In the early medieval period the Cumbraes were Norwegian-controlled islands. They were part of the Sundrays, Southern Islands, contained in the kingdom of Man and the Western Isles. Scotland's young king, Alexander III wanted this kingdom to be part of Scotland once again. He began a series of raids in Skye and other islands to provoke a response.
In the autumn of 1263, King Håkon VI of Norway led an armada of up to 200 ships and 20,000 men to challenge Scotland's Alexander. Scotland's knights would have watched from Ardrossan as the fleet moved up the Clyde to shelter in Lamlash Bay. Then from Ardneil they watched Håkon sail up to anchor off the Cumbrae Isles.
Battle was engaged on the shores of Kelburn. Due to bad weather the Norwegians couldn't land all their men and were overcome by Alexander's 500 knights and 7,000 foot soldiers. Local legend has it that Håkon stood with his captains at Down Craig to watch the battle.
Håkon withdrew with the intent to return next year after the winter with a larger force but died at Kirkwall in the Orkneys. His son, Magnus IV, was a peacemaker with his neighbours and in three years Scotland regained the Western Isles by the Treaty of Perth.
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