A striking feature of the landscape from land, sea and air Carrickfergus Castle represents over 800 years of military might. Having driven past it on numerous occasions and even spied it from the ferry as we sailed down out of Belfast Lough, this visit I determined we would finally discover what lay behind those imposing stone walls.
We parked in a free car-park by the marina, ate a picnic lunch watching the boats bobbing in front of us framed with the magnificent back-drop of the castle.
Interesting history to say the least – besieged by the Scots, Irish, English and French the castle was in use until 1928 and even became air-raid shelters in World War II. John de Courcy, the Anglo Norman baron who conquered much of Ulster started building the castle in 1178. He did a great job, it is one of the best preserved Anglo Norman castles in Ireland and remains an iconic symbol of this town. As well as all that King William III landed here before the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 – we found his statue just outside the castle entrance.
Suitably impressed with the historical stuff we headed through the imposing gate, bought our tickets and found we had the place mainly to ourselves. It is all self-guided, information boards are dotted here and there but I would definitely recommend doing your homework before coming to get a proper feel for the place.
Son found stacks of steps to climb and cannons to clamber over – boy heaven for sure. We enjoyed the stunning views over Belfast Lough, although a cloudy day it still looked very pretty.
There are lots of life sized figures representing different historical characters associated with the castle and its history. We found the Plantagenet villain King John perched on the medieval loo – Son’s favourite. My pick though was Affreca Godfredsdottir – a Viking princess of Mann who married John de Courcy but missed her Isle of Man home and sits here looking nostalgically out to sea.
The medieval banqueting hall has been recreated, we had a look inside then watched a very child friendly cartoon type film about the history of the castle. Up at the very top of the keep is a room full of medieval games, suits of armour and other gems. Needless to say we lingered there a while.
Finally getting to look inside this magnificent castle we had a great morning. Mainly ruins I was glad we’d done our homework first. The history of this place is incredible, once you have a feel for that you really get an appreciation for those old stones.