Largs Viking Festival 2023: Full schedule and history of the event, “Live like the vikings did”

According to Vikingeskibsmuseet ( Viking Ship Museum): “The Vikings were probably one of the most important influences in Scotland.” According to Vikingeskibsmuseet ( Viking Ship Museum): “The Vikings were probably one of the most important influences in Scotland.”
According to Vikingeskibsmuseet ( Viking Ship Museum): “The Vikings were probably one of the most important influences in Scotland.” | Lorado from Getty Images Signature
The Largs Viking Festival is a week-long celebration that pays homage to Scotland’s Nordic heritage with a re-enactment of the historic Battle of Largs among other festivities.

To understand the heritage of Scotland, one need simply look at a Scottish map which reveals the rich tapestry of cultures that encompass our lingual landscape. Elements of Brythonic from our ancient forebearers the Picts, widespread Gaelic by way of Ireland, and Nordic motifs from our Viking ancestors are peppered throughout this land.

Regions like Orkney (one of the earliest settlements of Norsemen in Scotland) even had their own Nordic tongue called Norn which has been dubbed the ‘sixth Scandinavian language’. To this day, remnants of Norn can still be found intertwined with the Scots language spoken by Orcadians or those in Shetland. This Autumn, the Royal Society of Edinburgh is hosting an event that explores Scotland’s Norse past.

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In their words: “This free and open online talk, presented by Professor Donna Heddle, Director of the Institute for Northern Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), will give people the chance to understand how Scotland’s past has been enriched by the Norse influence – and it hides in plain sight to this day.”

Curiously, however, Professor Heddle says: “Viking Studies is perhaps our most popular Masters – because Vikings are sexy, right? It has always been very interesting to me that people don’t seem to know a lot about Norse heritage in Scotland.

“Although the Norse occupation of Scotland lasted longer than the Roman era, there isn’t a name for it. In England there is the Danelaw – and everybody knows what we’re talking about.”

She continues: “What I want people to get from this is an understanding of how entrenched the Norse heritage is in Scotland, and why we don’t realise it.”

No doubt to the professor’s delight, however, there are heritage events in Scotland that commemorate this history and connect people to it e.g., Up Helly Aa which falls in Winter 2024 and the upcoming Largs Viking Festival which takes place this September.

Here, revellers celebrate Vikings and their culture in the aptly chosen historic town of Largs where the final battle to end Nordic rule over Scotland took place well over 700 years ago.

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To learn more about the Largs Viking Festival 2023, here is an overview of the celebration including a full schedule, key details, event origins, and how you can take part in this Nordic get-together.

Revellers at the Largs Viking Festival enjoy a massive selection of events and activities that aim to confer a deeper understanding of Scotland’s Nordic heritage. Revellers at the Largs Viking Festival enjoy a massive selection of events and activities that aim to confer a deeper understanding of Scotland’s Nordic heritage.
Revellers at the Largs Viking Festival enjoy a massive selection of events and activities that aim to confer a deeper understanding of Scotland’s Nordic heritage. | TheTechDave on Flickr

What is the Largs Viking Festival?

According to Visit Scotland: “The Largs Viking festival was created in 1980 to commemorate and embrace the historical and cultural links between these two great nations (Scotland and Norway) and to celebrate our intertwined heritage.”

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In particular, as the festival’s official website explains, the “Annual Festival marks the 1263 Battle of Largs, the last mainland battle between the Scots and Norse.”

In order to foster an understanding (and appreciation) of our Norse past, the festival has a range of fun activities like the Viking village, Glima Wrestling, axe throwing, longboat burning and a breathtaking fireworks display.

When is the Largs Viking Festival 2023?

Largs and Millport News confirms that the  “Largs Viking Festival returns in a blaze of glory, with an exciting schedule of events from September 2 - 10.”

Known as Magnus Viking, this giant sentinel defends the town of Largs where it was put in place in 2013 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs. Known as Magnus Viking, this giant sentinel defends the town of Largs where it was put in place in 2013 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs.
Known as Magnus Viking, this giant sentinel defends the town of Largs where it was put in place in 2013 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs. | Alex Liivet via WikiCommons / Thomas Nugent via WikiCommons (Geograph)

Where is Largs?

Largs is a town located on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, approximately 33 miles from Glasgow. Its name is said to come from “An Leargaidh” which is Scottish Gaelic for “the slopes”.

As a community in touch with their heritage, the Largs Viking Festival website says: “There are numerous references to Vikings in the town of Largs including street names, the amusement arcade and the Viking who stands outside the Main Street chippie.

“The giant metal statue of Magnus the Viking was put in place on the Prom in 2013, the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs (1263).”

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The New World Encyclopedia tells us that the Norwegian fleet was “surprised by stormy weather” during the Battle of Largs. Many historians interpret this as the ‘winning’ factor for the Scots. The New World Encyclopedia tells us that the Norwegian fleet was “surprised by stormy weather” during the Battle of Largs. Many historians interpret this as the ‘winning’ factor for the Scots.
The New World Encyclopedia tells us that the Norwegian fleet was “surprised by stormy weather” during the Battle of Largs. Many historians interpret this as the ‘winning’ factor for the Scots. | William Hole via WikiCommons

The Battle of Largs Explained

The Battle of Largs was fought between the kingdoms of Scotland and Norway near Largs on October 2, 1263. The New World Encyclopedia describes it as “the most important military engagement of the Scottish-Norwegian War.” This is because it was the final time that Vikings attempted to invade the mainland, thus becoming a turning point for Scotland’s bid to become its own nation.

At this point, Vikings from Norway and Denmark had been raiding Scotland for over 500 years. Mere raids turned to a full-scale attack on the country, however, after King Haakon ordered the Vikings to invade the Kingdom of Scotland in order to stop King Alexander III from reclaiming the Western Isles.

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Although some historians describe the event as a ‘bloody draw’, many consider it to be that which ended Viking raids in Scotland as King Haakon returned to Kirkwall shortly after failing to claim victory where he fell ill and died that very winter.

Submitted by SoopySue from Getty Images Signature: “A Viking re-enactment in Largs begins with a torchlight procession just after sundown. This is part of the Viking festival which commemorates the Battle of Largs in 1263. The Firth of Clyde and the Island of Great Cumbrae are in the background.” Submitted by SoopySue from Getty Images Signature: “A Viking re-enactment in Largs begins with a torchlight procession just after sundown. This is part of the Viking festival which commemorates the Battle of Largs in 1263. The Firth of Clyde and the Island of Great Cumbrae are in the background.”
Submitted by SoopySue from Getty Images Signature: “A Viking re-enactment in Largs begins with a torchlight procession just after sundown. This is part of the Viking festival which commemorates the Battle of Largs in 1263. The Firth of Clyde and the Island of Great Cumbrae are in the background.” | SoopySue from Getty Images Signature

Full Schedule 2023

Visit Scotland confirms that the Largs Viking Festival 2023 will “include all your festival favourites such as a full Viking village, the opening parade, opening ceremony, live entertainment, music, fringe events, food and craft market, air displays, axe throwing, Glima Wrestling and ever popular Festival of Fire, with fire procession, Viking skirmish, burning of the longboat, entertainment, and ending in a spectacular fireworks display.”

Full details about the festival can be found on their event page.

How can I book?

There are many events and activities organised as part of the entire Largs Viking Festival. We recommend checking out the ‘Bookings’ page on the event website and perusing their selection before purchasing tickets via TicketSource.

Note: some attractions like the ‘Viking and Scots Village’ accept cash only if you are interested in doing business with viking traders (ancient Norsemen weren’t known for using card machines.)

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