Viking Longhouses

Whole families lived, worked, ate and slept in longhouses


Vikings lived in elongated, rectangular structures called longhouses. Across the Viking world, most houses had timber frames but, where wood was scarce, stone and turf were also used as construction materials.

The walls were often made of wattle and daub or timber planking, with a grass roof. The floor was either flagged with stones or beaten earth. Small annexes to the main building may have been used for craft purposes, such as textile production, or for the storage of commodities such as agricultural crops.


Typically, Viking longhouses were between 15m and 22m long and 5m wide. However, the largest excavated Viking house, belonging to a chieftain, was in Lofotr, Norway, and had walls 67m long and 10m wide.


Longhouses were often constructed on hillsides and aligned down the slope. Throughout Scotland, longhouses tend to have one straight wall and one which is slightly boat-shaped. The long walls usually had doors opposite one another and, frequently, these were one side of an internal subdivision and a change in the floor level. Some had livestock, principally cattle, at the lower end of the building.

Excavated examples reveal the central area of the structure was sometimes used as a hall for feasting and entertaining around a large, central hearth, with a chimney above. It was often raised up from the ground to prevent people from accidentally falling into it.


The whole family would live in the longhouse which had benches built into the walls, providing areas to sit, work and sleep. Sheep skins provided cushions for both sitting and sleeping, while woollen blankets kept the family warm when asleep.