On the 7th of July, the fleet set sail from Herlover. The king commanded in person. His ship, which had been built at Bergen, was entirely of oak, of great dimensions, and ornamented with richly-carved dragons, overlaid with gold. Every thing at first seemed to favour the expedition. It was midsummer, the day was fine, and innumerable flags and pennons flaunted in the breeze; the decks were crowded with knights and soldiers, whose armour glittered in the sun; and the armament, which was considered as the most powerful and splendid that had ever sailed from Norway, bore away with a light wind for Shetland, which it reached in two days. Haco thence sailed to Orkney, where he proposed to separate his forces into two divisions, and to send one of these to plunder in the Firth of Forth; whilst he himself, remained in reserve, with his largest ships and the greater part of his army, in Orkney.
It happened, however, that the higher vassals and retainers, who appear to have had a powerful influence in the general direction of the expedition, refused to go any where without the king himself; and this project was abandoned. The fleet, therefore, directed its course to the south; and, after being joined by a small squadron which had previously been despatched to the westward, Haco conducted his ships into the bay of Ronaldsvoe, and sent messengers to the neighbouring coast of Caithness to levy contributions. This country, exposed from its situation to perpetual piratic invasions, was, as we have seen, in 1249 under the dominion of Norway. But this did not long continue. The exertions of the Scottish government had succeeded in reducing the inhabitants; hostages were exacted for their fidelity; and now we find this remote district in the state of a Scottish province, exposed to the exactions of Norway.