European Shared Cultural Routes With The Vikings

The Vikings have got a name for raiding and pillaging – but what we really should be remembering them for is their amazing navigational feats and their success as traders. After conquering the native populations they would go on to settle and thrive both changing and adopting different cultures.

Viking grave Broch of Gurness FG

Viking grave Broch of Gurness


Recognising this shared European culture  the Council of Europe has, for over 30 years,  promoted a series of thematic and geographical routes bringing  together organisations across Europe. Viking Routes promotes the rich culture of the Viking period and seeks to raise awareness of their impact in terms of trade, influence, craftsmanship and above all their superb ship-building and navigation skills that took them across most of Europe.

Destination Viking was appointed by The Council of Europe to manage the cultural route. 

Destination Viking is a concept for travel experience. Over 60 partners from 16 countries have come together to develop a borderless tourism destination focusing on the Viking world.

The University of the Highlands and Islands in Orkney has been involved through both  The Institute for Northern Studies and  The Archaeology Institute.

Brough of Birsay 3

Brough of Birsay – with traces of an extensive Viking settlement

Destination Viking Association has been re-accredited as the guardian and manager of the Viking Route of European Cultural Heritage for the next three years.  The Destination Viking Association is the largest grouping of its kind in Europe and the accreditation by the Council of Europe involved an extensive independent review of its activities and visits by the assessor to several members’ sites. It is an important mark of the quality and importance of the Route which will give confidence to the public, governments, and other professional agencies.

Donna Heddle

Professor Donna Heddle

Professor Donna Heddle, Director of the Institute of Northern Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands said:

“ This is tremendous recognition for the work of the Destination Viking Association, of which INS in both Orkney and Shetland is a longstanding member.

“It is clear that research and learning, along with all the other activities of the Association, have contributed greatly to the understanding and promotion of Viking heritage and we are very proud to be a part of it all.”

The Cultural Routes Programme has also received The Carlos V European Award based in Spain –  the prize recognises the contribution the Cultural Routes make to European culture and identity. This was the first time the Carlos V European prize was awarded to a European programme.

The Chairman of the Destination Viking Association, Edmund Southworth, is the Director of the national heritage agency for the Isle of Man. It was an important location in the Viking and Norse period and is still rich in archaeological sites and Viking visitor attractions.

Edmund Southworth said;

“It has been a great honour for the Destination Viking Association to receive these two awards so close together. It demonstrates that the rich legacy of the Vikings is still highly relevant today.

“At one level Viking-related museums and tourist attractions contribute greatly to tourism across Europe. Between them, DVA members attract millions of visitors and create a significant number of jobs. But the association also promotes research and learning.

“One of the most rewarding activities DVA has done recently has been bringing young people together across Europe to perform music and dance inspired by the tales of Viking gods and heroes.”

st magnus cathedral in winter

St Magnus Cathedral Orkney

Julie Gibson the Orkney Islands Council archaeologist echoed Edmund’s words when she said:

“So many of our visitors enjoy accessing our Viking past – that DVA helps us promote.  The recognition and honours given to  DVA are based upon the work of scores of people from across Europe. Examples from here might be UHI Archaeology Institute academics such as Ingrid Mainland and Sarah Jane Gibbon who bring the past to life through their research into Norse farming and society; Orkney Museum staff who research and curate a collection of international standing including the treasures from the Scar boat grave.

“And not forgetting the local partnerships enabling the making of the St Magnus Pilgrimage route or the excavations of newly discovered pagan graves – all incredibly exciting work.”

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

Visit Norse Orkney: The Earl’s Bu Orphir


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