Ike visits Largs, Scotland

Ike has been staying with Jane and learning about Scotland with her. On this adventure she kindly took Ike to Largs, where he was surprised to learn that the Scottish Islands, including Orkney and Shetland, were under Norse control from the years 800 to the end of the 13th century.  Jane wondered if she has Nordic ancestors as her family came from the islands of Skye and Arran and she has the blue eyes and blond hair common in Nordic countries. They decided it was possible.

Ike, Jane and friends walked along the footpath beside the beach to see Magnus the Viking. This was created in 2013 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the 1263 Battle of Largs. North Ayrshire Council presented the statue to the town as a culmination to the 750th anniversary year of celebration and as a legacy for this special year.

The giant statue is 16 feet (5 metres) tall and has been constructed of galvanised steel by David Ogilvie Engineering of Kilmarnock. The sculpture was called “Magnus” in honour of the first Patron of the Viking Festival, Magnus Magnusson, and the current Patron, Professor Magnus Fladmark.

At the beginning of the 13th century mainland Scotland was Scottish, but the islands of Bute and Cumbrae, just across from Largs, were Norse. The Vikings had first begun raiding Scotland around the year 800 when there had been no king of Norway and no king of Scotland. Most of the west coast islands were dominated by Norse culture and were important for maintaining Viking power and influence.

In the early 1200s both countries had powerful and ambitious kings – Haakon IV of Norway and Alexander II of Scotland. By 1262, the kingdom of Norway was at the height of its power as it acquired Greenland and Iceland. But Alexander III of Scotland (son of Alexander ll) was determined to back up his father’s claims to the west coast islands.

In 1263 King Haakon led his fleet through the Hebrides, island by island, demanding allegiance.

By the time he reached the disputed territories of the Clyde, he had 120 ships and up to 20,000 men at his command. On 1 October 1263 the weather broke.

Haakon’s fleet was scattered, with several ships driven ashore. The next morning Haakon managed to get onshore with 1,000 men to salvage the ships and their cargo. That was when the Scots pounced. The Battle of Largs petered out into a long distance and sporadic shooting match. Neither side had won.

The Norse king’s options were limited. Winter was approaching, his supplies were low and his men were getting restless. He agreed to disperse the fleet and spend the winter in Orkney. He would return in the spring to have his bloody revenge on Alexander. But Haakon died in Orkney on 16th December 1263. He was the last Norwegian king to mount a military assault on Scotland.

His son Magnus the Lawmender was not interested in continuing the fight and just three years later he gave up the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to Scotland, in return for 4,000 marks in silver and an annual payment, under the Treaty of Perth. At the same time the Scots recognised Norwegian rule over Shetland and the Orkney Islands.

Largs Viking Festival

The Largs Viking Festival is held every year from the end of August  and the first week of September. This year it starts on Saturday, 28 Aug 2021 and ends on Sunday, 05 Sep 2021 and it lasts for 8 days. This offers a glimpse of what life would have been like in a 13th Century Viking Village.

More information on the Largs Viking Festival can be seen on the official website at: www. largsvikingfestival.org .  A video of the event can be seen here.

Ike was wondering why there were palm trees growing in the area. Jane explained it was due to the Gulf Stream which is a flow of warm seawater which passes the west coast of Scotland and brings warmer weather.

Nardini’s of Largs Scotland’s most famous cafe, restaurant and ice cream parlour which re-opened in December of 2008 following refurbishment that has seen the landmark art deco building restored to its past glory with a new contemporary feel.

Although they didn’t go into Nardini’s they managed to get a photograph of it from the outside.

Everyone was getting a bit hungry as they stopped at an outdoor fish and chip shop (fish and chips in the West of Scotland are always called ‘a fish supper’ irrespective of the time of day). They got some locally caught battered haddock and chips made to order. This was the first fish supper Jane had had since December 2019!

After finishing their fish suppers they made their way to the railway station for the train back to Glasgow Central. The railway station has a lovely community garden with a Nordic theme.