Kyle of Lochalsh looks to rekindle its Viking links with village project

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Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust (KLCT) has unveiled plans to build a Viking village at the Plock.

Construction work is due to begin in spring 2023 and, once completed, will be a ‘living museum’ where visitors of all ages can discover and learn about the history of Viking incursion and settlement in Lochalsh, along the western seaboard of Scotland and throughout the Western Isles from the eighth to the 13th centuries.

The plans were revealed at an event staged by KLCT as part of this year’s Highland Council Archaelogy Festival which included experimental archaeology, activities and fun for visitors at the Plock, an area of community parkland KLCT manages on behalf of Kyle of Lochalsh residents.

 

The village, to be called Ótrgard, will be constructed in local materials using
traditional methods and will be based on architectural designs developed in close conjunction with archaeological evidence from Viking sites discovered across the western and north-western Highlands and islands, as well as Orkney, Shetland and the
Nordic countries of modern-day Scandinavia.

This significant undertaking for KLCT could potentially provide jobs and boost the area’s economy.

Project officer Matthew Withey told the Lochaber Times the Plock was well-used by local people, but there was a desire to see what new developments might encourage increased economic activity.

‘The idea was for a living museum and when it was first presented to local people it proved very popular,’ Mr Withey said.

”SSE’s community funding was generous enough to grant us seed funding for a feasibility study and that is basically helping develop the idea up to the point where we could submit an application for planning permission.

‘If we were to succeed in gaining planning permission, the idea would then be to go out to the community and see what its thinking was around this.

‘You have to get that community buy-in. Although it’s inevitable there might be some people not keen on the idea, we want to have the whole community behind this if possible.’

If the project gets the green light, one other aspect that organisers are keen to explore is the possibility of constructing a Viking long ship.

Mr Withey added: ‘This is all about attracting people to Kyle of Lochalsh, which has suffered economically since the bridge to Skye was built with visitors now not stopping as long.’

Kyle of Lochalsh does have historical links to settlement by the Vikings, but asked why  a project linked to the notorious Scandinavian raiders was preferred to something involving perhaps the better known clans in the area, Mr Withey said it was felt a Viking-themed initiative might have a more unique selling point.

‘There would be nothing like this anywhere else in Scotland,’ he said. ‘There is also a chance that, while some local people might be aware of the Viking links to this area, this project would provide an opportunity to inform many more local people about a unique heritage for this area.’

It is almost 1,200 years since Norsemen in their dragon-headed long ships first crossed the North Sea and raided the western coast of Scotland and the Hebrides.

Although long since gone from these shores, the Vikings left their mark on the landscape and the culture and language of the people they came into contact with – for good or ill. Viking invaders reached Skye and Lochalsh as early as 794AD and 100 years later, Norwegian settlers began arriving, fleeing conflict at home and searching for land to settle.

CAPTION:

A design for the Viking village on The Plock.

NO F42 – Viking village on the Plock