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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
21 thoughts on “Rock of Fergus”
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!
Hey Jim. Do you have and can post a photo of the actual rock, in the middle of Belfast Lough? That would be my family’s very ancient relative Fergus who crashed his ship into the rock, giving it it’s name. You know how large it is but there are no photos of the rock itself. Known to be the largest rock in all of Europe. Please?
Sorry but my trip there was quite a few years ago and quite frankly I don´t recall having seen a rock per se in the Lough. If I happen to be there again I will most certainly have a look to see if I can spot it.
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 –
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!
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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Your writing is so enjoyable I feel like I’ve just taken a tour. Thank you for bringing to life the beautiful history of this castle. I really felt like I was there.
Â 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. Â
Â 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!
Knowledge is POWER
Castles are wicked cool. I have seen many of them now. But there are so many more to see.
How about that large Snakes & Ladders game! LOL
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 😉
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.
Â 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.Â
Just curious but what kind of camera do you use for your trips?
I love traveling with you!Â I couldn’t resist this Irish post, as I’m fascinated with the Scots-Irish part of the world.Â Those rooms make living there look like a wonderful idea, although I think I’d miss some modern conveniences.Â Not to mention all the fighting and conquests.Â But what a beautiful land of history and mystery!
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. Â Â
The opening photograph is not Carrickfergus castle. I lived in the town for 10 years.
The rest of the photographs woven into the text are Carrickfergus castle.
Maybe you confused castle pictures in your travels.
You’re quite correct. . .the site has recently been updated and improved. But of course when they did that all my featured photos defaulted to that one which is Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. I am only now making my way through all the posts fixing the errors as i go.