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Portaferry & Strangford to Stage Viking Festival in March

11th February 2022
A file photo of the Viking Festival at Killyleagh on Strangford Lough in 2012
A file photo of the Viking Festival at Killyleagh on Strangford Lough in 2012

The Vikings first invaded Ireland in 795 AD when they beached on Lambay Island near Dublin. Records show that the monastery at Nendrum on Strangford Lough and one at Downpatrick in south County Down were attacked early in the ninth century. The history of the Vikings in Ireland spans over 200 years and although it can be considered short-lived, they did make important contributions to the Irish way of life. The Vikings first appear in the Annals of Ulster 795AD which were compiled by the monastic movement.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council, Tourism NI and Ards and North Down Council have launched the Strangford Lough Viking Festival, to be held in March. The main activity will take place in Portaferry and Strangford at the mouth of the Lough at the Narrows, from Thursday 24 to Sunday 27 March. It will highlight the strong Viking links rooted within Strangford Lough and showcase a wide range of experiences and entertainment for all ages.

The original name Strangford Lough was Lough Cuan, meaning the quiet lough but it was renamed by the Vikings Strang Fiord meaning Ford of the Strong Currents.

Viking Festival launch - (Centre left) Councillor Mark Brooks, Ards and North Down Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Cathy MasonViking Festival launch - (Centre left) Councillor Mark Brooks, Ards and North Down Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Cathy Mason

Speaking about the festival, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Cathy Mason said, “Seeing the two Councils working together to aid local businesses and encourage tourism in both destinations is a real positive in the current climate. With plenty of activities planned across the Festival on each side of the lough, I would encourage everyone to visit both Strangford and Portaferry by taking the short trip on the iconic Strangford Lough ferry during the Festival weekend.”

"Full-sized replica longships will also be on display"

Portaferry and Strangford will see Viking camps with re-enactors telling the Viking story and showing how they lived in the area more than a thousand years ago. Full-sized replica longships will also be on display both on land and water, with sailors from the Vikings TV series discussing their adventures. Fierce warriors will be doing battle and there will be a wide variety of demonstrations ranging from blacksmithing to Rune reading (a Rune is a type of ancient alphabet and the use of runes persisted in rural Sweden for decorative purposes until the 20th century). Visitors will also be able to try their hand at a number of Viking activities such as axe throwing and archery and there will be a children’s treasure hunt

A full list of all the events programmed over the Festival will be available nearer the time. However, the highlights will be a Viking feast on the Friday evening and a torchlit procession followed by a concert in The Portico of Ards Arts Centre on the Saturday night.

Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Mark Brooks, said, "Ards and North Down Borough Council is delighted to be working with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to deliver an exciting Viking Festival next month. Portaferry and Strangford have strong links with Vikings, so it is a natural fit for both councils to work together to promote these areas within County Down. The Festival will provide a much-needed boost to our economy and aid local businesses in their recovery from the pandemic."

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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