Home Destinations Vikings in Ireland: Epic 3-Day Itinerary Along Ireland’s Stunning East Coast

Vikings in Ireland: Epic 3-Day Itinerary Along Ireland’s Stunning East Coast

by Michele
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Vikings in Ireland - Viking Tour Dublin to Waterford
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With the huge success of the History channel’s Vikings series and the growing interest in Viking culture, Ireland is embracing and celebrating its Viking past with a new annual festival, VikingFest! Here is a detailed festival guide and itinerary to the best Viking sites in Ireland.

Over Easter 2018 audiences at live performances erupted and heritage museums flooded with visitors keen to learn more about Ireland’s Viking past. This year marked the beginning of a new European initiative called Follow the Vikings roadshow, a dramatic stage show which celebrates the Viking history in each location it visits.

Following in the footsteps of the Vikings who once dominated the shores of Ireland, I spent the Easter break between Waterford and Dublin, where the roadshow expanded to include a larger festival, VikingFest. These two cities were aptly chosen for their long Viking history.

Hosted by Dublinia, a heritage museum dedicated to Viking and Medieval Dublin, VikingFest celebrates the cultural and historical impact the Vikings had along Ireland’s Ancient East coast. The Follow the Vikings roadshow was the major drawcard of the festival, closing out 3 days of festivities with a grand finale performance.

While I’ve always been interested in the Vikings, I’ve never actually learned much about them (Vikings is not something we learn in Australian schools :P) which meant my knowledge was pretty dismal. Enter 3 weeks of binge-watching the Vikings  TV series before departing for Dublin. I know, I know, it’s not completely historically accurate, but it’s a good start!

After three days spent between two major Viking cities, learning the history of Vikings in Ireland, visiting museums, experiencing a virtual reality Viking adventure, watching a live stage performance, and seeing the location where the Vikings first landed outside Dublin, what I learned extended far beyond the fearsome warriors we generally understand them to be. Instead, I discovered how complex and fascinating the Vikings and their culture were. I was so taken with their culture that I even bought a book about them! ?

3-Day Tour of Viking Ireland

Whether you’re a local in search of a new way to explore your homeland or a fan of the Vikings series, this detailed 3-day itinerary to Vikings in Ireland will show you a unique side of the country to discover.

Of course, I recommend timing your trip to coincide with Easter weekend to make the most of the special events running as part of the festival. If that’s not an option, it’s worth noting that all museums and national parks mentioned in this itinerary are open all year round. Booyah!

But first,…

Who were the Vikings?

The Vikings were a group of people who originated in what is now modern-day Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. They were seafarers who raided and traded their way around northern, central, eastern and western Europe during the late 8th to late 11th centuries. As raiders, traders, explorers, and colonisers, they made significant social, cultural and economic contributions to the places in which they settled.

The reason for the beginning of the Viking expansion from Scandinavia is debated but the most likely explanation is that the early raids were aimed primarily at the acquisition of wealth in order to maintain and increase the status of the raiders back home within their own society. The Vikings who first attacked Ireland were mostly Norwegian while those who landed in Britain were usually Danish

Monasteries and churches were prime targets to raid due to their wealth and isolation from the secular world. Those located in coastal regions or on navigable rivers were easy targets for Viking raiders.

Vikings in Ireland - Dublinia Viking Timeline

Viking timeline at Dublinia, Dublin

What does ‘Viking’ mean?

The Vikings didn’t call themselves Vikings, nor were they part of a unified group. Instead, they were made up of a series of chieftain-led tribes that would often fight against each other.

In the areas they travelled to, they became known as “Norsemen which literally means, “north-men:. It wasn’t until later that the term “Vikings” was used, which meant “piracy” or “freebooting voyage” in Old Norse.

The Vikings themselves didn’t use this word, they called themselves Ostmen or Austmen, meaning East-men.

Now that you’re a bit more clued up about the Vikings, here’s everything you need to know about exploring the unique side of Ireland’s Ancient East coast with my 3-Day Viking tour itinerary from Dublin to Waterford.

Map of Ireland’s East Coast Itinerary

Want to know where you’ll be going? Take a look at the detailed map below.

Tip: For a larger view of the map, click on the icon in the top right corner. If the icon is hidden and you’re viewing this on your phone, go to landscape mode. Technology, eh?


Going to Ireland? Get my free Irish travel phrase guide


Day 1: Good Friday – Discovering Viking Dublin (Blue Pins)

First stop, Dublin!

Dublin is the perfect spot to kick off this Viking adventure because for almost three centuries the Vikings ruled here, making it of the most important trading cities in the Nordic world.

In the 820s and 830s,  Vikings raided the Dublin area and built a settlement here in 841. It’s first foreign king was Olaf the White, from Norway.

Vikings in Ireland - Dublin Sunsrise

Naturally, I had to find out where the name Dublin came from. Turns out, Dublin literally means ‘black pool’. In Irish, dubh means ‘black’ and linn is ‘pool.’ Originally, this term was the name of a lake, Dubh Linn, which ran into the River Liffey and was used by the Vikings to moor their ships during the winter months to prevent their boats from drying out.

See this itinerary brought to life and watch the vlog

Now back to the itinerary!

Dublinia

Vikings in Ireland - Christ Church Cathedral Dublinia

To get more acquainted with the Vikings, a visit to Dublinia marks the first essential stop on this adventure. It’s here that I had an entertaining introduction to Viking and Medieval Dublin.

While I love the idea of museums, I quickly get bored if there is more to read than to see. I need a mix. If you’re like me then you’ll love Dublinia. This heritage museum doesn’t rely on lengthy descriptions, instead, it brings to life Dublin’s Viking and Medieval past with interactive installations and live actors showing you everything from how weapons were crafted to  Viking life in their longhouses.

Vikings in Ireland - Dublinia Viking Longboat

Dublinia is located in a section of the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral which lies on the cusp between medieval and modern Dublin.

After learning about the Vikings on the first floor, head up to the second floor which documents Medieval Dublin. By this point, you’ll be wondering how they managed to connect all the dots and piece together such a detailed history.

That’s what the top floor is for!

The third floor is dedicated to seeing how archaeologists work to excavate areas where Vikings settled. There is a great display which shows how far down they need to dig to reach these Viking artifacts.

To top off the experience, take the 96-step climb up St Michael’s Tower, where the 17th-century viewing platform offers unparalleled city views.

Vikings in Ireland - View from Tower at Dublinia

After Dublinia, it’s time to head south to Waterford. Along the way, we stopped at Fallons, a lovely restaurant in Kildare, just 45 minutes outside Dublin. I got this super tasty and filling pumpkin and mozzarella risotto.

Lunch at Fallons Restaurant Kildare

From here it’s another 70 minutes to Waterford, where you’ll be staying the night.

P.S Accommodation details are at the bottom of this post.

Waterford City’s Viking Triangle

Vikings in Ireland - River Suir and Reginalds Tower

After a total journey time of 90 minutes, you’ll arrive in Waterford.

Waterford, or Vadrafjord (Old Norse: Veðrafjǫrðr) as the Vikings named it, is Ireland’s oldest city and was a powerful city in medieval Ireland. It is also the only city in Ireland with a Viking-derived place name. In fact, since I started learning Norwegian, I discovered that over 5,000 Old Norse words entered English. 

Norwegian Vikings established a port here around 914 which was later enclosed by city walls in the 13th century.

The historic heart of Waterford city is the Viking Triangle, so named because of the shape of the original Viking settlement. It’s here you’ll find three exquisite museums dedicated to telling the story of Ireland’s Viking and Medieval history.

Vikings in Ireland - Viking Triangle

King of the Vikings VR Experience

But first, this Viking tour is about to go next level with a visit to King of the Vikings.

It’s hard to describe a virtual reality experience, but for 30 minutes you’ll be transported through Waterford’s history alongside Viking warlords. All of this takes place inside a reconstructed Viking house. Sound good? Make sure you book ahead as space is limited to 8 people at a time.

Vikings in Ireland - King of the Vikings VR experience

Vikings in Ireland - King of the Vikings VR experience

With some time before dinner, get to know the city by wandering around its quaint streets. Pop inside Christ Church Cathedral, take a guided tour of the Waterford Crystal factory or stretch those legs and cross the bridge for a unique perspective of this charming city.

Vikings in Ireland - River Suir Waterford

View of Waterford and Christ Church Cathedral

For dinner, you can’t go past the local favourite, The Reg. Whether you fancy a quiet dinner or a bit of dancing, The Reg is made up of 5 bars each with its own unique offering. We ate in the dimly-lit luxurious Strongbow Room, which commemorates the marriage of Strongbow and Aoife in 1168 in Waterford City.

Dinner at the Reg Waterford


Day 2: Easter Saturday – Reginald’s Tower and Viking Museum (Green Pins)

After breakfast, make a beeline to Waterford’s iconic monument…

Reginald’s Tower

Vikings in Ireland - Reginald's Tower Waterford

Sitting at the apex of the Viking’s triangular settlement by the River Suir, is the famous Reginald’s Tower, Ireland’s oldest civic building that has been in use for over 800 years.

The Vikings built the first tower on this site which was then rebuilt by the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the top two floors were added.

The tower is named after Reginald (funny that), who in 917 went on to install a kinsman in Dublin before going on to capture York (Jorvik) in England, which was a great Viking city in the world at the time. Reginald then went on to call himself King of Waterford and King of York. So, he’s a pretty important guy around these parts.

Vikings in Ireland - Museum inside Reginald's Tower Waterford

Today, the tower is home to an exhibition on Waterford’s Viking settlement. After circling up its narrow staircase, each level showcases precious objects including plunder trade goods, delicate gold and silver brooches, metalwork tools, and medieval tally sticks.

Vikings in Ireland - Reginald's Tower Waterford

Waterford Medieval Museum

Much of Ireland’s history is buried below ground, which is why Waterford Medieval Museum is so impressive. Built around two medieval chambers, the 13th-century Choristers’ Hall and the 15th century Mayor’s Wine Vault, the museum houses a magnificent collection of artefacts that must be seen.

Vikings in Ireland - Medieval Museum Waterford Choristers hall

We received a guided tour with Eamon McEneaney, Director of Waterford Museum of Treasures who took us back in time as we saw the stunning Heavens’ Embroidered Cloths, Waterford’s cloth-of-gold 15th-century vestments, the 4-metre-long Great Charter Roll of Waterford (1373), and Henry VIII’s hat!

Vikings in Ireland - Medieval Museum Waterford Charter Roll

Click below to listen to Eamon himself talk about the Viking Festival.

Vikings in Ireland - Medieval Museum Waterford Vestments

Vikings in Ireland - Medieval Museum Waterford Vestments Detail

If that wasn’t enough, the museum has won numerous awards for its tribute to medieval life in Waterford.

After finishing up at the museum, check out the Viking action in the streets as part of the VikingFest before heading back to Dublin.

The festival reaches its peak as the Follow the Vikings roadshow kicks off tonight in Dublins’s historic Wood Quay amphitheater.

Before attending the 9:45 pm show, we stopped by Brasserie 66 for dinner. Using locally sourced ingredients, everything here is cooked to order. The wall of China plates is a nice touch to this already stylish restaurant.

Dinner at Brasserie 66 Dublin

Follow the Vikings Roadshow

Vikings in Ireland - Follow the Vikings Roadshow

Knowing that this was the grand finale and main event of the Festival, I was super excited to see this travelling Viking performance which includes actors from all over continental Europe and Scandinavia.

The show opened with a procession of Viking fire-blowers on stilts who riled up the crowd as they yelled as they beat large drums.

The performance changed gear as 15-odd actors came on stage to recount the life of the Icelandic warrior poet Egill Skallagrímsson, a story documented in the Icelandic Sagas.

The narrative follows Egill’s journey to York, England, where after a series of rows with the King of York (a descendant of King Reginald of Waterford) was sentenced to be executed. Instead of accepting his fate, Egill makes a deal with the King that if he can write an epic poem about the King’s heroism that he would be set free…No spoiler here!

Vikings in Ireland - Follow the Vikings Roadshow Singer and Drummers

The performance took place outdoors on a chilly Dublin evening which added to the experience, especially during the sequence where Egill is crossing the stormy seas.

If you miss the Follow the Viking Roadshow in Dublin on Sunday, the show heads south to perform in Waterford on Easter Monday before continuing to Europe and Scandinavia.


Day 3: Easter Sunday – From Viking Series Locations to The Book of Kells (Pink Pins)

Today, things get a bit more scenic.

We’ll visit the location where the Vikings first landed outside Dublin before passing through the stunning countryside of County Wicklow to visit two locations seen in the ‘Vikings’ series.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour

After leaving Dublin heading south towards County Wicklow, make a stop at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Take a stroll to the end of the 1.5km pier for a view of Howth. The is where the Vikings first invaded in 819. Its name, Hǫfuð in Old Norse is said to mean ‘head’ in English.

Vikings in Ireland - View of Howth

Powerscourt Waterfall

From the pier, it’s a lovely 40-minute drive to Powerscourt Waterfall winding through the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.

Not to brag or anything, but Wicklow is home to the largest national park in Ireland, the biggest forest land, the highest waterfall, the biggest man-made lake and the source of the River Liffey in Dublin.

Vikings fans, this is your time to geek out. Powerscourt waterfall is used various times in the first season of Vikings and can be seen as the crew prepare for their first voyage in Floki’s new longboats.

It also just happens to be Ireland’s highest waterfall I mentioned earlier. Sitting 121 meters (398 ft) up, she’s a beauty.

Vikings in Ireland - Powerscourt Waterfall

Lough Tay

Next up, is Lough Tay, aka Kattegat.

With some serious green-screening to make it look like the shores of a fjord in southern Norway, Lough Tay is the home of the Ragnar Lothbrok in Vikings.

Vikings in Ireland - Viking Tour Dublin to WaterfordLocally, Lough Tay is known as the Guinness Lake, both for its resemblance to a pint of Guinness due to its shape (hard to tell from this picture) and white sand at the top. Not only that, but the Guinness family estate is here.

Located on private property, Lough Tay cannot be visited without permission but you can get this awesome view from above.

Head back to Dublin for lunch at Café en Seine, a Parisian chic restaurant just moments away from our next stop.

Lunch at Cafe en Seine Dublin

National Museum of Ireland

Vikings in Ireland - National Museum of Ireland Viking Weapons

Your next museum experience takes you took the permanent Viking Ireland Exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

This beautiful museum welcomes you inside under a huge dome before leading you into a large hall where you’ll see dazzling displays of medieval jewellery.

Vikings in Ireland - National Museum of Ireland Dome

Head up to the first floor for the Viking exhibition for surviving objects from the Viking age including swords, axes, and ninth-century Viking skeleton! No pictures here, you’ll have to go see for yourself!

Vikings in Ireland - National Museum of Ireland Viking Exhibition

Book of Kells and The Long Room Library

No trip to Dublin would be complete without a visit to Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure, the Book of Kells. This 9th-century book is famous for its lavish and artistic Celtic and Christian iconography.

It is believed the Book of Kells was created around 800 AD by Christian monks on Scotland’s, Isle of Iona. The book is made up of the four gospels, hand-transcribed on vellum. Its name comes from the monastery at Kells in County Meath where the monks took refuge after a Viking raid. The manuscript remained here for centuries before eventually being sent to Trinity College in 1661 for safekeeping.

After visiting the Book of Kells, take the stairs up to the first floor.

Lined with marble busts of famous writers and philosophers, is the magnificent Long Room Library featuring 200,000 of the library’s oldest books in oak bookcases. Take your time here and be sure to seek out the 15th-century wooden harp, the emblem of Ireland.

Vikings in Ireland - Long Room Library Trinity College Dublin

The Book of Kells and the library get crazy busy. To avoid the crowds and the seriously long queue that wraps around the courtyard, I recommend taking an early access tour so you can enjoy both the book and the library in peace.

As the trip comes to a close, have your final feast overlooking Ha’penny Bridge at Woollen Mills. Built over four floors with a rooftop terrace and its own bakery, this is a great spot to close out your Viking tour of Ireland.

Want more? Watch my full vlog here


Accommodation

Where to Stay in Waterford

Staying at Dooley's Hotel Waterford

Overlooking the River Suir, I stayed at the family-run Dooley’s Hotel. My bed was larger than my bedroom back in London! On arrival, there were even two fresh welcome brownies on the table next to the window overlooking the river. (Don’t mind if I do). Check here for the latest prices and other hotel options.

Where to Stay in Dublin

Room at the Morison Hotel Dublin

I was forewarned that hotels in Dublin are spacious rooms were scarce, nonetheless, the cash was splashed for 2 nights at The Morrison Hotel. In a prime central location with just a short walk from Temple Bar and Ha’penny Bridge, this hotel has all the luxuries you could want. From a warm cookie on arrival, made to order berry-compote pancakes at breakfast (they were delicious) and stylish modern rooms, the premium price for this hotel is well worth it. Check here for the latest prices and other hotel options.

Airbnb

For an alternative accommodation option, I would recommend renting out an apartment or room through Airbnb. If it’s your first time get US$65 OFF here or get £50 OFF your first stay here, when you sign up using my unique reader referral link.

Getting Around

Dublin and Waterford are both very walkable cities so I wouldn’t worry about taking public transport. For travelling between cities and visiting County Wicklow, I highly recommend getting a rental car. This means you’re on your own time and won’t be rushed in places where you want to spend more time. Who knows, you may want to have a picnic at Powerscourt Waterfall. Compare car rental options here.


Planning a trip and need travel insurance? Get a free quote from World Nomads here.


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Vikings in Ireland - Viking Tour Dublin to Waterford


If you’re spending more time in Ireland, Ireland Before You Die is an amazing resource. It’s Ireland’s biggest independent tourism site and is run by the super lovely and proud Irishman, Stevie.


This post is brought to you by Tourism Ireland, who hosted me in full on this trip and my expenses including meals, two nights’ accommodation in Dublin and one night in Waterford, and round-trip airfare from London.  All opinions, as always, are my own.


Over to you!

Have you visited any of these places?  Do you have a question about Viking Ireland or visiting these locations? Ask me below!
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4 comments

Michelle of Lifejourney4two April 11, 2018 - 21:19

My experience of ‘Vikings’ so far has been the tv series! I had never imagined that Ireland would have such an affinity with Viking history – it will definitely be on our list of things to experience when we visit Ireland. Thank you for such a thorough and interesting article. ?

Reply
Michele April 12, 2018 - 11:09

Thanks Michelle 🙂 Yes, Ireland are definitely embracing their past which I think is great. It’s awesome seeing the younger generation get involved and take a real interest in the Vikings thanks to the Vikings series and festivals like this 🙂

Reply
Mariette April 10, 2018 - 10:42

Never thought about Ireland’s Viking history, sounds so interesting. Thanks for a great itinerary

Reply
Michele April 12, 2018 - 11:06

My pleasure, thanks so much Mariette 🙂

Reply

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