By Gail Lavery and her P5 pupils (1996)

Why are Vikings connected with Largs?

During the Autumn of 1263 a Viking king, King Haakon IV sailed into the waters off Largs with a huge fleet. He wanted to capture more land and add the islands of Cumbrae and Bute to his Kingdom. The Scottish King of the time, King Alexander knew of the impending battle, so he filled all his castles in the West with armed men and also had an army ready and waiting at Camphill on the Haylie Brae.which lies between Largs and Kilbirnie.

On the 1st of October 1263, storms raged over Largs. The Viking longships were blown ashore. A battle took place, called The Battle of Largs, between the Vikings and the Scots. The battle site lay between the beach, the road to Fairlie and Broomfields. The Scottish army managed to force the Vikings back to their ships. This was the last raid by Vikings on mainland Scotland. According to tradition on the night of the attack a barefoot Norseman stepped on a thistle and cried out in pain. This alerted the Scots and helped them win the battle. Other sources of information suggest, it was a hard fought battle with many killed or wounded on both sides and it was not clear who had won.

In 1912 “the Pencil” was built to remind the people of Largs of the battle. Every year the Larg’s Viking link is celebrated with a Viking festival. A Viking village is built, the battle of Largs is re-enacted and a great fireworks display takes place at the Pencil, which marks the place of the battle site.

Many place names in Largs use Viking words, for example Haco Street, after King Haco and Danefield Avenue after the Viking language Danish.

Also, built in 1996, is the Vikingar, a visitors centre which tells the story of Viking raids on Scotland.