Say what you will about Britain, but it’s safe to say that the British Isles have some of the most interesting historical backstories in the entire world.
I’ve been interested in British history for as long as I can remember, and while many people tend to focus on the history of the British monarchy, I personally have found myself drawn into the world of Vikings in the UK.
Vikings have always fascinated me, and I’m also a keen fan of the hit TV series, which is why I wanted to talk about Vikings in Britain in today’s post.
As you know, travel is my forte, and you’ll likely know that Vikings themselves were keen travellers, as they would often travel to the UK on raids, murdering, raping, pillaging, and ransacking villages along the way. So I thought, why not combine travel with Vikings and learn some historical facts about Vikings and their time in Britain?
Here’s a look at what I consider to be 7 interesting facts about Viking Britain.
Vikings first invaded the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
The year was 793, and this year is etched in British history because it was the year in which the first recorded Viking invasion of the UK took place.
If you’re familiar with my posts, you’ll know that I’ve mentioned Northumberland a few times, particularly the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
Lindisfarne is now home to ancient monastery ruins and is also a very popular tourist attraction. You can only access it when the tide is out, which I think really adds to its appeal.
It turns out, though, that when the Vikings first invaded Britain, they were in no mood for sightseeing. Lindisfarne was the first place they invaded, whereby they destroyed God’s Church on the island, stole valuables, killed the monks, and took prisoners back home to Scandinavia with them to be slaves.
The East coast of England was often a target
Because of the fact that their first raid on England had been so successful, and because they had been met with such little resistance, the Vikings would visit the UK again and again.
Regular raids across the east coast were not uncommon, and monasteries and churches were often the targets. This is largely due to the fact that they were home to so many treasures and valuables in the form of gold and silver.
Chalices, bowls, crucifixes, and plates were often made of gold and/or silver, and because the monks at the monasteries were so peaceful, they put up very little fight at all.
They would sail across the North Sea, carry out their raids, hop back on their ships, and sail home before anybody knew what was happening.
Vikings began to settle down in Britain
As the months and years passed by, the Vikings seemingly grew bored of travelling to the UK from Scandinavia. After all, I get bored having to travel more than half an hour in the car, so who knows how bored the Vikings must have been at sea while on their way to cause carnage. Because of this, they began to stay in the UK.
The Vikings set up winter camps, initially near to the coast, which meant that nowhere in the UK was safe. They could now raid villages, towns, and cities further inland, mainly in the north and the east.
Vikings in York were largely peaceful
York is one of my favourite cities, not just in the UK, but in the whole wide world.
If you’ve ever been to York, you’ll know that it has a rich and bloody history associated with Vikings, and the Jorvik Centre is actually one of the main attractions.
The first Viking invasion of York took place in the year 866AD.
The Vikings sailed their intimidating longboats up the river Ouse, and, led by the fearsome Ivar the Boneless before settling down and making the city their own.
Ivar the Boneless and King Halfden renamed the city ‘Jorvik’ and despite what TV shows may have us believe, the Vikings were actually fairly peaceful. Once they invaded, they established settlements, farmed the countryside, and became traders and craftsmen.
York was under Viking rule for longer than one century, yet it didn’t fall or burn, instead, it prospered hugely. In fact, over the years, York developed an Anglo-Scandinavian culture, and despite worshipping Gods from Norse mythology, a lot of Vikings became Christians and married locals.
Ragnar Lothbrok and York
If you’re familiar with the TV show ‘Vikings’ you’ll certainly have heard of Ragnar Lothbrok.
He was indeed apparently a real Viking and the story goes that Ragnar, along with Harold Hardrada and Erik Bloodaxe, never managed to leave York after they had invaded.
After sailing upriver, Ragnar became shipwrecked not far from the city, where he was captured by King Aella of Northumberland. Now, after countless Viking raids, the King was in no mood for any nonsense and so when Ragnar didn’t cooperate, the king had him thrown into a pit of snakes.
Many historians believe this to be a myth, though, as others believe that he simply perished at sea in bad weather.
Personally, I’m going with the snake theory, though, just because it sounds cooler.
Vikings weren’t the best parents or guardians
This next fact is pretty brutal, but so too were the Vikings, as you are about to find out.
The Vikings were fierce warriors and they were all about being big, strong, powerful, and good fighters. They would train their children to fight from a young age, but only if they were fit and healthy.
If a Viking child was sickly, rather than caring for the child and nurturing it, the Vikings would instead brutally abandon it.
They would either take the child out into the wilderness and abandon it and leave it to fend for itself, or they would throw it into the sea.
Vikings never wore horned helmets
One of the most distinguishing features of a Viking is the horns found on his or her helmet as they engage in battle, right? Except that it isn’t.
Historians in the UK have found that, actually, Vikings never actually wore horned helmets at all. Christians located across the UK and Europe embellished the truth and told other people that they did.
This was likely to make the Vikings seem even more barbaric and Pagan, as the horns could represent the horns found on Satan’s head.
Did you find these facts interesting? If you know more about the fascinating Vikings, tell us below!
Until next time stay safe, stay curious and don’t stop wandering!