Exploring The Town of Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus Castle

Updated On: April 29, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Carrickfergus is a large town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, sometimes called “Carrick.” It is also the oldest town in County Antrim and one of the oldest in Northern Ireland. The town sits on the north shore of Belfast Lough, a 65-acre townland, a civil parish, and a barony.

Back in time, Carrick predated Belfast, now Northern Ireland’s capital and it was even considered more significant than the nearby city. The exciting thing is that Carrick and the surrounding area were treated as a separate county back in the old days.

Exploring The Town Of Carrickfergus – Northern Ireland

Carrickfergus Name Meaning

You might wonder where the name “Carrickfergus” actually came from. Well, it is believed that the name of this town comes from “Fergus Mor” (Fergus the Great), the legendary king of Dál Riata. He was shipwrecked off the coast strategically on a rocky spur above the harbour, precisely where Carrickfergus Castle is now.

Historical Legacy

The history of Carrickfergus dates back over a thousand years, with evidence of human settlement found as far back as the Neolithic period. However, during the medieval era, the town flourished, emerging as a strategic stronghold and thriving port town. Its strategic location on the northeastern coast of Ireland made it a key focal point for trade and military defence, attracting settlers from across Europe and beyond.

Central to Carrickfergus’s historical legacy is its iconic Norman castle, one of the best-preserved medieval structures in Ireland. Built in the late 12th century by John de Courcy, a Norman knight, the castle symbolised Norman dominance in Ireland and played a pivotal role in shaping the town’s destiny. Over the centuries, the castle witnessed numerous sieges, battles, and conquests, each leaving its mark on its weathered stone walls.

Exploring Carrickfergus Castle

Exploring Carrickfergus Castle

Today, Carrickfergus Castle is a proud sentinel overlooking the town, offering visitors a glimpse into its storied past. Visiting this imposing fortress is a journey back in time, where visitors can explore its battlements, climb its towers, and immerse themselves in the medieval atmosphere. Inside the castle walls, interactive exhibits and displays bring history to life, recounting tales of knights, kings, and sieges long past.

From the top of the castle’s ramparts, panoramic views of Belfast Lough and the surrounding countryside unfold, providing a breathtaking backdrop for visitors to soak in the beauty of their surroundings. Whether wandering through the castle’s interior or admiring its exterior from afar, the sense of awe and wonder inspired by Carrickfergus Castle is palpable, leaving an indelible impression on all who visit.

Maritime Heritage


Beyond its castle walls, the town boasts a rich maritime heritage that continues to shape its identity today. For centuries, the town’s bustling harbour was a hub of activity, welcoming ships from across the globe and facilitating trade between Ireland, Britain, and beyond. The legacy of this maritime heritage is evident in the town’s maritime museum, which pays homage to the town’s seafaring past through a fascinating collection of artefacts, exhibits, and interactive displays.

From the age of sail to the era of steam, Carrickfergus played a vital role in Ireland’s maritime history. Its harbour served as a gateway to the world beyond its shores. Today, visitors can stroll along the waterfront promenade, watch fishing boats bobbing in the harbour, or simply soak in the maritime atmosphere that permeates the town.

Cultural Gems

In addition to its historical and maritime attractions, the town has a vibrant cultural scene that celebrates its artistic heritage and creative spirit. The town hosts diverse cultural events throughout the year, from music festivals and art exhibitions to theatre productions and literary gatherings. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture by attending a traditional Irish music session, exploring the works of local artists, or sampling the culinary delights of the town’s many cafes and restaurants.

One of Carrickfergus’s cultural calendar highlights is the annual Highland Games, a celebration of Scottish heritage and athleticism that attracts competitors and spectators from near and far. Against the backdrop of Carrickfergus Castle, athletes test their strength and skill in traditional Scottish sports such as caber tossing, hammer throwing, and Highland dancing. At the same time, bagpipers fill the air with the stirring sounds of Scottish music.

Natural Beauty

Beyond its historical and cultural attractions, Carrickfergus is blessed with abundant natural beauty, from its rugged coastline and sandy beaches to its lush green countryside and rolling hills. The town’s proximity to the Causeway Coastal Route, one of the most scenic drives in Ireland, makes it an ideal base for exploring the stunning landscapes of Northern Ireland’s coastline.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to see and do in the town, whether hiking along the rugged cliffs of the Antrim Coast, cycling through the picturesque countryside, or simply enjoying a stroll along the shore. For those seeking adventure on the water, Belfast Lough offers ample opportunities for sailing, kayaking, and other water-based activities, providing a unique perspective on Carrickfergus’s coastal beauty.

Carrickfergus Song

Being a famous big town in Northern Ireland and having different landmarks that call out for visitors to go to and check, we have to mention that Carrick has also left its mark on a song named “Carrickfergus”. Carrickfergus’s song was released in 1965 and was first recorded under “The Kerry Boatman” by Dominic Behan on an LP called The Irish Rover. This song was recorded one more time afterwards by the Clancy brothers.

Discovering More Attractions in Carrickfergus Town

While Carrickfergus is renowned for its medieval castle and rich maritime heritage, the town offers many attractions and activities that are waiting to be explored. The town beckons visitors to delve deeper into its diverse offerings and uncover hidden gems that add to its allure, from tranquil parks and gardens to bustling markets and lively pubs.

Joymount Arms

For those seeking a taste of traditional Irish hospitality, visiting the historic Joymount Arms is a must. Dating back to the 17th century, this charming pub exudes old-world charm and character with its cosy interiors, open fires, and friendly atmosphere. Whether enjoying a pint of Guinness by the hearth or sampling hearty Irish fare in the snug dining area, visitors will feel right at home in this beloved local institution.

Carrickfergus Marina

Situated at the heart of Carrickfergus’s bustling waterfront, the marina offers a scenic backdrop for strolls and picturesque lough views. Home to a vibrant community of boat owners and enthusiasts, the marina buzzes with activity year-round, from sailing regattas and boat races to leisurely cruises along the coastline. Visitors can soak in the maritime atmosphere, watch the comings and goings of boats, or simply relax and enjoy the tranquil ambience of this scenic spot.

Carrickfergus Museum and Civic Centre

Carrickfergus Museum

Delve into Carrickfergus’s rich heritage and cultural legacy at the town’s museum and civic centre. Housed within a historic building overlooking the castle, the museum showcases a diverse collection of artefacts, exhibits, and interactive displays that bring the town’s history to life. From ancient relics and archaeological finds to modern-day artworks and multimedia installations, the museum offers insights into Carrickfergus’s past, present, and future, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs and culture enthusiasts.

Woodburn Forest and Country Park

Escape the hustle and bustle of the town and immerse yourself in the tranquillity of Woodburn Forest and Country Park. Just a short drive from the town, this sprawling nature reserve offers miles of scenic walking trails, tranquil woodland paths, and panoramic viewpoints overlooking Belfast Lough and the surrounding countryside. Whether picnicking by the lake, birdwatching in the forest, or simply enjoying a stroll amidst nature’s beauty, visitors will find plenty to enchant and inspire in this peaceful retreat.

Carrickfergus Market

Experience the town’s vibrant sights, sounds, and flavours at the bustling market. Held weekly in the town centre, the market offers a tempting array of fresh produce, local crafts, artisanal goods, and delicious street food. From handmade jewellery and pottery to gourmet cheeses and baked treats, the market showcases the best of Northern Irish craftsmanship and culinary delights, providing a feast for the senses and a unique shopping experience for visitors and locals alike.

Last Words

Carrickfergus is a shining jewel in Northern Ireland‘s crown, a town rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. From its medieval castle to its bustling harbour, from its vibrant cultural scene to its breathtaking landscapes, the town offers visitors a captivating glimpse into the heart and soul of Ireland. Whether exploring its historical landmarks, immersing oneself in its cultural traditions, or simply soaking in its scenic beauty, Carrickfergus enchants and delights, leaving an indelible impression on all who enjoy experiencing its charms.

Have you ever been to this town in Northern Ireland before? Tell us more about your stories in this old town. If this is your first time hearing all this information, put it on your list of places to visit in Northern Ireland.

Also check out some other interesting places in Northern Ireland that you might want to visit such as Botanic Gardens, Ballycastle, Lough ErneCrawfordsburn, Downpatrick Town, Village of Saintfield.

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