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Rock of Fergus

Once upon a time the Rock of Fergus, also known as Carrickfergus Castle dominated the Antrim Coastline of Ireland. It was originally constructed in the twelfth century and occupies a promontory that projects out into the Belfast Lough.

The guides and guidebooks both tell that the Rock of Fergus is the oldest and most well preserved castle in all of Ireland. When I was in Ireland in 2007 we arrived a little too early in the morning to actually see the inside of the castle. It is quite impressive from the outside but this year I was fortunate enough not to be on any particular timetable so we spent some time exploring the town of Carrickfergus as well as finding a nice cup of coffee and amazingly enough on a bright sunshiny Irish morning. Isn’t it always raining in Ireland?

March 7, 2011. Carrickfergus town center
A Bright Spring Morning in Carrickfergus

When we first walked up to the gate (which was before it was actually open) we found a much smaller door hidden inside the much larger door and were lucky enough to pass through that smaller door undetected. But of course we concluded that it was not yet open and decided to come back later.

03-07-11 outside Carrickfergus Castle
The Outter Gate - Rock of Fergus

I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have wanted to spend any time in the dungeon which we did get to see later.

If you look closely at this picture on the left you can see the cut in the door on the right where the smaller entrance is located.

Just inside this gate is the visitor center. But what had been there was the “Hall,” which is said to have been a two story building with a view of the sea.

A little bit further in on the right hand side is the castle keep which remains intact today. And consistent with so many other attractions in Europe is replete with lots of stairs.

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Rock of Fergus - The Castle Keep

The Keep itself has four floors. Originally if you were a visitor to the castle you would enter via a circular staircase that was on the ground floor. I hadn’t really noticed before but the ground floor has no windows. Evidently this was done on purpose to protect the upper floors from fire and invaders.

Additionally on the ground floor were a guardroom for soldiers and a public toilet. The Lord and Lady of the castle had more private accommodations but even those pale in comparison to what we have now.

Interestingly this castle had it’s own fresh water supply which would have been of great value during any siege.

03-07-11 Carrickfergus
The Banquet Hall

The Banquet Hall was reserved for the Lord and Lady and their family. Also located in the keep were the kitchens.

And finally on the top floor were the chambers for the Lord and his family.

03-07-11 - Carrickfergus
Carrickfergus Private Chambers for the Lord and his family

 

 

The Lords private chambers have huge windows that look out too sea as well as having views of all the inner wards and courtyards of the castle. They also had a nice fireplace and the private toilet I mentioned earlier.

 

03-07-11 Carrickfergus
Sixty-Eight Pounder Guns

 

Carrickfergus Castle was an active Garrison right up until 1928 when it was transferred to the Government of Northern Ireland who’s charter it was to then preserve it as a National Monument.

These guns lined the walls overlooking the sea. They are known as 68 pounder guns which would fire an exploding shell. In theory they were easily manipulated using the rails on which they were mounted which allowed for more versatility when firing at targets that may have been moving.

03-07-11 - Carrickfergus
Inside the Sea Tower

Located next to the guns were four sea towers which had the narrow slits built into them which allowed archers to fire arrows protecting the castles’ outer walls.

And underneath these Sea towers were the dungeons or prisons. Located in the middle of the floor is a trap door where a prisoner would have been dropped into the room below. Much like the room above there were narrow slits in the walls but no door other than the one above from which they had just been dropped. Escape was next to impossible.

In 1602 it is reported that Clandeboye, Con O did in fact make a daring escape which involved the jailers daughter Annas Dobbin who smuggled ropes to Con concealed in two large cheeses. While he did appear to escape, his is not a happy ending as he was eventually caught and forced to sign over all his land holdings.

03-07-11 Carrickfergus
The Village of Carrickfergus from the Rock of Fergus

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17 thoughts on “Rock of Fergus

  1. Kevin M.

    Hi Jim:

    I love the history of these pictures that you presented! That made it much more fascinating for me. I would love to be able to do a castle tour at some point in my life!

    Kevin

  2. Terrific Tonya Heathco

    Jim, Another great post. I’ve developed the habit of visiting your blog whenever I need a mini-vacation. Finding you and your talent for writing is such a blessing to me. All the places I thought I would never see suddenly come to life for me through your words. While you wrote about the castle, I felt I was there. You have a true gift my friend –

  3. kevin schmidt

    Hi Jim,

    Great article!

    That castle looks very interesting. and the town looks beautiful.

    It looks like you had a great trip!
    I’m glad you didn’t get stuck in the dungeon;)

    Thanks for sharing!

    Talk soon,

    Kevin

  4. Eliane Carbajal

    That castle looks gorgeous!! I cant wait to go to Ireland and visit all the magical places you do on all your adventures. The pictures are precious too… I’m starting to think you take the sun with you everywhere you go!!

  5. Joyce Penner

    You are an excellent photographer. Those pictures are incredible and I was especially drawn to the living quarters. I’m so glad there are people who recognize we need to preserve our heritage. History is fascinating and to walk the walk where others walked hundreds of years ago is magical.

    Thanks Jim.

  6. Yasser Khan

    Hi Jim,

    Castles do seem to hold a lot of sway over our collective imaginations, and especially photo images like the ones you take invoke Disney-inspired memories of tales and movies revolving around imposing castles.

    Wishing you well on your journeys. Keep travelling and writing about them.

    Yasser

  7. Trevor Barrett

    Jim yet another brilliantly written an pictured article.
    You obviously are very much in love with Europe and all its glories as that comes across in your writings.
    You have now reached Ireland I see. There are plenty more treasures for you to dig out there.

  8. Debi Talbert

     Thanks so much Jim for sharing your travel experiences. I travel the world as a Flight Attendant and love read all our stories. Love learning history this way.  

  9. Brandon Wraith

     Hey Jim, I want to go see all of these castles now, I am digging that large chess set LOL. I want to get one of those down the line for myself. Great job of portraying the areas you visited. Thanks for sharing!

    Brandon Wraith
    Knowledge is POWER

  10. Steve Nicholas

    Great post, Jim! These sites are truly amazing. I think that it is very interesting to see so many things that one can’t see anywhere else. After all, there aren’t too many castles here in the US 😉

  11. Willena Flewelling

    I love seeing these photos of the land of my ancestry! My younger brother has been to Ireland, but no one else in the family has. Seeing your pictures almost makes me feel as if I am right there. Almost.

    I also appreciate how you include the history with your photos.

    Willena Flewelling

  12. CJ Priestley

     I love the and pardon the expression “medieval” look to the castles and the over all look of the buildings. Those inside shots almost look museum like. Although I dont play that large chess set looks nice. 

    Just curious but what kind of camera do you use for your trips?

  13. Pastorsherry

    Hi Jim,

    I love traveling with you!  I couldn’t resist this Irish post, as I’m fascinated with the Scots-Irish part of the world.  Those rooms make living there look like a wonderful idea, although I think I’d miss some modern conveniences.  Not to mention all the fighting and conquests.  But what a beautiful land of history and mystery!

  14. Monika Genehr

    Jim, the photo The Village of Carrickfergus from the Rock of Fergus struck me as unusual and then I realized why: there’s not one speck of green in the picture that I could detect. Just like this picture is beautiful (especially on this rare sunny day), so was taking this trip with you to a part of the world I have yet to experience myself.   

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