Norse

The Viking raid on the island of Lindisfarne in 793 AD is traditionally regarded as the beginning of the Viking age in Britain , although it has been suggested that these early raiders may already have been settled in the Northern Isles rather than sailing directly from Norway . During the next three to four decades the Gaelic annals record a large number of Viking raids in the Hebrides and Ireland and a number of monasteries, including í ( Iona ), were attacked and looted and monks were killed. While activities of this nature figure prominently in popular accounts about the Vikings, it is clear that raiding was not the only concern of these Scandinavian peoples. Trade may also have played a major role in this process. For example, in Ireland after 841 AD, the major trading ports of Dublin , Wexford, Waterford , Cork and Limerick all originated as Viking naval bases ( longphoirt ). In theory, and at a slightly later period, a trader from Dublin could have sailed up the Irish sea , crossed the North sea and entered Scandinavian-controlled river systems in Russia to emerge eventually in the Black sea and sell his goods in Constantinople.

By c.850 AD the Gaelic annals record the appearance of a new group of people called the Gall-Ghaidheil (foreign Gaels) who seem to have been mainly resident in the Hebrides and south-west Scotland . It is likely that these people were of mixed Norse and Gaelic blood which indicates a degree of integration and settlement between the two peoples within a short period of time. Scandinavian bases and trading ports were also established on the east coast of Britain . In England , York was captured in 866 AD and it is possible that the devastation of the North-British fortress on Dumbarton rock in 870 AD was an attempt to establish a maritime link between York and Dublin via the Clyde-Forth headwaters. By the end of the ninth century, Norse control of the Northern Isles led to the creation of the earldom of Orkney and successive dynasts from this province attempted to extend their authority southwards into Caithness (which included Sutherland during this period) and Moray over a long period of time. It has been suggested that this Norse push southwards towards the Great Glen was motivated by economic considerations: namely, a desire to control the extensive timber resources found in Easter Ross for the maintenance, repair and building of shipping.

It is still not clear whether the North-East was ever affected to the same extent. We do know that a fortification near Dunottar, south of Stonehaven, was attacked by Vikings c.900 AD and archaeological evidence suggests that the Pictish fort at Burghead, near Elgin , could have suffered a similar fate. Although the North-East does not appear to have any Scandinavian place-names, in contrast to other areas like Caithness and Galloway , the name of one of the mormaír (earls) of Buchan, Colbán, mentioned in the Gaelic Notes in the Book of Deer appears to be derived from the Old Norse name Kolbeinn . At least one of his sons, Magnus, was also given a Norse name. Recently, it has been argued that many of the so-called “Pictish” ogam inscriptions, which have largely defied translation, are Scandinavian in origin and can be read using Old Norse. If this new theory is proved to be correct, and given that many of the inscriptions appear in the North-East, it is possible that some Scandinavians may indeed have settled in north-east Scotland.