Scotlands History

Vikings raid Iona and the coast

Churches and monasteries were treasure troves for the pagan raiders. In AD 793 the Vikings attacked the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. A year later they launched raids in the Hebrides. Next the Vikings attacked Iona or as they called it ‘Ilkolmkill’. The monastery was sacked and the monks slaughtered.

The ‘fury of the Northmen’ in their streamlined long ships struck terror into people from the Northern Isles, Caithness, Sutherland, round western Scotland, and south to Dublin.

The Vikings attacked Iona in AD 795, then again in AD 802. Four years later, in AD 806, the Vikings killed 68 monks by the shore at Martyr’s Bay.

An account of the attack on Lindisfarne, from a north English chronicle of the time, paints a picture of a Viking raid:

… they miserably ravaged and pillaged everything; they trod the holy things under their polluted feet, they dug down the altars, and plundered all the treasures of the church. Some of the brethren they slew, some they carried off with them in chains …

Simeon of Durham, A History of the Church of Durham

In the early 9th century the greatest treasure of Iona was taken to safety in County Meath in Ireland, where it was named The Book of Kells.


  • An image of Viking re-enacters
  • A photograph of a wood carving found in a viking longboat

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Dies Irae - wire-strung clarsach and gemshorn

Listen to Dies Irae played on the wire-strung clarsach, or small harp, and the gemshorn.