Carrickfergus Castle (Carrickfergus)
Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland.
For more than 800 years, Carrickfergus Castle has been an imposing monument on the Northern Ireland landscape whether approached by land, sea or air. The castle now houses historical displays as well as cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
In popular legend, Carrickfergus claims its roots back to the late 5th and early 6th centuries CE, and its alleged namesake King Fergus Mór mac Eirc, an Irish king of Dál Riata.
The story is often told that Fergus left Ulster around this time to forge a kingdom in Scotland. He is said to have returned to Ulster in search of an ancient healing well to cure his leprosy – this well could be the one which still exists underneath the castle keep or possibly what would become St Brigit’s (St Bride’s) Well which is located north of the town centre.
The well was quite familiar to pilgrims and would undoubtedly have been connected to monastic activity in the area during the 10th and 11th centuries, about which very little is known. During a heavy storm, it is said that Fergus’s ship was wrecked on a volcanic dyke by the lough shore, which became loosely known as “Carraig Fhearghais” – the Rock of Fergus – providing the area with a new name.
The king’s body is said to have washed ashore and been buried somewhere in nearby Monkstown by the monks.
Though even local tourist information reflects this myth almost as fact, there is no evidence that any such event ever occurred.