Hey, it’s Henry here! You might remember from my last trip with the Hand Luggage Only guys to Barcelona? This time, however, I’ve ventured a little closer to home. All the way over to gorgeous Ireland!
To be totally frank, I’m actually a little ashamed to say but (as a 24-year-old, Guinness loving, Irish jigging fan of everything Irish) this was to be my very first time to the green shores of Ireland.
This was though, something I was buzzing with excitement about. I mean, it’s shocking it has taken me this long to get to Ireland! *hangs head in total shame*
Thankfully, I planned to remedy this soon after St Patrick’s Day (after the requisite recovery following the celebrations that come with it, of course), with a jaunt around the eastern areas of Ireland and the ancient coast. It’s an area that always intrigued me and not just because of the buzzing city of Dublin but due to its heritage as a Vikings stronghold that’s steeped in history.
I’d studied a bit about Vikings at school, I knew they had longships, big beards and horned helmets (that last one though is apparently a huge yet fairly common misconception) but that’s all I really knew to be honest.
Armed with expert local guides once I arrived in Ireland, I took this as a good opportunity to dust off my notebooks and learn something new about all things Vikings, all while exploring Ireland’s ancient east coast and its Vikings strongholds.
Suffice to say, after spending several days immersed in EVERYTHING Vikings in Ireland, I’ve put together the ideal guide for things to see and do when in Dublin and the ancient east coast – all with a healthy dose of Vikings (beard growing and pillaging neither required nor included 🤣).
But first a Guinness in the world famous Temple Bar…
1.) Explore Dublin
A good place to start any trip to Ireland is Dublin. It’s one of those cities that just seems to be bursting with energy not matter what time of year you visit or what the weather’s like. Dublin also has a pretty fantastic foodie scene that is absolutely worth visiting the city for in and of itself.
As you wander the street of Dublin, you’ll come across quite a few paving slabs with bronze artefacts inlayed in the stone. These are representations of items discovered by archaeologists whilst excavating for developments across the city. They’re really easy to miss but a totally unique way to explore the city so keep an eye out these.
Random aside: Apparently, the actual name of Dublin comes from the Norse “Dyflin” meaning “Black Pool” which was due to the tidal pool that was located across the marshy swampland where Dublin was first built long, long ago!
2.) See Dublinia
Dublinia Viking museum is a great place to learn more about the actual history and timeline of the Vikings and how they made Ireland their home.
When you’re here, live actors give demonstrations about Viking weaponry, how they lived their day to day lives and there are even mannequin demonstrating how Vikings would use moss as toilet paper (not pictured for obvious reasons).
If you’re strapped for time this is definitely a great place to learn a huge amount as quickly as possible.
3.) Stroll around Waterford’s Viking triangle
Just a short 2-hour drive (longer if you stop for lunch in one of the beautiful villages on the way like I did) is the beautiful city of Waterford and it’s the perfect place for in Ireland to learn all about the country’s Viking heritage.
See, Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland and was actually founded by the Vikings!
Apparently, the name stems from “Vadrarfjordr” (all I remember when I first heard it was that it’s something ‘fjord’) and sounds a lot like what I’d tell a cabby when trying to get home after a few too many Guinness’… 🤣
These days, the city is particularly famous for Waterford Crystal but this city is a treasure trove of places to see! Whilst in the city, make sure to follow the Viking Triangle – it’s an area of the old city walls and the largest Viking settlement where you can explore spots like; Blackfriars, the Medieval Museum and the Index Gallery.
Also, be sure to check the Bishop’s Palace, Reginald’s Tower and definitely gorge on all the food at Sheehan’s.
4.) Explore the King Of The Vikings
The “King of the Vikings” virtual reality tour (in Waterford) was definitely one of my favourite parts of the trip.
To be honest, before I went, I was a bit dubious… I’d never been on a virtual reality (VR) tour and wasn’t too sure how good a VR tour would be. Thankfully, my cynicism was nipped right in the bud. It was BRILLIANT!
Located in the ruins of an old cathedral (all set to look like a replica Viking house) you’re introduced to the story by two actors in full Viking outfits (no horned helmets, of course 😄).
After putting on your headsets you’re instantly transported into a digital version of the same house.
The rest of the experience takes you through towns and castles, sea battles and more, describing the story of Waterford and it’s rich Viking heritage. Even though I had two feet firmly on the ground I still found myself getting a little seasick as the ships moved through the wave.
This is definitely a must see.
5.) Visit Reginald’s Tower & Medieval Museum
Reginald’s Tower was first built by the Vikings all the way back in 914 and formed the cornerstone of the Viking triangle settlement that you can still explore today.
After some turbulent years, the tower was rebuilt in the 12th venture and has been in continuous use ever since! It’s been a jail, a mint, a defensive base and now a museum (with no chance of being locked up inside).
The museum itself showcases a whole heap of local history and Viking artefacts, with a massive piece of a historic vessel that was discovered, too.
Oh also, just up the road is the Medieval Museum which gives a much broader history of Ireland’s history too. Start by heading down the stairs into the old cathedral crypts and work your way through the vaults.
You can even see Henry VIII’s hat (minus his head) and Europes only complete set of medieval cloth-of-gold vestments dating back from 1460.
6.) Experience the Follow The Vikings Project
If you like a bit of a show you should definitely check out “Follow the Vikings”. It features gymnasts, fire breathers, singers and drummers. It also gives you a chance to see a Viking under a disco ball which I can’t say many people have seen in their life. 😁
The show tells the tale of a Viking and his armies conquests across the globe and weaves video projections in with live action battles and speeches. Taking place in an outdoor amphitheatre in old viking Dublin it’s a great evening that has a bit of something for everyone.
7.) Dun Laoghaire Harbour
One of the things I love most about the Ancient east of Ireland is its coastline. It’s absolutely stunning and somewhere I’d love to spend even more time around.
Thing is, you can’t truly appreciate the journey the Vikings made without heading to the coast and seeing where their boats first came in. Apparently, for years the Vikings would travel to Dublin and leave each winter before finally deciding to call the Emerald Isle home. I can just imagine their longboats sailing across the horizon and up the Liffey.
Head out to Dun Laoghaire Harbour and take a long walk along the pier to see where it all happened. Afterwards, pop into Bistro One for the most amazing meal (their Sunday Roast is the stuff of legends! 😋😄)
Any hardcore fans of the TV series The Vikings will know that parts of the series were filmed not too far from Dublin in the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
With huge loughs or the amazing Powerscourt waterfall, it’s immediately clear why. The snow-topped mountains and beautiful landscape could have been pulled straight out of the fjords of Norway. It’s somewhere I never really heard too much about before my visit and now can’t get enough of it.
Plan to spend a full day here or stay a little longer for a good ol’ ramble around the national park. It’s incredible.
9.) Explore the Museum of Ireland, Dublin
Now, I wanted my trip to the ancient east to be filled with every little piece of history, culture and as many gorgeous landscapes as possible. This is why I had to make one final stop at Dublin’s Museum of Ireland with its (now permanent) Viking exhibition.
It features tonnes of the artefacts found around the city as well as a few other relics you can see. Everything ranging from weapons to beard combs is displayed and give you a true sense of the Viking lifestyle.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to look up when you head in and check out the beautiful ceiling in the entrance hall.
10.) Enjoy a tipple and grub at The Reg, Waterford
No trip to Ireland is complete without a proper pub experience and this is definitely one spot you have to visit when you’re in Waterford.
Grab a seat under the huge picture of “The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife” (the same Viking you’ll have seen earlier at the Dublinia museum) and gorge on all the delicious food.
Whilst here, make sure you try some Blaas, which to the untrained eye might look like someone sat on the pack of bread rolls but in fact are a local speciality. Your Irish experience here is incomplete without tasting at least one. 😉
Obviously, finish your night off with a big pint of Guinness! Yeah, it’s not Viking related but it’s an essential part of the trip! 🤗