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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Viking Shetland Islands

The Shetland Islands, off the north coast of Scotland, have a long Viking history and heritage.

Viking Shetland Islands, Scotland

The Shetland Islands were ruled by the Vikings for over 500 years, and many locals claim descent from Scandinavian raiders.

In fact, the Shetland Islands are closer to Norway than the Scottish capital of Edinburgh and did not become part of Scotland until the 15th century.

Viking Longhouse, Shetland Islands, Scotland

The Vikings colonised the Shetland Islands in the 8th and 9th centuries with the Norwegian king Harald Fair Hair taking over the Orkney and Shetland Islands in 875. The local Picts were both absorbed and annihilated by the Scandinavian invaders.

The northern islands were used as a base for raids on the British mainland to the south. The Shetlands Islands did not become Christian until as late as the 10th century and became part of Scotland in 1469 when they were mortgaged to Scotland as part of the dowry payment from Christian I of Norway to James III of Scotland, when his daughter Margaret married the Scottish monarch.

Viking Shetland Islands

The faithfully reconstructed Viking longhouse at Brookpoint is based on excavations carried out on Unst, with the timber for the building shipped from the Scottish mainland and assembled using traditional methods by local artisans.

Skidbladner Viking Ship

The adjacent Skidbladner is a full size replica of the Gokstad, a 24m-long, 5m-wide ship discovered in a Viking burial mound in Vestfold, Norway in 1880. This too was built using Scottish oak and assembled using traditional methods.

Viking Shetland Islands

Both the Skidbladner and the Viking longhouse can be entered and are the focus of various Viking-related events in the summer months. Unst is the northernmost part of the British Isles and has around 50 sites of Viking longhouses.

Viking Shetland Islands

The annual Up Helly Aa fire festival in Lerwick celebrates the Shetland Islands' Norse heritage and culminates with the ritual burning of a replica Viking ship on the last Tuesday in January. The dramatic event draws visitors from around the world.

Further information on the Viking heritage of the Shetland Islands can be found at www.shetlandamenity.org and www.uphellyaa.org.

Viking Shetland Islands

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