Howth and the greatest Viking battle of Clontarf

We hadn’t planned it. It was 2014 and we were visiting Dublin for 4 days during Easter. We discovered the fantastic capital of Ireland and also had time to do a 1-day trip out of the city. We wanted to see some cliffs, the Irish coast and a fishing town. And we discovered that there is one place that you can reach in less than one hour from Dublin city centre with all of these characteristics: Howth. In this post we explain what we saw in Howth, our nice walk through the cliffs towards the lighthouse and how we found ourselves in the middle of an epic Viking battle in the afternoon!

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Viking woman with beer in the horn for the warriors

Unfortunately, we found out that train service towards Howth was not available. We had to change our plans quickly to reach Howth without a huge delay. Fortunately we found a bus line that left us next to Howth train station. From there, in a chilly and drizzly spring day, we started to walk through the seafront, hearing seagulls and looking for the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.

Sitric, the Viking King of Dublin, recognized the incredible views of Howth Bay when he decided to set up the earliest church there in 1042. Two centuries later this church was replaced by an abbey, rebuilt in 14th century. However, today we can only find ruins which give it a special atmosphere.

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St Mary’s Abbey in Howth

From Howth starts a path through the cliffs with spectacular ocean views. It is worth it to spend around 2 hours walking towards the lighthouse. It is an easy walk that can be done by almost everyone. We didn’t reach the lighthouse but we could take the photos of it from the best viewpoint on the cliffs.

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Walking on the cliffs

The Baily Lighthouse is situated in the southern part of Howth Head and it was built in 1667. However, it was built in a higher position than its actual situation. The fog, thicker at the top of the cliffs, prevented many ships of seeing the light and the shipwrecks became common. Then it was decided to move the building to a lower position, where it remains nowadays.

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The Baily Lighthouse
We came back to the town very hungry! We stopped in a restaurant in the seafront to enjoy seafood and fish and chips. It was delicious.

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Mussels with Parma cheese

We hadn’t planned it but after having lunch we took the bus back towards Dublin and stopped somewhere in the middle of the bus route. We had known by chance that there was a performance of the greatest Viking battle that ever happened. It was in 1014, just one millennia before we visited the place. By chance we enjoyed our best memory of our visit to Dublin and Howth.

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Just read the sign

The battle of Clontarf happened on Good Friday. In this clash, Brian Boru and the forces of Munster together with the Viking allies fought against the Viking armies of Dublin, Máel Mórda mac Murchada, King of Leinster and Viking mercenaries from Iceland and Normandy, the Orkney Islands and the Isle of Man. Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland, wanted to renew peace in Ireland and unite all the clans under his rule.

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Look at the spear!

The battle was violent. I mean the performance! We could hear every hit, every man falling on the grass, shouts and horse screams. Everything started with two defined parallel rows of warriors, allowing enemies to look at their eyes from the distance. And then, Brian Boru ordered to start the battle and everyone started running towards the enemy forces. The clash was so violent that many people were defeated with that first hit.

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Real violence

All kind of weapons were used by the warriors and none of them was a fake. The hit of the metal, wood and stones was real and some warriors needed medical assistance at the end. Fortunately, it was just a performance and everything was planned… or not?

Two Traveling Texans

16 thoughts on “Howth and the greatest Viking battle of Clontarf”

      1. I admire your style very much, it is a very important aspect of my own blog and people I follow. I want 20 people with the right style rather than 2000 followers with the wrong style! Choose!

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  1. I did a day trip to Howth too and loved it. Such a scenic place so close to Dublin. I didn’t know about the Viking battle, so lucky you happened to come across it. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was quite surprised by how much people in Ireland focus on their Viking heritage – I thought that was only a thing in Norway. How awesome to visit during a Viking spectacle though – my boyfriend would love this!!

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  3. We’ll be in Dublin this fall and will have to make the trip out to Howth! Bonus if we can catch a few Vikings bashing each other! 🙂 We had only a vague notion of Vikings in the area, so thanks for the brief history lesson. And for the beautiful photos. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Yes! If you have time for Howth you will like the atmosphere and the hike to the lighthouse :). And don’t miss the Phoenix Park in Dublin! You can feel like in a Safari looking for the deers!

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