-control  bestseller, whichever comes first, I am out of here and off to Viking Ireland to live. Last time I visited I came across a castle-like fortress that I fancy. It is a derelict Church of the Knights Templar dating from 1187 and sits on the edge of small cliff overlooking the Irish Sea. Although it needs a little work; it has no doors, windows, running water, electricity, kitchen, bathroom, toilet, floorboards or roof, and unfortunately, there are  a large bunch of  dead folks buried in the front lawn, it does have plenty of character and would just suit me as a bolthole from the madding crowd. (You can tell I had just been to visit Thomas Hardy’s house.) I can just imagine myself on up on the battlements of my private castle-ette spitting in ze general direction and pouring boiling oil down on any children’s book critics who come to visit … and firing arrows of scorn at them.

And speaking of arrows, while we were in St Davids in Southern Wales, Jan and I both had plenty of practice at a medieval fair with original yew longbows, as you would have found at Agincourt or Crecy, or any Robin Hood movie, so if any nobles, knights, peasants or librarians attack my castle in their multitudes, we could rain down on their number arrows from a great height, causing great anguish and misery and a gnashing of teeth.

My castle is located not that far from a small village with more pubs than houses and not that far from the other 10,999 pubs dotted across the Emerald Isle. And although there are no cinemas, bookshops, restaurants, Bunnings or shoe stores located nearby, it has other compensations. Other than the scenery, Jan can’t actually think of any – but I’m working on her.

Like all tourists arriving in Dublin, after we had been to see the statue of the hugely busted Molly Malone, the Tart with the Cart or the Trollop with the Scollops as the locals lovingly and cleverly call her, we went immediately to Temple Bar, a cobblestone street and site of more pubs per square inch that anywhere in the world, and what a great place it turned out to be too. Smoking has recently been banned in pubs, so all the patrons spill out into the streets to puff away and socialise while doing that. The folks in the streets seemed to be having more fun than those inside, not that the others seem too upset by it.

We lined up to see the famous medieval Book of Kells and the even more famous Long Room Library at Trinity College, as well as several tourist traps, like the Guinness Brewery, where the tour of the old factory was underwhelming and the ‘free Guinness’ (included in the price of the crappy tour) was the worst tasting pint in all Ireland. And we did a have a good few to compare. It sort of reminded me of the Cadbury factory in Hobart. The idea sounds fantastic; the reality was a hot, dull, one-way passage where you are herded past a load of big green machines that made a lot of noise and regurgitated out chocolates at one end like the chicken pie machine in Chicken Run. They gave you plenty of freebies but as it was so hot you either had to eat them there and then, or watch them melt through your fingers. After half an hour, when you are dying of thirst, you are bored rigid, the air stinks of something sweet and fermenting and you still have another hour to go with no escape, chocolate turns very unappetising – and remember this is me talking here, a seriously addicted  sweetaholic.

Anyway, back in Guinness, after watching a lot of black coloured water swirl about, we climb seven scary staircases of industrial age ironwork to the crowded, glass walled Gravity Bar, hundreds of metres above Dublin, where you would think you had earned a decent pint. Pity they didn’t think so as well. The Guinness in the factory is not half as good as that in every village pub across the country. The view from the  Gravity Bar , however, was great, even if it didn’t include an invasion fleet of Viking Longships on the horizon.


Author: normanjorgensen

I'm an Australian writer of books for kids and teenagers. I like traveling and seeing the world, especially through the the lens of my camera. I'm addicted to old movies, red wine and books and decent music.

7 thoughts on “A Visit to Ireland, Favourite Holiday Resort of the Vikings.

  1. So the Vikings invaded Ireland… you realise what this means, don’t you Norm? Norman Jorgensen, James Foley- for centuries your people raided and pillaged my people! Hundreds of years later we’ve made a book about Vikings together. It will have to be something Irish next- Little Paddy, The Last Brewer.

  2. Very funny,James. I was thinking more along the lines of Little Shaun O’Tan, the Last Illustrator. It’s about an Irish boy who calls on the Celtic Gods to help him win every award in the entire world. Then, keeping with the bullying theme, all the other writers and illustrators beat him up out of jealousy. ( And steal his Oscar and bury it at the end of the rainbow.)
    🙂 N

  3. Sorry Norm, I’d be on Shaun O’Tan’s side there- he’s worked very hard to get to where he is and deserves every award the world can give him.

    Back to the Irish ancestors- I was reminded of the meaning of my surname today. Perhaps I’m also descended from Vikings… this, from Wikipedia:

    “Foley is a surname, originating in Ireland in the south east Munster region. The name is derived from the original modern Irish Ó Foghlú and older Irish Ó Foghladha, with the original meaning of plunderers. The name Foley has a loose meaning in Anglo-Saxon as ‘Pirate’ or ‘Marauder’.”

    • Hey James,

      No one needs that many awards, unless it is us. I was hoping you would hold Shaun while I tied him to a tree, then we’ll smash up his skatebaord and throw him in the mud.

      As you sure you want to be related to me? I’d stop all that Anglo-Saxon research now if I was you. :-)N

  4. I’m new to your site, so maybe it’s detailed elsewhere, but at the end of your delightful article, you have a picture of a gorgeous tapestry, and I was wondering where it’s from (which museum?) and what you could tell me about it, please?
    Thank you.

    • Hello Hummingbird,
      It is part of the very long Bayeux Tapestry commissioned by William the Conquerer in 1066, and hangs in Bayeux Abbey in Northern France. It is essentially a graphic novel and tells of the invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings. I heard recently it is to be exhibited in England this year for the very first time in a 1000 years. I think it is fabulous. The abbey has a good website telling all about it.
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      Regards, Norman

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