The invasion of the Norse Vikings
Before Howth became known as Howth, it was called Binn Éadair translating into English as Éadair’s Peak. Éadair was once a great ruler of Howth, and to this day locals continue to use this Irish name. However in the year 819, it was recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters – a book written to chronicles Irish mediaeval history that a foreign raid was made on Howth by individuals unknown to Ireland. This group was later found out to be a huge and powerful horde of Norse Vikings. They killed Éadair written as Etar in stories and captured all the women off Howth to sell them in a slave market they had set up in Dalkey.
Finally years later in retaliation, the high King of Ireland, Brian Ború declared war against the Norse King of Dublin Sitric Silkenbeard and the Norse – Irish Alliance that had formed alongside him. Many of the Vikings were slaughtered, and those that were not fell victim to the high tide in Clontarf and drowned. Legend says that some of the Norsemen managed to flee, regroup and settle in Binn Éadair. It was then renamed Hǫfuð which means ‘Head’ or ‘Headland’ in Old Norse. Over time, the name was anglicized and became known as Howth.
King Sitric was expelled as King and to ensure his loyalty and that no further rebellions could be carried out, Brian Ború married his daughter to the Norse King. And then to further solidify things, Brian Ború himself married Sitric’s mother. Sitric’s armies therefore fought alongside the High King of Ireland’s side making him owner of the most powerful fleet.
It’s thought that in the year 1042, King Sitric himself came to Howth and built St. Mary’s Church which was then turned into an Abbey. The Abbey itself still stands today, and although it’s in ruins there’s an eeriness in the air around it. Its stands today as one of the oldest monuments in Howth, alongside Aideen’s Grave that predates it by about 4,500 years as Aideen’s Grave is estimated to be erected in 3,500 BC.