The seafaring Vikings were a group of people from the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Between the late eigth century and the 11th century, the Vikings invaded many parts of the world – from eastern and western Europe to the North American continent, and even parts of the Middle East. In doing so, they made a name for themselves as fearless warriors, smart traders, and relentless raiders.
The Viking Age continues to fascinate people across the globe today. And in the UK, we’re lucky enough to have the sites of various invasions, settlements, and archaeological discoveries right on our doorstep.
With that said, we’ve put together a list of 10 places with Viking connections to visit in the UK.
1. House of Manannan, Isle of Man
If you’d like a taste of what living in a Viking-ruled kingdom was like, then a trip to House of Manannan is definitely worth it.
At this interactive museum, you’ll be taken on a journey through the Island’s rich Celtic, Viking, and maritime past – guided by the mythological sea god Manannan himself.
Prepare to pass by life-size reconstructions of the Viking settlement that once stood here, marvel at the replica of the infamous Viking ship known as Odin’s Raven, and learn more about the island’s history as the centre of a powerful Viking sea kingdom
2. Lindisfarne Priory, Northumberland
No list of Viking attractions would be complete without Lindisfarne Priory. Also known as Holy Island, it was here that a devastating Viking attack took place in 793.
The attack was particularly significant because Lindisfarne Priory was regarded as the sacred heart of Northumbria and the place where Christianity in England began. For this reason, the Lindisfarne raid is often cited as the beginning of the Viking Age in Europe.
During a visit to Lindisfarne, you can follow in the footsteps of the ancient monks who built their priory here almost 1,400 years ago. You can wander around the ruins and learn more about how the famous raid played out.
Having recently undergone refurbishment, the Lindisfarne Priory Museum also has new experiences and displays for 2023. This includes newly excavated objects, specially-commissioned artwork, and a monument marking the original burial place of Northumbria’s patron saint, St Cuthbert.
3. Jorvik Viking Centre, York
At the world-famous Jorvik Viking Centre, you’ll be standing on the site of one of the most astounding discoveries in modern archaeology.
Between 1976-81, archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust discovered the houses, workshops, and backyards of the Viking city as it stood almost 1,000 years ago. And today, a visit to Jorvik Viking Centre will uncover York’s rich Viking legacy.
This is a visitor experience like no other. Experience lifelike mannequins; reconstructed Viking Age streets, rich with the sights, sounds, and smells of Viking life; state-of-the art galleries showcasing 1,000 year old artefacts; and fully immersive displays of the excavation.
4. Repton, Derbyshire
You don’t have to look too far into Derbyshire to find proof of the Viking colonisation that went on here.
Many cities, towns, and villages in the area contain the Old Norse suffix ‘-by’ (meaning village) in their name. Even the city of Derby itself, translated as ‘deer village’, originates from the ancient Norse language.
The small village of Repton in the south of Derbyshire has a particularly rich – and somewhat chilling – Viking past. The Vikings invaded here in 873, banishing King Burgred of Mercia to Rome and replacing him with their own King Ceowulf.
Today, you can discover the Viking mausoleum at Repton Abbey, which is a mass grave of at least 249 human corpses. Many artefacts have also been discovered at the burial site over the years, including an axe, a sword, and some coins.
5. Vikingar!, Largs
Vikingar! is an award-winning, interactive, hands-on experience where you can find out more about how the Vikings lived.
At this heritage and cultural centre, expect to meet real Viking storytellers who’ll welcome you onto their replica of an 8th-century Norwegian Longhouse.
In a unique experience of Viking life over 1,000 years ago, you’ll have the opportunity to try on replica armour and helmets, and check out various swords, shields, and axes; and if you’re brave enough, venture on to meet the Gods of Asgard. Perhaps you’ll receive a message from Odin himself…
Alongside the fun, there’s plenty of opportunity for learning at Vikingar! too. At the end of the tour, a 15 minute presentation is given on the Vikings of Scotland – from the first raids on the Holy Isle of Iona in 795, all the way to the Battle of Largs in 1263.
6. Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
The city of Canterbury’s religious roots made it an ideal Viking target to further their control over England.
They first attacked Canterbury in 851 and, in 1012, after a long siege, the Vikings captured the whole city and took Alphege, the Archbishop of Canterbury, hostage. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Vikings submitted the archbishop to gruesome death after not receiving the hefty ransom they demanded.
Today, the medieval cathedral where the archbishop was captured, is well worth a visit. The beautiful building has magnificently stood the test of time – even at the hands of the violence inflicted by the Vikings.
7. The Dock Museum, Cumbria
At the Dock Museum in Cumbria, you’ll find the Furness Hoard – an extensive collection of Viking and Anglo-Saxon artefacts discovered in 2011.
The Hoard is the greatest collection of Viking treasure ever discovered in the area, consisting of 92 silver coins, as well as several ingots and arm-rings. Not only are these fascinating artefacts to look at, but they also teach us a huge amount about the ins and outs of Viking trading and politics.
Alongside the museum’s famous Hoard collection, there are various other Viking artefacts to discover too, including swords, weights, and spindle whorls.
The Dock Museum is also a great all rounder, with a collection stretching from hand axes made during the Neolithic period (3500 BC – 2000 BC) all the way up to board games created during the 1970s. So if you’re after a more general history-themed day out, this could be the place for you.
8. Causeway Coastal route, County Antrim
The first recorded Viking raid on the Irish coast occurred in 795, and they began to settle here during the ninth century.
There’s plenty of evidence of Viking activity in many southern Irish towns like Carlingford, but archaeologists have uncovered little to no traces of Viking settlements in Northern Ireland.
However, there are still a few areas in Northern Ireland along the Causeway Coastal route that have Viking connections.
This includes the coastal town of Larne in County Antrim – a centre of Viking activity during the 10th and 11th centuries – and the rocky headland of Fair Head, which is wrapped up in local legend. There’s also Dunluce Castle, wherea battle between the Vikings and local Irish tribes allegedly took place during the 12th century.
9. Portland and the Ancient Technology Centre, Dorset
This county on the southwest coast of England served as an open door and set off point for Viking rule over the UK mainland.
The Vikings began their attacks on the Isle of Portland – an area connected to England by a slim beach called Chesil – between 787 and 789. Portland’s beautiful coastline and rugged landscape make it an excellent spot for a Viking adventure.
You could start with a trip to Ridgeway Hill – an area that confirms at least one Anglo-Saxon victory against the Vikings. A total of 54 Viking skeletons were uncovered at the hill, but only 51 skulls. According to historians, the three missing skulls were placed on spears and displayed to warn any passers-by, as the evidence shows they were executed by beheading.
Why not take a charge up Ridgeway Hill and reimagine the battle scenes yourself? Who knows, you might find the three missing skulls while you’re there…
Another Viking-themed place worth visiting in Dorset is the Ancient Technology Centre, where you’ll find a 26-metre Viking longhouse constructed with traditional materials and techniques.
If you’re ready to immerse yourself in daily life as a Viking, this is the place to do it. Offering a one-of-a-kind immersive experience, guests have the opportunity to spend a day and night in the longhouse.
Prepare to swap modern clothes for Viking tunics, dresses, and belts, and spend your day working on the farm or doing house work like churning butter and tending to animals.
In the evening, guests are served a simple meal and a range of Viking games are played before hunkering down for the night on sheepskin mats. During the experience you’ll also learn about some of the fascinating technologies and techniques used to create ancient buildings.
10. The River Thames, London
By the ninth century, London had become a very prosperous trading centre and, unsurprisingly, its wealth attracted the attention of the Vikings.
Norsemen periodically sailed up and down the Thames in a series of attacks against London. The most famous of these attacks was in 851, when around 350 longboats full of Vikings attacked and burned London to the ground.
The city was eventually resorted to Anglo Saxon rule in 886, before Viking attackers returned in 994, led by Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark.
It’s fascinating to think about what Viking remains and relics might lay at the bottom of the Thames.
However, alongside strolling up and down the Thames reimagining the scenes yourself, both the British Museum and the Museum of London are great places to go if you’d like to learn more about the Viking’s lasting impact on London.
You can get a taste of what life was like in medieval London in the Museum of London’s medieval gallery or browse the impressive collections of medieval artefacts held at both museums.
The Viking Age continues to fascinate people today. And luckily, having left a lasting mark on our island through their formidable raids and early settlements, the UK remains a great place to learn more about this intriguing period of history.
For further reading, you might like to head over to the art and culture section of our website. Here you’ll find various history-related articles, including 17 of the most beautiful castles in the world, 11 inspiring women throughout history, and 8 reasons to start exploring your family tree.
And if you’re interested in learning more about the Vikings specifically, why not tune into Rest Less Events’ On the Viking Trail this July?