1263 – Battle Of Largs

Seal of Alexander III

Seal of Alexander III

Kintyre and the Western Isles had been acknowledged as the property of the Norwegian crown in a treaty between Edgar, King of Scots and Magnus Barefoot, King of Norway, in 1098.
By the mid-12th century the Norwegians appeared uninterested in their Scottish lands, and by 1156 Somerled, descended from Dalriada royalty, had become their lands’ ‘sub-king’ and son-in-law of Olaf, King of Man. In 1263, Alexander III made an offer to Haakon IV to buy Kintyre and the Isles back. Haakon rejected his offer and instead, hearing of Scots attacks on Skye, set sail with a fleet to do battle with Alexander.

Sailing via the Hebrides to collect additional men and ships, the fleet eventually numbered some two hundred ships. Ewan MacDougall was now on the Isles. Trying to remain neutral, he refused to join Haakon but surrendered the islands to him.

With his men hungry to pillage, Haakon sent part of the fleet to Bute and Loch Lomond, which was reached by dragging fifty galleys across the land at Tarbet. he main fleet was sailed past Alexander’s position at Ayr and anchored off Largs.

On the 30 September a gale struck the area, wrecking and sinking the galleys. A sea battle began which lasted for four confused days. When the gale subsided on the 5 October Haakon withdrew and headed for the Isles.

Ewan had, by this time, decided which horse to back, and attacked the remaining Norse fleet. Haakon died in Orkney at the year’s end. In 1266 the Treaty of Perth returned the Isles and Kintyre to Scotland.


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