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Britain > N.Ireland > Co.Antrim > Carrickfergus Castle

A stout castle with one of the bloodiest histories of anywhere in Northern Ireland

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Banqueting Hall
Military Models
King William III Statue
Music Concerts
Some castles look fanciful, others look atmospheric. Carrickfergus is different; its unfriendly grey walls are all business. The fort stands on a strategic coastal location, overlooking Belfast Lough. During a siege, its square battlements would have been packed with archers and bloodthirsty soldiers. The stronghold has seen lots of action since its construction in the 1100s. It has been attacked by just about every nearby nation, including the Scottish, English and French, in such famous conflicts as the Nine Years War.

Carrickfergus Castle
Photo Northen Ireland Tourist Board
As the years passed and technology evolved, various improvements were made to the castle's structure. Openings were made for gunners and cannons, giving Carrickfergus a deadly fire-power that still didn't stop it being conquered on several occasions.

Did You Know?

Carrickfergus Castle was built by Norman adventurer John de Courcy in 1177 as his headquarters.
The building's use changed many times during the 19th and 20th centuries. During the Napoleonic Wars it was both a high security prison and armoury. In World War I it housed soldiers, and in World War II it acted as an air raid shelter.

Carrickfergus Castle as drawn in 1840 by W.H.Bartlett and published in The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland
Picture by Antiqueportrait
This was to be Carrickfergus Castle's last taste of action. The soldiers had already vacated the premises in 1928, ending 8 centuries of constant military presence. The government, pledging to preserve the building as an ancient monument, put it into the care of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. They've carried out extensive repair work, leaving the castle in surprisingly good condition for its age.

Photo by Albert Bridge

Did You Know?

Carrickfergus Castle is a popular venue for outdoor music concerts.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
The Banqueting Hall has received the most attention. It was restored completely, and once again looks like it did when it hosted dozens of hungry warriors. Nowadays, instead of food, the room is filled with historical exhibits, telling the stories of Carrickfergus' successful defences and bloody conquerings.
Elsewhere, a series of models show how soldiers would have defended the castle from attackers. You can see them pouring hot tar through holes in the floor, and firing arrows off the battlements.
Archers were eventually made obsolete by the cannons, which are lined up along the walls. They were capable of sinking marauding ships before they ever reached land. The models on display come from as long ago as the 17th century.

Photo Northen Ireland Tourist Board
Friendly ships would be permitted through to land at the pier. A plaque commemorates this as the spot where King William III first stepped onto Irish soil, in the year 1690. He's honoured with a statue, which supposedly does justice to his notoriously unattractive features!

The statue of King William III
Photo by donnamarijne
King William was only here for a short time, before leaving for nearby Belfast. Perhaps he was lucky to make it out alive, as many monarchs perished within sight of Carrickfergus' walls. Even the castle's name comes from an unfortunate ruler called King Fergus, who lost his life here in a storm. That was way back in the 6th century, marking the beginning of a long, bloody history for this small coastal town.
Visitor Information
Carrickfergus Tourist Information Centre and Museum, 11 Antrim Street, Carrickfergus, BT38 7DG. Tel: 028 9335 8049
Carrickfergus Castle is open daily, 10am to 6pm (4pm in winter). Entry costs around £4 for adults, £1.50 children. Carrickfergus Castle, Marine Highway, Carrickfergus, BT38 7BG. Tel: 028 9335 1273

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