The Magnificant Anglo-Norman castle at Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus Travel Blog

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Southern view near sunset

The outstanding feature on the north shore at the entrance to Belfast Lough, Carrickfergus castle commands the approaches to the city and is one of the best complete examples of Anglo-Norman military architecture.  The castle represents over 800 years of military might. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the Castle saw action right up to World War II. Today it is maintained by the Environment and Heritage Service and is open to visitors wanting to learn more about its history or just looking for a fun day out in a unique setting.

Carrickfergus castle was a key to the Anglo-Norman hold on Ulster, started by John de Courcy, conqueror of Ulster, between about 1180 and his fall in 1204.

Looking from the North West
It was captured by King John after a siege in 1210, and the Middle Ward may date from after that event. The Outer Ward was probably added during Hugh de Lacy's lordship, between 1228 and 1242. During the Edward Bruce invasion the English retreated to Carrickfergus after the battle of Connor, and the castle fell to the Scots in September 1316, after a year's siege. It remained an important residential and administrative centre in the later middle ages but was not involved in warfare. Renewed building activity dates from the 16th century, when alterations were made for defence by and against artillery, but its importance declined and the castle was in disrepair when Schomberg took it for William III in 1690. It was last captured in 1760 by the French commander, Thurot, after a heroic defence by the garrison. After its use as a prison in the 18th century it was further strengthened and served as a magazine and armoury until 1928, whilst the Keep was used as an air-raid shelter in the 1939-45 war. This long and complex history is reflected in the extensive structures which remain.
Literally... the postcard view!

Things to do

Carrickfergus Castle is a self-guiding facility. Information boards around the Castle & audio visual displays allow you to explore this historic monument at your leisure whilst getting an insight into the history of the Castle. You can also purchase an information booklet with map from the Visitor Centre, which is located at the entrance to the Castle. Guided tours of the Castle are also available. Pre-booking is advisable, but essential for larger groups.

As you walk around the Castle you will find historic figures that bring its stormy history to life. From the Norman knight, John de Courcy and his wife Lady Affreca to guards at their posts keeping watch over the Castle, these life size models portray the characters that make up the Castle's history.

17th Century drawing

I loved trips here over the years, and it has now become a very accomplished visitor experience and one I would highly recommend.

I haven't gone completely crazy... the summary title comes from an Old Irish Song recently reprised by Van Morrison... You guessed it... "I wish I was in Carrickfergus". The only problem is that the old song refers to another Carrickfergus - in the province of Munster. Its a very common name meaning Carraig - the Rock of Fergus. Some argue the Irish term has connections with the Norse - Viking KRAG meaning rocky peak or headland... Who the 'Fergus' really knows!

o_mendfornd says:
Very informative!!
Posted on: Mar 03, 2008
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Southern view near sunset
Southern view near sunset
Looking from the North West
Looking from the North West
Literally... the postcard view!
Literally... the postcard view!
17th Century drawing
17th Century drawing
The keep as seen from the harbour
The keep as seen from the harbour
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Carrickfergus
photo by: aloneinthecrowd