While this year's Viking Festival is sadly not going ahead because of Covid19 restrictions, Lesley McCormack of the festival committee looks back at 40 years of the Norse celebration and its legacy...

"It is so disappointing that the Largs Viking festival is having to be cancelled this year, especially considering it would have celebrated its 40th anniversary.

We can't let this go by without paying tribute and somehow try to keep the spirit of the festival alive.

Every year for nine days our relatively peaceful town is shaken to it's foundations with the arrival of the Vikings!

Largs is steeped in Viking history, with the pencil monument on the shoreline acting as a permanent reminder of that.

In 1263 all the Scottish Islands were under the dominion of the Vikings. The mainland however was not. King Haakon IV of Norway came over with a fleet of 160 long ships, with an estimated 15,000 Vikings to remind the Scots who was boss, over lord of the Islands after successful Scottish attempts to re-claim them.

On one stormy night in October, the Vikings, including King Haakon himself, were shipwrecked on the West coast, most of them in Largs.

They were met by the Scots army under King Alexander III and a mighty battle took place. As the battle raged, the wind howled. For three days the advantage swung back and forth between the Vikings and the Scots. Eventually the Vikings were overcome and sent back into the sea, never to return.

This was a decisive battle, ending nearly 500 years of Norse superiority in Scotland.

It's significance was not one to be forgotten and so the Largs Viking festival was forged, not only to commemorate the battle of Largs but to celebrate the influence the Vikings had on Scottish life, history and culture.

This year would have marked the 40th anniversary of the Largs Viking festival but unfortunately, like so many other events and festivals we have reluctantly had to cancel due to Covid 19:

The Largs Viking festival started from humble beginnings in 1980.....

In 1979 Lord Glasgow invited local businesses, councillors and members of the public to come along to a meeting to discuss the formation of Largs Viking Festival which would take place every year on the 1st and 2nd weekend of September.

The object of the festival was to pay tribute to the Age of the Vikings through exhibitions, lectures, competitions and a battle re-enactment, and to form lasting social and cultural links between Scotland and Norway.

Magnus Magnusson, agreed to become the 1st Festival Patron and stayed Patron of the festival until his death. He was a hands on Patron.

Present every year, giving lectures, hosting and comparing concerts in Barrfields and giving valuable historical advice to the committee.

The committee are very grateful for all the help that was given by the local authority and in particular Mr Garry Hamilton.

With 40 years now gone the festival has had many re-enactment groups. The first re-enactors that came to the town in 1980 were the Norse Film and Pageant Society followed by at various times Jorvik Vikings, Regia Angolorum, The Vikings and currently Swords of Dalriada.

And the eye-catching air displays from the RAF Typhoon to the Battle of Britain RAF Lancaster celebration of a few years ago were among many memorable highlights.

In the 1990's school visits were organised through Vikingar and these to date prove very popular both locally and further afield with some 900 school children from 26 schools attending in 2019. We also introduced our markets and John Dobbie has been invaluable in the organisation of this side of the Festival.

Music has also played a big part of the festival.

Going back to the early years the festival managed to secure Jean Redpath, Ally Bain, Andy Cameron, The Tartan Lads, Moira Kerr, Peter Morrison and Humphrey Littleton to name a few. These Gala concerts were put on both weekends in Barrfields and local hotels.

This continues today but concerts are on the prom in a purpose built staged area.

The festival's future continues with an excellent board of directors continually working behind the scenes to produce this fabulous festival/

We won't allow the 40th anniversary to be overlooked and so have decided that it shall only be postponed until next year.

Hopefully the Vikings will be back next year with a vengeance!"