Places to See | Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.
If you only get the chance to visit one castle in Northern Ireland, Carrickfergus should be the one.
Standing on a rocky spur on the northern shore of Belfast Lough, Carrickfergus Castle dominates all approaches to the town. John de Courcy, the Anglo-Norman baron who conquered much of Ulster, started building it about 1178 and it remained fully garrisoned for 750 years until 1928.
Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the Castle saw action right up to World War II. Now preserved as one of the best medieval structures in Ireland, it is open to the public and remains an iconic symbol of the town and certainly one of the places to see in Co Antrim.
Whilst it is local joke about how convenient it was to build a castle so close to a car park and some great restaurants, the castle was originally nearly completely surrounded by the sea. Strategically, it was a vital stronghold, commanding views across the lough and from land approaches.
Carrickfergus Castle is a self-guiding facility. Information boards around the Castle allow you to explore this historic monument at your leisure whilst getting an insight into the history of the site. You can also purchase an information booklet with map from the Visitor Centre, which is located at the entrance to the Castle.
As one of the premier family attractions in Northern Ireland, younger visitors can enjoy climbing around the cannon and experiencing medieval life in the recreated banqueting hall. Guided tours of the Castle are also available. Pre-booking is advisable, but essential for larger groups.
Carrickfergus Castle is managed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Address: Carrickfergus Castle, Marine Highway, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim BT38 7BG