Steve Harding’s proposal for a…
Wirral Viking Heritage Trail
… experience Wirral’s wonderful Viking Heritage – including some of its superbly preserved stonework - and some of the beautiful scenery as you tour around our peninsula in NW
N.B. Some of these sites are currently accessible, some are not – please see the notes below.
· Large Black circles: major sites
· Small brown circles – “enthusiast” sites.
is steeped in Viking tradition and in common with neighbouring
1. START: Visitor centre at Thurstaston – site of the Viking Thorsteinn’s farmstead and the scene of (occasional!) boat burning at Thurstaston beach. Refreshments in the Centre and at TJ’s café close by. Car Park, toilets.
2. Thurstaston Common – highest point on Wirral with splendid views. A 10 minute walk from the car park across the common and into a hollow takes you to an impressive large outcrop of sandstone called Thor’s Stone. A legend in Wirral – which cannot be traced back further than the Victorians – claims that this is from mjöllnir – Thor’s hammer. It is the site of Viking style marriages – attracting enthusiasts from around the country - and for May 1st celebrations. Pub next to the car park.
Irby: famous signpost with all the Viking names and nearby is Heskeths field (which derives from hestaskeiđ = horse race track)
and where according to the name the Vikings used to race horses. View from
Thingwall (old Old Norse ţing-volr = assembly field) – where Wirral’s own Norse
assembly or parliament was held.
Although we are not sure where this was many scholars believe the site
of the Thing was Cross Hill (just off the A551 opposite the reservoir): its
elevated position, in common with sites in
Barnston Gill –
in the beautiful Thingwall woods. You can park along
7. Refreshments: Heswall Slack: pub with a Viking name (slakki – a cut through).
10. Raby Mere. Boundary of the orginal Norse settlement. Beautiful lake setting – enjoy a cream tea and cross the famous and ancient stolpi stepping stones over the River Dibbin. Car parking on road. No toilets, but Wheatsheaf pub not far away.
11. Poulton Hall* and Raby. Raby and Raby Mere is the south-east boundary of the original Norse settlements (Raby means “boundary settlement”). Poulton Hall is close to Bebington Heath, candidate site for the Battle of Brunanburh. The site owned by the Lancelyn-Green family who have lived there since 1093. It is also home of Sue Sharples splendid “Brunanburgh Viking” sculpture, unveiled in April 2004. The gardens are open twice a year – email us for further information.
12. Viking Cross – St. Barnabas Church. Norse ring headed cross reconstructed in 1957 just outside the church entrance. Parking in road.
House site (moated site off
15. Bebington Heath (edge of golf
course or Grammar School grounds), favoured site by the experts (or at least
myself) for the Battle of Brunanburh (the old name
for Bromborough is Brunanburh). Parking on the road (
16. Storeton Hall/Storeton Woods. Storeton “the great farmstead” & home of Sir John
Stanley both Hall and
Tranmere Rovers (Football Ground) - particularly match days. Tranmere
– Tranmael “cranebird
sandbank” is unique in being the only football team in the English league with
a Norwegian Viking name. Come along and
cheer the Norse cranebirds favourite team! Many Scandinavians come over to watch Tranmere when they play on Friday nights and then watch Man
Utd, Everton or
front = where the Norsemen saw those cranebirds
–Parking and toilets at the ferry terminal at nearby Woodside. Splendid views across the
19. Arno Hill : site of pagan burial mound of Arni (or Erni). Parking on the roadside. Part of the hill now has houses on it.
just down the hill from Claughton (klakkr-tun –
farmstead on a hillock). Part of the
21. Bidston: mini-hogback Viking tombstone was found here in 2004. Currently not available for display to the public but plans are afoot to have it displayed at nearby Bidston Observatory.
brekka – “slope on a hillside” and klint “projecting rock” (now called the Granny rock, off
23. Enjoy the thrills of the Estuary waves crashing against Svartskere – the black rocks (upon which Fort Perch Rock has been built). Lots of parking on the sea front and café’s nearby. Toilets also near.
24. Lingham “lyng-holm” lighthouse & seafront. Nearby at Leasowe castle was the so-called Canute chair built in the earlier part of the 19th century by the Cust family. Perhaps based on an old tradition that Canute could help do something about keeping the constant floods at bay but there is no record of this tradition before the Victorians. The lighthouse is open to visitors and refreshments/toilets available.
25. Refreshments at the Railway Inn, Meols – 2-3 metres under the car park lies an ancient medieval clinker (overlapping wooden planks) vessel. Date of vessel unknown. Discovered in 1938 by workmen and then covered up. With the help of the police Ground Penetrating Radar measurements in 2007 confirmed the existence of a boat at least 10 metres long.
26. Meols: the old Viking sea-port Melr. Parking along the sea front. Toilets at Dove Point.
Refreshments at a Viking café/wine bar - The Wro
(old Norse vra – “corner”)
Tonn-skere: tooth skerry
rocks, just out from the
29. West Kirby: St. Bridgets & the famous hogback tombstone, beautifully
restored by the National Conservation Centre,
30. Return to the Thorstein’s Thurstaston Visitor Centre.
(presented to the Irby, Thurstaston and Pensby Amenity Society, 4th June 2008)
See also VIKING MERSEY: Scandinavian Wirral, West Lancashire and Chester. (Stephen Harding), paperback, 240 pages, Countyvise Ltd, INGIMUND’s SAGA: Norwegian Wirral (Stephen Harding, with Foreword by Magnus Magnusson), and WIRRAL AND ITS VIKING HERITAGE (Paul Cavill, Stephen Harding and Judith Jesch).
Enquiries/comments: Steve Harding.
We are hoping the sites will be
appropriately signposted soon and to enhance these we are also hoping we can
raise sufficient money (~Ł30,000) for a statue of Wirral’s
first Norse leader Ingimund either at Meols or
If you wish to donate to either the statue or the Centre please follow the instructions below.
If you wish to make a donation to the Statue/Centre fund:
a cheque payable to “Olsok Ingimund
Project” and send to Professor Stephen Harding,
directly: Bank name: NatWest, Branch: Nottingham University Branch. Bank Number 60 15 49, Account: Olsok Ingimund Project, Account number
43 00 54 03. For overseas transactions:
BIC Code: NWBK GB 2L; IBAN Code: GB68 NWBK 6015 4943 0054 03.
All donations, however small, gratefully appreciated!