Ulster in the Viking Age

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Loaded with plunder, the dragon-headed longships swept across the waves for home. Behind them Rathlin Island, five miles off the Ulster coast, was ablaze, its monastery desecrated, its monks terrorized and its precious illuminated manuscripts destroyed. It was the year 795 and this was Ulster's first recorded Viking raid. Before the century was out, Gaelic settlements on the mainland were coming under regular attack, and for the coast-dwelling Gaels the Viking longships meant only devastation and death. But in the years to come the Vikings began to trade with the Irish. They built their own settlements, converted to Christianity and intermarried in ever increasing numbers. Ultimately society in Ulster was enriched by Norse culture and technological innovations, and today Ireland can be justly proud of its unique Viking heritage.