Meet a Real Life Viking, at Vikingar! in Largs, Scotland

I was looking for things to do around Largs, and I read that kids could undergo a Viking experience, and meet real life Vikings. In Largs, I thought? Really?!

A strident Viking figure

But right enough, in part of the Largs Leisure Centre (strangely enough) you can visit Vikingar! We booked on one of their regular tours and, having arrived early, and not knowing what to expect, we waited in the Viking Gift Shop for our visit to commence. (Many of our friends’ children received Viking helmets and swords for Christmas as a result of this.)

First step, a female Viking (tour guide) arrived to greet us and we entered her Viking home. Here we learnt what Vikings cooked and learned a little about their diet. The tots pretended to cook up the most disgusting fish porridge – desperate times call for desperate measures but fish and oats does not appeal to me. The kids loved stirring the big pot hanging over the pretend fire. They ground some grains to make flour, pretended to drink from Viking horns, and generally busied themselves around the woman’s kitchen. We didn’t feel rushed and the boys cooked up a storm.

Next we were led through to a wood panelled room with carvings of the Vikings Gods etched on the walls. Admittedly this wasn’t quite so engaging for preschoolers but would work fine for older children. One example was Thor, the God of Storms, who created thunder when he drove his goat-chariot across the sky! Alongside a nifty magic belt, Thor’s main weapon was a hammer, which is why many Vikings wore hammer amulets as good luck charms.

What followed was a rather graphic film about the Battle of Largs in 1263. And this is where all the pieces of the jigsaw start to fall into place. I had no idea that vital Viking history occurred in Largs, a battle that changed the face of their rule in Scotland. In my ignorance I had thought it delightfully random that there was Viking experience in Largs. Now it all made sense.

The Battle of Largs

The western seaboard of Scotland was under Norwegian control, and tensions between Scots and Vikings were always high. Following a bout of Scottish aggression the Norse King Haakon sent his fleet to the Hebrides, from there they anchored off the Cumbraes. Bad weather sent his vessels ashore near Largs, whereupon the Scottish army arrived – there was confusion, violence, retreating, and ultimately the Norwegians headed to Orkney and regrouped. It was by no means a clear victory or loss on either side, but whilst in Orkney King Haakon passed away. His son, King Magnus, signed the Treaty of Perth, whereby the Scots agreed to pay 4000 marks to secure peace, followed by 100 marks annually. From there King Magnus slowly gave up Scotland’s Western Isles (retaining Orkney and Shetland). A marriage between the two nations – that of Princess Margaret of Scotland and Eric II of Norway in 1281 – cemented a more peaceful future.

The marriage of Margaret and Eric

My tots watched the film goggle eyed (although there is a slightly graphic stabbing scene). We learnt more in the final room where interactive toys and display boards allowed the kids to play ‘sword and shield’ jigsaws whilst I took in more detail about the history.

In total we probably spent an hour in the centre. It’s a dark and atmospheric escape from reality. Whilst the tots were entertained in varying degrees in the different rooms (displays never work for them at their age), for me to learn something completely new about Scotland doesn’t really happen every day. Vikingar! was an unexpected attraction to find in a small Scottish coastal town. It’s not a vast Glasgow or Edinburgh museum, but for Largs it’s a real high point. For info on prices and opening hours please click here.

A sword and shield jigsaw for children.

OUR STORY – We drove from Aberdeen to overnight in the rather fabulous Gleddoch Hotel and Spa. We then headed to Largs to set sail to the tiny island of Greater Cumbrae, where we fulfilled the challenge of cycling around the entire island. For a list of things to get up to on Cumbrae and in Largs please click here.

If you like what you read then don’t miss a post, enter your email address in the follow box and You’re In, or join the conversation on Facebook. For any queries or opportunities please email scots2travel@hotmail.com. We received complimentary entry to Vikingar! for review purposes. 

RELATED POSTS

22 Comments

  1. Reply

    pigeonpairandme

    February 2, 2018

    I had no idea the Scots paid a tally for peace. Those Vikings were mercenary! Shows what a diet of fish-n-oats can do to a person. That said, I love this particular bit of history. All that seafaring and cool Norse gods!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 2, 2018

      I think there’d be no pleasing me if I had to eat fish porridge.

  2. Reply

    Tania @ Larger Family Life

    February 2, 2018

    My goodness, what a gem of a place! I have to admit though, I like porridge and I like fish but fish porridge… I think I’d give it a miss no matter how desperate times were! #CulturedKids

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 2, 2018

      I agree. I got the sense that it was a tough existence. Vikings have quite a violent reputation, but if you’re looking for new resources, better land, good harvests, then peace is hard to keep.

  3. Reply

    Phoebe | Lou Messugo

    February 2, 2018

    Ewww, fish porridge sounds foul! I must admit I don’t know much about Scottish history, but now that my son is living in Glasgow I guess I better educate myself! Thanks for sharing this little bit of Viking history. #culturedkids

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 2, 2018

      If your son’s in Glasgow then you can visit some very cool islands with him. Cumbrae, Arran, Bute – lots of lovely gems. Glasgow itself is fantastic. I studied there too so I’m v biased 🙂

  4. Reply

    Cultural Wednesday

    February 2, 2018

    How fabulous, I have never heard of the Battle of Largs before (although I have caught a ferry from there) and my life is richer for knowing. I’m imagining fish porridge to be like mackerel in oatmeal, but sloppier? Thank you for linking up to #CulturedKids

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 2, 2018

      The battle was important and the weather played a crucial role, yet the passing of King Haakon was equally significant, and it seems all these factors changed the power of the Vikings in Scotland. Really interesting for history geeks like me!

  5. Reply

    bavariansojourn

    February 3, 2018

    That sounds amazing! In Denmark there are quite a few of these places, we went to an amazing one in Ribe where it’s all taken very seriously. People give up their entire holidays to come and be a viking and live like on in the “museum”… I am not sure I could handle giving up all the mod cons! 😀

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 4, 2018

      My husband would love to try that. I’d miss a lot of little home luxuries. Will look Ribe up.

  6. Reply

    Kathi Kamleitner

    February 3, 2018

    Love this – I’ve driven past the museum on a way too sunny day to go inside, but I’ve always wanted to come back since. I have a degree in Scandinavian studies with focus on medieval studies – I’d love to learn more about the vikings in Scotland!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 4, 2018

      Yes, when the sun is shining in Scotland I understand your desire to stay outdoors, but it’s a great place to learn some local history that had an impact on the rest of the country. Interesting degree by the way.

  7. Reply

    fifi + hop

    February 3, 2018

    I love it when you take your kids to places that educate you as much as them. Those are the best! Everyone wins. This place sounds awesome, and what’s not fascinating about a Viking! #culturedkids

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 4, 2018

      I think that on this occasion I learn far more than them! 🙂

  8. Reply

    Go Live Young

    February 5, 2018

    This sounds like a great place to visit. I’m not convinced about the fish porridge through! #culturedkids

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 5, 2018

      Yes, perhaps not for everyone 🙂

  9. Reply

    Nicola

    February 6, 2018

    Ooh this looks interesting. I’ve only been to large once when I was wee and definitely looking to go back so I’ll give this a try while I’m there. Nice article!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 6, 2018

      Thanks, remember to stop in Nardini’s too!

  10. Reply

    SkyeClass

    February 9, 2018

    This looks like a really fun activity. I’ve always wanted to get up to Shetland to see the real Up Helly Aa vikings, but in the meantime I can get to Largs. I was actually there a couple years ago. Beautiful plaace. Someday I plan to have kids, and this is a place I’d like to take them.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 9, 2018

      I’ve still to see Up Helly Aa in person. Largs was a gentle introduction to Vikings!

  11. Reply

    Thoroughly Modern Grandma

    February 23, 2018

    Sounds like somewhere my Grandsons would enjoy visiting 🙂
    #CulturedKids

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 28, 2018

      Our boys enjoyed cooking away in the kitchen!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: