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Battle of Largs
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The Battle of Largs

Scotland in the Thirteenth Century

The 'Battle' of Largs was not a proper battle but rather a series of skirmishes on the beach. On the Monday morning after the great gale ( 1 October 1263) some of the local Scots militia came down to the shore and indulged in some long-range skirmishing with the Norsemen in the longships stranded on the rocks and sandbanks. The Viking King, Hakon, retaliated by sending some reinforcements ashore during a lull in the storm.

Under cover of darkness, the Scots had managed to loot some of the cargo of a Viking merchantman and again the skirmishes continued with the Viking King himself landing with a task-force to rescue what was left of the cargo. The work was almost complete when the Norwegians spotted Scottish troops approaching. This was to be the start of "the battle" itself.

The numers involved are confused with suggestions of "mere" hundreds to eight or nine thousand Scoits alone. The fighting was brief, inconclusive and lacking in any real plan. Much of it consisted of simply throwing rocks and firing arrows at each other rather than the usual hand to hand fighting of the time.

As dusk fell the Norsemen mounted another fierce attack and drove the Scots from the beach and were then able to get back to the main fleet. A couple of days later Hakon sent another party ashore to burn the ships which lay wrecked.

The battle was over and the inconclusive result allowed both sides to claim victory. Whilst the Norsemen did not lose that particular engagement, they certainly lost the campaign: Hakon had failed to secure the islands against future encroachments by Alexander III, which had been his original objective.

The Scottish story moved on, but it was still linked to the Norsemen or more accurately, the Norse lady.

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