-> 2007 -> Birlinns and Islay

Thursday, 09/Aug/2007

Birlinns and Islay

Picture of a carving of a birlinn on a grave slab

While the Havhingsten fra Glendalough/ Sea Stallion from Glendalough has now left Islay and has just arrived on the Isle of Man it is still inspiring me to another posting. Not about viking ships visiting Islay, but about the birlinn, a quite important type of ship in Islay's history.

During their stay on Islay the crew of the Havhingsten also visited Finlaggan (see the video under the next day, they always seem to be one day delayed). Here they came across the birlinn, a descendant of the viking longship.

Picture of a grave slab of a warrior with his sword, carving of a birlinn at this feet

The birlinn, also known as highland galley, was a smaller version of the longship. It was typically around 17 yards long compared to around 30 yards for a longship. It also had an improved rudder which was more reliable than what the vikings had. This type of ship was in use for well over a 100 years in the Hebrides.

With the Lordship of the Isles being based on Islay this type of ship was extremely important during their reign. Without it they simply wouldn't have been able to rule so long and successfully. Which is probably the reason why you can find it in a number of carvings in a variety of places, including the grave slab of the warrior on Islay.

For further information also try the following pages:

PS: If you're wondering why I've got a clear picture of it without the covering glass pane you can see in the video, my picture is several years old. The glass pane is a fairly recent addition to better protect these delicate carvings from the environment without having to remove them from Finlaggan.

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