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A Guide To The Historic Town Of Carrickfergus In Antrim

A Guide To The Historic Town Of Carrickfergus In Antrim

If you’re debating staying in the town of Carrickfergus, you’ve landed in the right place.

Carrickfergus, or locally known as simply Carrick, is a large town on the coast of County Antrim, not far from Belfast City.

As one of the oldest towns in Ireland, it’s most famous for its landmark Carrickfergus Castle, which is one of the best preserved in the country.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from the history of the town to the various things to do in Carrickfergus (plus where to eat, sleep and drink).

Some quick need-to-knows about Carrickfergus

things to do in Carrickfergus

Photo left: Nahlik. Photo right: walshphotos (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to Carrickfergus in Antrim is nice and straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Carrickfergus is located on the north shore of Belfast Lough. It’s a 25-minute drive from many of the most popular things to do in Belfast and a 20-minute drive from Larne.

2. A historical town

The town is considered the oldest in County Antrim and one of the oldest in the whole of Northern Ireland. Between the great museums and historic Carrickfergus Castle, there’s plenty of history to explore during a visit.

3. The song

Carrickfergus is well-known for being the subject of one of the best-known Irish songs, “Carrickfergus”. It was first recorded in 1965 by Dominic Behan under the name The Kerry Boatman. However, it’s thought that the origins of the song go back to the 19th century. It begins with the lyrics, “I wish I was in Carrickfergus”. 

4. A great spot to explore from

Being just a stone’s throw from Belfast City, Carrickfergus is a great town to base yourself in for exploring more of Northern Ireland. You can easily begin a road trip along the Causeway Coastal Route from Carrick or enjoy more of the inner city attractions. 

About Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus is a popular town to explore from Belfast. It’s known for its rich history and famous Carrickfergus Castle, but it’s also a nice place to begin a trip along the Causeway Coastal Route. 

Origins of the name

The town’s name is thought to come from Fergus Mor or Fergus the Great, King of Dal Riata. His ship ran aground on a rock by the shore which then became known as Carraig Fhearghais or the rock of Fergus. 

Early history

The town is considered to be the oldest settlement in County Antrim, far pre-dating Belfast. It became an inhabited town after 1170 when Anglo-Norman knight John de Courcy invaded Ulster and built Carrickfergus Castle. 

The castle has withstood many sieges over the years, including the Battle of Carrickfergus during the Nine Years War in 1597 and in the Seven Years War in the 18th century.

In 1912 the RMS Titanic made its journey through Belfast Lough and anchored overnight off the coast from Carrickfergus. Thousands of people turned out to watch the ship sail away on its maiden voyage.  

Recent times in Carrick

Today, Carrickfergus is a large town of almost 30, 000 people and is a popular place to visit outside of Belfast. Carrickfergus Castle remains the dominant feature of the town and is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Ireland.

Things to do in Carrickfergus (and nearby)

Although there’s only a handful of things to do in Carrickfergus, the big draw of this town is its proximity to some of the best places to visit in Antrim.

Below, you’ll find some places to visit in the town along with heaps of things to do a stone’s throw away.

1. Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle Antrim

Photo by Nahlik (shutterstock)

Carrickfergus Castle is the town’s famous landmark. The Norman castle dates back to the 12th century when it was built by John de Courcy. For over 800 years it’s survived multiple sieges by Scots, Irish, English and French and yet it still remains one of the best-preserved medieval structures in the country.

You can visit the castle by joining a guided tour to learn more about the history of the place and admire the well-preserved Great Tower. Otherwise, you can view the castle from the waterfront area in town, during the day or when it’s lit up at night.

2. Carrickfergus Museum and Civic Centre

If you want to discover the history of this old town, a visit to the Carrickfergus Museum and Civic Centre is a must. Open from Monday to Saturday, the museum has an incredible collection of displays from the medieval history to more recent times. 

While not overly large, it’s quite impressive how well it’s set out. There are plenty of hands-on interactions and audio-visual displays, so even the kids will enjoy the experience. 

3. Ulster Folk Museum

inside the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum in down

Photo by NearEMPTiness via Wiki Commons

On the other side of Belfast Lough in Cultra, the Ulster Folk Museum lets you dive into life in early 20th century Ulster. The museum recreates the era with thatched cottages, farms, schools and shops as though you were living 100 years ago.

It’s set across 170 acres, just 11 kilometres east of Belfast City in a beautiful spot overlooking the water. You can enjoy a guided tour, admire art and crafts, and meet the farm animals.

4. Belfast City

st anne's cathedral belfast

Photos via Shutterstock

Just 18km away from Carrickfergus is Belfast City, so it’s worth exploring this vibrant city during your time in Northern Ireland.

There’s everywhere from Belfast City Hall and Cavehill to Titanic Belfast, the Black Cab Tours and much more to check out.

Belfast also has a great restaurant and bar scene, with world class dining experiences and a lively nightlife. It’s a city that is always up for a good night out.

5. The Gobbins

Gobbins Antrim

Photos by Cushla Monk + Paul Vance (shutterstock.com)

Just 12km further north around the coast from Carrickfergus, you’ll find this epic cliff walk. It’s not as popular as it should be, but it makes for a great addition to any trip on the Causeway Coastal Route. 

The 2.5 hour guided walk takes you along this narrow path that wraps around the cliffs on Antrim’s coastline. It’s definitely not for the fainthearted as it includes some sketchy staircases and hairy bridges, but the views are simply incredible.

Restaurants in Carrickfergus

fish and chips

Photo by Pixelbliss (Shutterstock)

There are plenty of solid places to eat in Carrickfergus if you’re looking for a feed after a long day on the road. Below, you’ll find some of our favourites:

1. Castello Italia

Located on Scotch Quarter just back from the water, this Italian Restaurant in Carrickfergus is an exceptional place to eat. While it has a classy feel, the menu is well priced for the quality of the food and service. They serve up all your favourite Italian meals, including pizza, risotto, and pasta.

2. Mayur Indian Restaurant

Right across from Carrickfergus Castle, Mayur Indian Restaurant is a popular choice amongst visitors and locals alike. It has amazing Indian food and very friendly staff, with the chicken tikka and masala curries a favourite. 

3. Papa Browns

This is probably one of the most popular places to go for a feed in Carrickfergus. Located on the main roundabout in town, the old brick diner and bar has classic American dishes including burgers, steaks and a variety of grills.

Pubs in Carrickfergus 

blessington pub

There’s a handful of pubs in Carrickfergus for those of you itching to kick-back with a post adventure-tipple after a day of exploring. Here are our favourite spots:

1. Ownies Bar and Bistro

If you’re looking for a traditional bar and bistro, Ownies is a great choice on Joymount in the middle of town. It’s a great place for a drink with friendly service, otherwise people also rave about the food and dessert served up in the bistro.

2. Royal Oak

Located on Green Street just across from the water, this pub is a little out of town but a very friendly place for a drink with friends. Everyone raves about the atmosphere, with welcoming staff and a lively beer garden perfect for those warmer evenings.

3. Millars Bar Ballycarry

If you’re willing to drive a bit out of town for a good pint of Guinness, then Millars Bar in Ballycarry, north of Carrickfergus is a popular little place. The welcoming atmosphere draws visitors as well as locals, with a traditional interior and a warming wood fire. They also serve up some good food, if you’re after a feed with your drink.

Accommodation in Carrickfergus 

If you’re thinking about staying in Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland (if you’re not, you should!), you’ve a pick of places to stay.

Note: if you book a hotel through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.

1. The Tramway House

Right amongst the action, the Tramway House is a lovely apartment that you can rent for your time in the middle of Carrickfergus. The three-bedroom, self-catering place is perfect for families or those travelling in a group. It’s also conveniently located just 500m from the marina.

Check prices + see more photos here

2. Walter’s Place

Definitely one of the more popular options in town, Walter’s Place is a colourful bed and breakfast right in Carrickfergus. Offering double and twin rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, you can even select from garden or sea views. 

Check prices + see more photos here

3. Leafield House

Located north of town in Ballycarry, Leafield House is a relaxing bed and breakfast set amongst a beautiful garden. They offer double, twin and family rooms, with private bathrooms and complimentary breakfast. It’s perfect for a more rural stay, but still close enough to town and the sea.

Check prices + see more photos here

FAQs about visiting Carrickfergus in Antrim

Since mentioning the town in a guide to Northern Ireland that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Carrickfergus in Antrim.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the best things to do in Carrickfergus?

If you’re looking for things to do in Carrickfergus and nearby, Carrickfergus Castle, Carrickfergus Museum and The Ulster Folk Museum are worth a look.

Is Carrickfergus worth visiting?

Carrickfergus makes a great base to explore the Causeway Coast from. It’s worth visiting just to see the historic castle.

Are there many pubs and restaurants in Carrickfergus?

Pub wise, Millars, Ownies and The Royal Oak are all mighty spots. For food, Papa Browns, Mayur and Castello Italia pack a tasty punch.

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