Northern-Ireland Medieval Towns: Carrickfergus
1170 AD

"I wish I was in Carrickfergus, Only for nights in Ballygrant I would swim over the deepest ocean, For my love to find"

Irish Song

Carrickfergus is said to take its name from Fergus Mór (Fergus the Great), the legendary king of Dál Riata. Carrickfergus far pre-dates Belfast and was for a long period of time both larger and more prominent. It became an inhabited town shortly after 1170, when Anglo-Norman knight John de Courcy invaded Ulster.

Carrickfergus Castle, the most prominent landmark of the town, is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Ireland. Segments of the town wall in various states of preservation are also still visible in town. 

The Battle of Carrickfergus (fought between the crown forces of Queen Elizabeth I and the Scots clan of MacDonnell) took place in and around the town in November 1597.

Historical Figures of Carrickfergus

Coat of arms of Courcy family.

Sir John de Courcy (1160–1219)

An Anglo-Norman knight and builder of Carrickfergus Castle. Until his expulsion in 1204, he conquered extensive territory, endowed religious establishments, and built abbeys and strongholds in County Down and County Antrim.

Visit Carrickfergus

What to See

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Medieval Carrickfergus: Top 5 Attractions

Carrickfergus Castle is one of the best preserved medieval structures in Northern Ireland and was besieged by the Scottish, native Irish, English and French. It was strategically useful because 3/4 of its perimeter is surrounded by water. Carrickfergus was built in 1177 as headquarters for John de Courcy.

Carrickfergus Town Walls

Carrickfergus was first protected by earth ditches in the medieval period. The defensive earth ditch and bank walls were partially replaced by stone in the late 1500’s. Completed in 1615, the walls of Carrickfergus pre-date Londonderry Walls and around half of the original circuit remains intact and preserved. 

Carrickfergus Town Walls
Saint Nicholas’ Church

Saint Nicholas’ Church

Saint Nicholas’ Church is a magnificent building originally constructed at the same time as the castle. Established in 1182 by John de Courcy, it’s thought that this was a site of worship even pre-dating this time. It is believed to have been attached to St. Mary’s Abbey, also founded by de Courcy for the Premonstratensian Order of monks.

Historic Harbour

Throughout the medieval period, Carrickfergus was the main commercial port in Ulster – a hub of European-wide trading. The old harbour was the site of the landing of King William III on 14th June 1690 ahead of his victorious Irish campaign against James II.

Carrickfergus Harbour
Knockagh Monument

Knockagh Monument

The Knockagh Monument is a war memorial in County Antrim. Located on top of Knockagh Hill, above the village of Greenisland, it offers a panoramic view of the city of Belfast and surroundings. It’s the largest war memorial in Northern Ireland.

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