The attack on Rathlin Island

Rathlin Island is the site of the first recorded Viking attack on Ireland in 795 AD. A number of Viking graves, some with magnificent grave goods, and a Hiberno-Norse coin hoard from the 1040's has been found here.

Rathlin Island is located off the north west corner of Ireland and would be the first Irish landfall for seafarers travelling south along the west coast of Scotland.

Rathlin (known as Rechru in medieval Irish sources) was, in fact where the first recorded Viking raid on Ireland took place in 795A.D: Loscad Rechrainne o geinntib, ‘the burning of Rechru by heathens’. The Isle of Skye was overrun and laid waste at the same time.

Rathlin Island is surrounded by steep cliffs but the sandy beach of Church Bay was the site of the Viking landing. The strait between Rathlin and the Irish coast – site of the whirlpool known as Coire Brecain - was notoriously difficult to negotiate.

A modern church occupies the site of the early Irish monastery. In the 18th century a number of pagan Viking graves were found here, one of which included a magnificent 9th-century silver brooch, perhaps produced by a Norse craftsman adapting an Irish type of dress fastener to Norse taste. A hoard of Hiberno-Norse coins dating to the 1040s was also found on Rathlin.

By: Maeve Sikora, National Museum of Ireland