Age of Invasion | The Irish National Heritage Park
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Aerial image of a Viking Boatyard
Icon of Cap on Brown

Age of Invasion

Between the late 8th Century and the mid-12th Century, two new groups arrived in Ireland. This period is what is known as The Age of Invasion. The first were the Vikings and we know, from the Monastic Annals, that they first attacked Ireland in the year 795. Warfare was widespread in Ireland throughout its history, so when the Vikings arrived what was most horrifying to the Irish, and to people across Europe in general, was that these Scandinavian warriors were pagan. For the first 100 years or so they were regularly beaten in battle by Irish Kings. In time, they were drawn into the Irish way of life, intermarrying with the existing Irish population, establishing port towns and minting silver coins. There are many Viking placenames and loan-words still in use in Ireland today. For example, Wexford (Weasfjord – inlet of the mud flats) or Selskar (Skar – Rock in old Norse).

Wide shot of a crannog with reeds in the foreground

The next group to invade were the Anglo-Normans who arrived in 1169. Many people are surprised when they hear that they were actually invited to Ireland by Diarmuid MacMurchada, who wanted their help in reclaiming the throne of King Leinster. (They were actually invited to Ireland by Diarmuid MacMurchada, the deposed King of Leinster.) The Anglo-Normans would go on to establish more towns across the country, build stone castles and colonise the island of Ireland. The history of our country changed from this period and was never the same again. Both Viking and Anglo-Norman surnames are plentiful in Ireland today, for example names such as Cotter, MacLoughlin, Sweetman and Hendrick have Viking origins while Archer, Burke, Colgan, Darcy, Fitzgerald, Talbot, Stafford and White have Anglo-Norman links.

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