Holidays to Carrickfergus

One of the oldest towns in Northern Ireland, Carrickfergus is only 11 miles from Belfast, the city it predates and rivals in terms of a warm Irish welcome. 

On the shores of Belfast Lough – formerly known as Carrickfergus Bay – the imposing 12th century Carrickfergus Castle is the seaside town’s best-known landmark, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find countless attractions and amusements within and around segments of the 16th-century walls that enclose the old town.

Known locally simply as Carrick, it won’t take you long to get to know and love the town on an initial amble. Start out in the seaside atmosphere of the marina, with its cosmopolitan collection of restaurants, bars and shops, take in the harbour beneath the castle walls and walk the quayside. Be sure to see the glorious stained glass windows in St. Nicholas Church before storming the town walls to take in the pleasures of the town’s traditional streets. Look out for the shops and bars of North Street and West Street, and the stocks in the centre of town!

Carrickfergus seafront boasts twin attractions, new and old. The 12th-century Norman harbour is the perfect spot to while away an hour or two, watching the comings and goings of the boats and the fortunes of the local anglers. The promenade alongside the castle is one of the most picturesque spots in town.

Built in the 1980s, Carrickfergus Marina extends to more than just the town’s Sailing Club, boasting a cinema, restaurants and plenty of facilities for the kids in a modern complex.

The jewel in the crown of Carrickfergus, the castle is soaked in Northern Irish history and attracts a steady stream of visitors from Belfast and beyond. Alongside the Giant’s Causeway, the Old Bushmills Distillery and the famous Carrick-a-Rede salmon-fishermen’s rope bridge, it is deservedly cast as one of the wonders of Ireland’s Causeway Coast Way, all of which are accessible from a base in Carrickfergus.

While Carrickfergus Castle offers panoramic views of the harbour and Belfast Lough, views across town can also be gained from a seemingly unlikely source, which comes recommended. The Flame Museum is based at the old Carrickfergus Gasworks, the sole surviving example in Ireland. There’s a fascinating collection of industrial history in situ, but the ascent of the gasholder is literally the highlight.

Just a mile from the town centre is a very special 18th-century Irish farmhouse dating back to around 1750, painstakingly restored inside and out to an authentic state. The Andrew Jackson Centre commemorates the life and career of the seventh president of the United States, whose family emigrated from Carrickfergus in 1765. In the cottage grounds is a museum dedicated to the US Rangers, the combat unit whose roots lie here in Carrick. And don’t miss the steam train preservation society excursion station at Whitehead.

Whether you’re heading north for Larne and the Causeway Coast, exploring Lough Neagh or the attractions closer to Carrickfergus, there’s lots of sporting options – golf, sailing, coastal activities – and historical highlights to enjoy. And, of course, international-class entertainment and annual cultural festivals of Belfast are always close at hand.

Guide to Exploring Carrickfergus

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