Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Situated in the town of Carrickfergus the castle has wonderful views over Belfast Lough and is only 11 miles north of Belfast itself.
The well preserved Norman castle is considered one the finest examples of its kind in Ireland. It has the remains of its original curtain wall along with a postern gate on the seaward side and an eastern tower. The eastern tower; believed to have housed the chapel, has a chamber on the first floor with a Romanesque double window and cross bow loops at basement level.
The castle is open to the public daily all year round between Easter and September 10am to 6pm and from October to Easter between 10am and 4pm.
There is a display of cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries along with historical exhibits and information on castle's history inside the keep.
The castle is licensed for civil wedding ceremonies to a maximum of 50 guests and it also possible to hire the castle for private events such as children's parties in the dungeons.
Built in 1177 by John de Courcy, Carrickfergus Castle was used as his headquarters until 1204. The original castle site consisted of a bailey, inner wall and great hall as well as other buildings which were all surrounded by a high polygonal curtain wall to protect it from the sea. In 1204 de Courcy lost the castle to Hugh de Lacy.
In 1210 the castle came under attack from the soldiers of King John and in 1217 a new larger curtain wall was built to protect the castle during low tide on the eastern side. Hugh de Lacy also added a huge portcullis at the gatehouse and a vault which were all completed in 1250.
The castle remained in the hands of the crown throughout the 16th and 17th centuries with many more improvements and additions being made including embrasures for the cannon's and splayed gun ports. The castle's defences were still not sufficient to prevent it from being taken many times, most notably in 1690 by General Schomberg for King William III and in 1760 by Francois Thurot for the French. This was also the time when the middle curtain wall was taken down apart from a section on the seaward side.
The Napoleonic Wars in 1797 saw the castle being used as a prison as well as an armory, in the First World War and Second World Wars the castle was used as a garrison and an air raid shelter. In 1928 ownership was granted to the state who declared it a National Monument and opened to the public.
Other Castles in the Area
Ballygally Castle, County Antrim
Bangor Castle, County Down
Belfast Castle, County Antrim
Glenarm Castle, County Antrim
Olderfleet Castle, County Antrim
Sketrick Castle, County Down
Stormont Castle, County Antrim