THE Western Isles and north of Scotland were home to Scandinavian settlers for centuries, beginning with the Viking Invasions of the late eighth and ninth centuries.

The Outer Hebrides remained under the overlordship of the Norwegian king until the Treaty of Perth in 1266, which saw them pass to Scotland. Orkney and Shetland would remain Norwegian until 1468.

We can still see this influence in the Norse origins of place names such as Stornoway, Wick or Thurso, the last of these named for the Norse god of thunder, Thor.

But this Scandinavian link went both ways, and for hundreds of years, Scots would go to Scandinavia to trade, fight and settle.

At first, trade was the most important of these. Scottish ships would take coal and cloth to Danish ports, returning with herring and timber. In 1551, Dundee welcomed 10 Scandinavian ships bearing timber to sell.

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Some Scots merchants chose to stay in the region, settling in Copenhagen and Elsinore, even establishing altars to the Scottish St Ninian in their local churches.

By the late 1400s, the Norwegian port of Bergen, already home to many German and Hanseatic League merchants, also hosted a small colony of Scottish settlers, though they were not always welcomed.

In 1523, a group of German and Hanseatic merchants, fearing their trade monopoly was threatened, attacked and robbed 12 Scots living in Bergen, stealing goods from their stalls and damaging their trading ships. One Scot was killed and several others were forced to agree to leave Norway and move to England or Holland.

Despite these attacks, the community continued to thrive. Almost 200 Scots became burgesses in Bergen in the first half of the 1600s, giving them rights as citizens and traders in the city.

It was not only merchants who went from Scotland to Bergen, but many craftsmen as well. Scottish masons and stone-cutters worked on both Bergen Castle and the city’s Rosenkrantz Tower. Others worked in the city as coopers, sailors, and weavers. Some Scots managed to achieve high office in Bergen by becoming town councillors. One, Jorgen Schotte, caused controversy by not inviting any Hanseatic merchants to his inauguration feast in 1567. He must have still not forgiven the Hanse for their attacks upon his community in 1523.

There continued to be a significant Scottish community in Bergen until the early 1700s, with 17 Scots admitted as burgesses between 1692-1711.

There were also Scots who joined the army and navy of Denmark-Norway. The Bergenhus Regiment raised in the city had five Scottish commanding officers in the 1640s. John Cunningham, born near Crail in Fife, led the Danish expedition to Greenland in 1605 and served as an admiral before becoming governor of Finnmark in the far north of Norway in 1619.

One of the most famous Scottish-Norwegians was Margaret, Maid of Norway, granddaughter of Alexander III of Scotland (pictured). When the king died in 1286, Margaret inherited the throne, but she was only three years old and living in Norway with her father, Eric II of Norway.

The National: Margaret Maid of NorwayMargaret Maid of Norway

After years of complex negotiations between Norway, Scotland, and England, it was agreed that Margaret would come to Scotland to take up her crown, and would marry Edward of Caernarvon, the future Edward II who led the English to defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn.

In September 1290, Margaret set sail for Scotland from Bergen, accompanied by Narve, bishop of Bergen, two Scottish knights and her household servants. But she fell ill upon the journey and was brought to Orkney. Later that month, the seven-year-old queen-in-waiting died in the bishop’s arms.

Margaret’s death meant that there was no direct heir to the Scottish throne left. Thirteen rival claimants would soon arise, each arguing for their right to the throne before Edward I of England, setting the stage for the Wars of Scottish Independence.

But Scots did not only come to Denmark and Norway. Many went further east, to Sweden, where they made one of Scotland’s greatest contributions in Scandinavia: the city of Gothenburg, often said to have been built by Scots.

From its foundation in 1621, Scots played a role. The initial town council of 12 councillors included two Scots, and at least 25 Scots were admitted as burgesses in the city’s first decade.

Several Gothenburg Scots became important figures. John Spalding was president of the city’s Council of Commerce in 1658 and his son Andrew became governor of Gothenburg in 1697.

John Maclean, a nobleman from Mull, moved to the city in the 1620s, eventually became the richest man in Sweden, and was made lord of Gasevadholm, Hageby, and Hammaro in 1649. Maclean eventually became so wealthy that he was able to fund Covenanter forces back in Scotland in 1639.

His sons would serve as governors of the city, presidents of the Court of Justice, and commanders of the city’s garrison.

Elsewhere in Sweden, Scots settled in Stockholm and played a major role in the Swedish army, with around 25,000 Scots serving between 1630-48 while Sweden fought in the Thirty Years’ War. A smaller number of Scots reached Finland.

James Finlayson, an industrialist from Penicuik, was working in the ironworks of St Petersburg in 1817, one of the many Scots that worked in the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. But within a few years he had moved to the Finnish town of Tampere, then ruled by Russia, to build a textile mill using the Tammerkoski, a series of strong rapids that run through the city. The site eventually became one of the largest textile mills in Scandinavia.

At first, Scots came to Scandinavia to trade, but their history in the region saw them soon also act as soldiers, governors, and industrialists, and even joining the local nobility.

This Scandinavian link is still recognised today, with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opening the Scottish Government’s Nordic Office in Copenhagen in August, to encourage co-operation between two countries that share so much history, a connection that lasted long after the Viking Age.