Viking Logo
Articles on Vikings in Irish Journals
Athlunkard (Ath-an-Longphort): A Reassessment of the Proposed Viking Fortress - The Other Clare Vol 29, 2005:
An Hiberno-Norse Ringed Pin Found in Connemara - Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Volume 57: 2005
The Longphort Phenomenon - History Ireland, Vol 12, No. 3, Autumn 2004
Vikings on the Barrow Eamonn P. Kelly and John Maas, Vikings on the Barrow in Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 9 No. 3 , (Autumn 1995).
Athlunkard, Co. Clare. Eamonn P. Kelly and Edmond O'Donovan, in Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 12 No. 4, (Winter 1998).
John Sheehan, Steffen Stummann Hansen and Donnchadh O Corráin. The Journal of Irish Archaeology Volume IX 1998

The Battle of Clontarf in Irish History and Legend, Clare Downham, in History Ireland 13.5 (September/October 2005) 19-23
Clare Downham, ‘The Viking Slave Trade’, published in History Ireland, History
Publications Limited, Dublin (May/June 2009), pp 15-17.
England and the Irish Sea Zone in the Eleventh Century, Clare Downham in Anglo-Norman Studies 26 (2003) 55-73
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Portrayals of Vikings in 'The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland', Clare Downham in Medieval Chronicle 3 (2004) 28-40
The Historical Importance of Viking-Age Waterford, Clare Downham in Journal of Celtic Studies, 4 (2004) 71-96
The Vikings in Southern Uí Néill to 1014, Clare Downham in Peritia 17-18 (2003-2004) 233-55

Athlunkard (Ath-an-Longphort):
A Reassessment of the Proposed Viking Fortress in Fairyhill Td County Clare.

Michael Gibbons in The Other Clare Vol 29, 2005: Annual Journal of the Shannon Archaeological & Historical Society

The discovery at Woodstown, Co. Waterford of a Viking river-edge settlement has injected new life into the debate on the nature of such settlements. Athlunkard, Co. Clare has been cited as a possible parallel.

The site at Athlunkard is a low lying earthwork at the confluence of the Shannon and a smaller stream with a raised oval-shaped area in the centre. The few finds at the site have been dated to the “final centuries of the first millennium AD”. It has been proposed that the site is a Viking camp or a “longphort”.

The term longphort came into use in the 840s to describe Viking sites associated with fleets. Later it was widened to include Irish camps and fortifications and lost its naval connotations. Until very recently none have been located or excavated. None of the proposed sites except Repton in Britain, which are used to support this model of Viking fortification have produced datable material which can be decisively attributed to the Vikings. Identification has usually been based on place-name evidence, political probability and the fact that the sites conform with the general concept of a D-shaped earthwork with access to shipping.

The case is not as watertight as can appear at first glance and may be seriously flawed as regards to Athlunkard. All the evidence is circumstantial and weak. There are no historical references to a base at this location. The available finds evidence points to a Viking age date but is unstratified and none of the finds is unquestionably Scandinavian. The earthwork is in a poor defensive position overlooked by high ground. By the fourteen century the term longphort meant a fortified dwelling of the Gaelic nobility. There is therefore no certainty that it refers to a Viking site.

The author advises that the D-shaped enclosure longphort types be treated with great caution until the results of work on Woodstown and on ninth century remains in Dublin is available.


Hiberno-Norse Ringed Pin from Omey Fechín, Connemara – Its historical and Cultural Setting. By Michael Gibbons and Myles Gibbons together with an analysis of the pin by Jim Higgins. (Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society Volume 57: 2005)

This kidney-ringed polyhedral headed pin was found in a coastal midden site on Omey Island. Ring headed pins originated in Ireland in the 4th and 5th century and the style was adapted by the Scandinavian population. A workshop for their manufacture was found during excavations at High Street, Dublin. These pins were then re-exported into Irish society. They worn as clothes fasteners. Omey type pins found in mid-10th to early 11th century levels in Dublin. Also have been found on native Irish secular sites such as Lagore and Knowth as well as on monastic sites. Extremely rare west of the Shannon. Only six found there, of those three, including this one, found on Omey Island.
Ecclesiastical remains on the island include early Christian monastic site, a buried medieval church, two early Christian burial sites and two midden sites. The monastery was associated with St. Fechín who has a chain of monasteries associated with him across Ireland.

The authors consider the origin of the Pin and discuss how it got to Omey. There are two possibilities: 1. Owned by people of Scandinavian origin who lived in the area or 2. Owned by a member of a native Irish group who brought it to Omey.

The authors use this to generally discuss the subject of Viking activity and settlement in the Connemara area. Connemara was raided during the early phase of Viking raids and was attacked by one of the last raids by Scandinavians in 1081. The Eyrephort Viking burial was discovered one mile away. It was suggested that there was a Viking base at Eyrephort but the author argues against this pointing out the lack of Viking placenames in the area.

The authors deals with arguments put forward in a recent article in favour of folklore and placename evidence for Viking activity in the area by Keely-Gibbons and Kelly.
(Keely-Gibbons, Erin and Kelly, Éamonn (2003), A Viking Farmstead in Connemara, Archaeology Ireland, Vol 17 No. 1 Issue 63.)

Those authors used a number of local Connemara placenames as evidence of Viking settlement. The author deals with each of these and casts doubt on each. For example Doonloughan was translated by them as “the Fort of the Lochlannaigh” or “the Fort of the Vikings”. The author points out that it is more likely that it means The Fort on the Small Lake”. The name Omey itself, with its characteristic –ey ending, has sometimes been considered of Norse origin. The authors point out that it is more likely to be derived from “Iomaidh Feichín” “The dwelling place of Feichín” who was credited with the foundation of the monastery on the island.

The authors cast doubt on local folklore evidence of Viking activity in the Connemara area. They point out that it was common in the 19th century to call all stone structures of uncertain date as Dane’s Forts. The Vikings also acquired a magical quality in Irish folklore and this might account for their presence in the oral record.

The authors consider that the Omey pins were on the island because of its status as a religious centre. They suggest that the three pins were bought elsewhere, probably in Leinster and reached the island because of its contacts with the monasteries of Leinster.

The Longphort Phenomenon in Early Christian and Viking Ireland.

Irish archaeologist Michael Gibbons, in an article in History Ireland (Vol 12, No. 3, Autumn 2004), emphasises the importance of recent discoveries of Viking artefacts at Woodstown on the banks of the river Siur near Waterford. Importance of this site lies in the fact that there is so little archaeological evidence for these sites in Ireland and England. Settlements such as these are generally described as longphuirt or longports in the present literature. Gibbons questions this description and the underlying assumption that there is a specific longport type of site.

Three Irish sites have been claimed as supposed longphuirt – Dunrally, Co. Laois, Athlunkard, Co. Clare and Anagassan, Co. Louth. These three Irish sites are D-shaped on the edge of rivers but otherwise have little in common. None has any particular connection with the Vikings except a Scandinavian presence in the area, their shape and place-name evidence.

Viking settlements at Hedeby, Germany and Arhus, Denmark also feature a D-shaped enclosure but these are more mature sites than the Irish ones. Repton winter camp of AD 873-4 near Derby, England which has been excavated, also featured a D-shaped enclosure.

Gibbons discusses the meaning of Longphort in the Viking Age arguing that the word was adapted to circumstances by those who used it. Its precise meaning varied as indeed the Viking settlements did. It did not even necessarily have any Scandinavian connotations. It could also be used to describe an inland garrison without any river or sea connection. It was also used to describe an Irish military camp.

He points out that there is as yet no diagnostic site type for a Viking longphort and suggests that a reasonable definition might be “military site of some nature, probably Viking Age or later, duration of use uncertain”. He therefore argues that it is wise not to use the term as an archaeological term.

History Ireland can be found at, E-mail:

Vikings on the Barrow
Eamonn P. Kelly and John Maas, Vikings on the Barrow in Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 9 No. 3 , (Autumn 1995).

Dunrally fort is an oval earthwork on the river Barrow in Co. Laois. It has a raised interior c. 50m across. This is enclosed by a high earthen rampart inside a wide water filled ditch and bank. In the past it was regarded as a ringfort of native construction. The authors' recent examination led them to the conclusion that this structure is the central citadel of a more massively defended structure. A huge D-shaped area is enclosed by the river Barrow and a tributary and on the other side by a ditched rampart. The whole area is 360m long and 150m wide. A pool on the river Barrow would have provided a safe anchorage for Viking ships. There was also a crossing point on the river nearby.

The tributary and the river Barrow once formed the boundaries between three small kingdoms and the Vikings may have chosen the site in order to exploit rivalries between these kingdoms.

There is an account in the Annals of the destruction of Longphort-Rothlaibh in 862 and this has been identified as Dunrally fort. It is considered that this was a longphort established by the Viking Rodolf who appears to have active in the area for about a decade. He used a base in Waterford Harbour to raid up the Barrow, Nore and Suir. His final mention in the Irish annals is the destruction of his longphort in 862. Four months later a Viking named Rodolf appeared as the leader of a group of Vikings on the river Rhine. This Rodolf was the the son of Harold, a former king of Denmark who had been expelled from Denmark in 827. Rodolf died in 873.

Athlunkard, Co. Clare.
Eamonn P. Kelly and Edmond O'Donovan, in Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 12 No. 4, (Winter 1998).

Athlunkard is in Co. Clare on the River Shannon. The placename Athlunkard refers to a ford (ath) and a defended ship encampment (longphort). The encampment referred to in the placename is represented by earthworks opposite an island in the Shannon. Iron objects dating from the final century of the first millenium, a plough coulter, a spearhead, a spearbutt and a small ring, were found on the site. A Viking silver weight was found on the opposite riverbank.

The site is D shaped, 75m long and 30m wide, enclosed by a curved rampart. It is located on low ground where a stream runs into the Shannon. Beyond the rampart is a marsh. Inside the enclosure is an oval raised area 20m by 12.5m protected by a bank and ditch.

It is believed likely that the earthworks are the remains of the Viking earthworks founded between AD 840 and 930. Lax weir, located below the island, which preserves the Norse word for salmon is evidence for Scandinavian presence in the area. The Vikings carried out a major two year campaign along the Shannon system in the mid ninth century. A Viking base was founded on Lough Ree in 845 and soon afterwards a major settlement was established at Limerick. The Athlunkard longphort may be related to this campaign.

John Sheehan, Steffen Stummann Hansen and Donnchadh O Corráin.
The Journal of Irish Archaeology Volume IX 1998

The results of O’Kelly’s excavations on Beginish Island are reassessed in the light of recent scholarship on the nature of Scandinavian and Hiberno-Scandinavian settlement in Ireland and it is proposed that there was a long-lived settlement there that functioned as a Viking-age maritime way-station.

The Battle of Clontarf in Irish History and Legend - Clare Downham

History Ireland 13.5 (September/October 2005) 19-23

The battle of Clontarf, fought on Good Friday (23 April) 1014, is one of the most famous events in Irish history. In this conflict the forces of the Munster over-king Brian Boru and his allies were pitched against the armies of north Leinster, Dublin, and viking mercenaries and allies from across the sea. The event has been popularly portrayed as a struggle between the forces of good and evil. Brian has been regarded as a national hero, a ruler who rose from relative obscurity to unite Ireland briefly under his rule. He has been seen as a paragon of Christian leadership, who struggled against all odds to rid Ireland from the perils of conquest by pagan vikings. He won the battle, but made the ultimate sacrifice in losing his life while praying for victory.
Like all good stories, this stereotypical account of the battle is a blend of fact and fiction. Clontarf was undoubtedly a significant event. Nevertheless, the celebration of this event in literature, over the centuries, is a fascinating topic in its own right. We can perceive in accounts of the battle how national identities are developed through historical myths, the sense of a shared past, and the development of common hopes for the future. As political developments bring different national interests to the fore, so historical narratives are often remoulded to suit current affairs.

England and the Irish Sea Zone in the Eleventh Century
Anglo-Norman Studies 26 (2003) 55-73

In this paper light is shed on Hiberno-viking politics of the Irish Sea region and its impact on English affairs.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Portrayals of Vikings in 'The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland',
Medieval Chronicle 3 (2004) 28-40

The 'Fragmentary Annals of Ireland' contains a lively pseudo-historical narrative which has been dated to the eleventh century. This article explores how portrayals of different groups of vikings in this text were engineered to preserve and enhance the reputation of its Irish royal hero: Cerball of Osraige (r. 842-888). This study highlights how ninth-century history was re-written to suit eleventh-century political circumstances.

The Historical Importance of Viking-Age Waterford,
Journal of Celtic Studies, 4 (2004) 71-96

The recent Viking-Age discoveries at Woodstown, near Waterford, have highlighted the need to assess the importance of Waterford as a viking-settlement in the ninth and tenth centirues. Mainly drawing on written sources, this paper discusses a) the site of Woodstown and the origins of Waterford b) Waterford's relationship with other viking-settlements in Ireland c) links with neighbouring Irish polities d) Waterford's economic significance, and finally e) the external contacts of the port.

The Vikings in Southern Uí Néill to 1014,
Peritia 17-18 (2003-2004) 233-55

This paper provides a brief survey of viking influence in Southern Uí Néill to 1014. The evidence highlights the resilience of both churches and polities in the face of viking attacks. Viking settlement and territorial power was limited to areas near the Irish coast. Nevertheless, vikings exercised a strong impact on the political and economic history of the region.

Please send items for inclusion in this page to Michael Farry. Navan Education Centre, Navan, Co. Meath. Email
Updated 2007 by the Viking Network
Home Home