The Emerald Isle

Strongbow beseiged Waterford, a Viking town of some size and importance, for three days before overcoming it. He then consolidated his position by marrying King Dermot’s daughter, Aoife. Their marriage was celebrated in Reginald’s Tower, built in Waterford by the Viking chief Ragnvald (or Reginald) the Dane at the beginning of the 11th century. The tower, having survived an attempt by Cromwell to capture it, has in its time been a mint, a prison and an army barracks; today it is a showpiece of Waterford’s tourist industry, and is the town’s Civic Museum. THE VIKINGS IN THE SOUTHEAST Scattered across the region, much of which is fertile agricultural country today, are a few reminders of its Viking past and a great many of its Anglo-Norman heritage. Although the ridge of granite of the Wicklow and Blackstairs Mountains tended to present a natural barrier in prehistoric times between the people living on the fertile plain, between mountain and sea, and those living beyond the mountains in Carlow and Kilkenny, the existence of several rivers, carving fine valleys through the mountains and across the plains, meant that the Vikings, arriving in their longboats from Norway and Denmark early in the eighth century, were able to penetrate far inland from the island’s southeastern coast. The two main coastal towns here, Wexford and Waterford, like Arklow and Wicklow further north, were both important Viking trading posts. Wexford’s Viking name, Waesfjord , means “the harbor of the mudflats”and Waterford’s Vadrefjord means, appropriately enough, “weather haven.” Both Wexford and Waterford still show, in the pattern of their narrow streets, strong signs of the centuries of Viking occupation. Waterford, now more famous for its fine crystal than its past history, is still able to show visitors not only Reginald’s Tower, but also several fragments of the fortified wall the Vikings built after their arrival here in the ninth century. While Wexford town retains very few relics of its ancient past, and owes its regular “invasion” as much to visitors to its famous international Wexford Opera Festival 117 The Emerald Isle