The coasts were accessible. The interior – with its navigable rivers and lakes – was porous. The many monasteries held gold. The people were unprepared for modern 9th-century warfare.
To the seafaring Scandinavians, Ireland’s East and South coasts were brilliantly placed for European trade. As the years turned to decades and then centuries the raiders became traders, and founded powerful port cities. Not just Dublin, but Cork and Limerick, Vadrarfjord, Vaesafjord and Vikinglo – Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.
Today there’s evidence of the Viking age across Ireland’s Ancient East – but you need to know where (and how) to look. From the street patterns of the Viking ports, with their keysers (or narrow paths) one pack horse wide leading to the quays – to the distinctive 10th-century round towers dotting the landscape (remnants of the defensive system developed by the monasteries during those turbulent times).
Down in the chambers of Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny, excavated skeletons and a 10th-century hoard have revealed Viking ravages and riches. While the lovely woods of Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains have a special significance: tree-ring analysis has proved a Viking ship excavated in Denmark’s Roskilde Fjord was made from these Irish oaks.