Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim

Belfast Travel Guide: Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle boasts magnificent Norman architecture and sits on the shore of Belfast Lough. The castle has seen over 800 years of military occupation, being besieged by the Scots, Irish, English and French. It continued to play a central role in a military capacity until 1928 and is now maintained by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. 

As one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland, the castle is a renowned destination for tourists worldwide seeking to explore its historical content. Visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour of the walls or guided tours arranged by the Carrickfergus Historical Society. 

The castle is also open for fun days out. The keep houses historical and other displays, including 17th and 19th century canons. The keep is a four-story tower, 90 ft high, with a second-story entrance. Its entry chamber had a double latrine and no fireplace and served as the public room. 

It also had a shaft leading to a well below, and a mural stair leading to the storage cellar. The fourth storey, a bright, well-lit room with windows in all four walls, a fireplace and a single latrine, was the principal chamber.

Carrickfergus Castle: History:

Dating back to the historical year of 1177, the foundation of Carrickfergus Castle is attributed to the conquest of the East of Ulster by John de Courcy. 

The castle was originally built as a defensive structure with a small bailey, high polygonal curtain wall, and an east gate. With its strategic position on the rocky promontory, the castle played a significant role in commanding the Belfast Lough and the land approaches to the town build under its shadow. 

The castle was converted into a prison in 1797 and was heavily fortified during the Napoleonic Wars. Throughout two World Wars, the castle served as a garrison, armory and an air-raid shelter. In 1928, the castle was handed over to the government with the aim of preserving it as an ancient monument. 

Today, the banqueting hall is fully restored and visitors can explore exhibits that showcase life in medieval times.

Carrickfergus Castle

Origins: Carrickfergus Castle

Constructed in 1177, Carrickfergus served as the headquarters of John de Courcy following his successful invasion of eastern Ulster. De Courcy, who ruled as a petty king until 1204, developed the inner ward of the complex. His additions included a small bailey, high polygonal curtain wall, and east gate, along with several buildings, such as the Great Hall. 

Thanks to its strategic location on a rocky promontory, Carrickfergus Castle was able to command Carrickfergus Bay, which later became known as Belfast Lough, and control access to the walled town that emerged in its shadow.

English control

Lord Edmund Savage of the Ards fulfilled several significant roles during the late 14th century, acting as the Seneschal of Ulster and Constable of Carrickfergus Castle, under the reign of Richard II. The castle had appeared in English records, and in 1430, King John was successful in attaining control of the strategic garrison of Ulster. 

A succession of constables was appointed to oversee the castle and adjacent areas. In 1217, De Serlane, the newly appointed constable, was provided with one hundred pounds to construct a new curtain wall for safeguarding the approach along the rock and eastern approaches during low tides. 

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, improvements were made to equip the castle with artillery, externally splayed gun portals, and embrasures for cannons. 

Despite these enhancements, the castle suffered various attacks and was periodically taken over until its final surrender in 1760 following intense fighting in the town. The castle was seized and looted by the French invaders during the Siege, but the Royal Navy apprehended them shortly afterward.

What are the opening hours?

The marvellous castle is open from Easter to September at 9:30 am, closing at 4:30 pm, with the last admission. Between October to Easter, the castle operates from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, and the last entry is at 3:30 pm. Visitors can purchase tickets upon arrival at the Visitor Information Centre located inside the entrance, so there is no need for pre-booking. 

Once visitors have obtained their tickets, they are free to explore the castle grounds independently. Visitors have access to various rooms within the castle, such as the banquet hall, vaults, and armoury, which are brimming with realistic props and regularly decorated in a seasonal manner. 

Visitors can climb to the top of the keep, walk the walls, and marvel at the picturesque views of Belfast Lough amidst the crenels.

How much does admission cost?

Adults: £6.00 

Children: £4.00 (Under fours go free)

Seniors: £4.50 

Students: £4.50

Family (5 people with max. 2 adults): £18

Annual tickets: £12 (adult) £8 (Children) £9 (Seniors/Students) – unlimited visits in the year.

Group Rates: £4.50 pp (for groups of 15+)

Are there guided tours available?

They offer tours on a daily basis at no additional cost. If you are planning a visit to Carrickfergus Castle, please allow ample time as it is recommended that visitors spend at least a couple of hours exploring the castle and all its exhibitions.

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Currency Used in Belfast?

Belfast is part of the United Kingdom so the pound sterling (GBP) is the legal currency. This is the same currency used throughout the rest of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland).

How many Days should I Spend in Belfast?

For an authentic experience in Belfast, it is suggested that at least 3 full days and 2 nights be allocated to discover the city’s offerings. The duration of the visit is dependent on the visitor’s preferences and availability; however, we highly recommend the aforementioned timeline to ensure an in-depth exploration of the city. We highly recommend this 3-day itinerary from Belfast.

Life and Legend

Carrickfergus is a historically significant site located on a picturesque peninsula that has served as a harbour since ancient times. The name is derived from King Fergus of Dál Riata, who ruled North East Ulster and parts of Western Scotland. 

The castle, which stands on the peninsula, is one of the finest in all of Ireland and has been in use since its first construction by John de Courcy in the late 1100s. 

The castle’s sizeable inner ward was constructed initially, followed by the outer ward and the massive stone gatehouse. Both the castle and the town have withstood numerous battles and sieges, including the 1641 rebellion and the English Civil War. 

The castle continued to serve various purposes throughout history, including as a prison, an air raid shelter, and a garrison during World War I. It was officially retired in 1928 and given to the nation as a historical monument. The castle’s haunting legend bears testimony to its tumultuous past.

Have more time in Belfast? Why Not Take a trip to Giant's Causeway

Giants Causeway Tour

The Giant’s Causeway is an impressive geological wonder located on the stunning North East coast of County Antrim. This World Heritage site designated by UNESCO is a must-visit location for those with a passion for Ireland’s diverse and rich heritage. 

The site’s unique character, defined by carefully placed polygonal columns, has sparked countless fascinating theories, from mythological tales to scientific hypotheses, as to how it was created. 

While traversing this incredible natural landscape, take in the interlocking basalt columns that only add to its splendour. A visit to the Causeway coast is a one-of-a-kind journey through time against the backdrop of an alluring and mystical landscape. 

If you’re contemplating a trip to Northern Ireland, consider the Causeway coast, where you can create unforgettable memories visiting the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Dunluce Castle, The Dark Hedges and the Old Bushmills Distillery. 

To ensure that you make the most of your stay in Northern Ireland, please read our blog post for travel tips and advice.

Visit Game of Thrones Filming Locations


Discover the stunningly beautiful landscape of Northern Ireland that served as the backdrop for the epic Game of Thrones series with our private guided tour. Revel in a fulfilling experience as you visit the magnificent filming locations that brought the characters and their stories vividly to life.

Experience the Antrim Coast Road, which boasts breathtaking countryside views, on your journey to the Giants Causeway, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. Walk across the legendary Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and be awed by its striking views of the vividly blue ocean.

We offer you a personalised experience, designed to cater to your particular interests. Our team of experienced guides will go the extra mile to enrich your trip and offer unprecedented customer service. Regardless if you are a Game of Thrones enthusiast or just searching for an authentically engaging vacation, our tour will not disappoint. Book now, and join us on an incredible journey through the Seven Kingdoms.

Frequently Asked Questions | Things to do in Belfast

Travel between multiple peacelines and walls on an eye opening tour of discovery through the once no go areas and learn of Belfast’s troubled past and rich shared history. Visit both Catholic and Protestant areas to get a balanced understanding of the past. You will be fully guided by a real black taxi driver who worked Belfast’s streets during an era known as the troubles.

For an authentic Belfast experience give yourself three days to soak up the history, culture and sights. Belfast has a compact heart, and many of its best sites are within walking distance of one another.
According to, the cost of living in Belfast is around 37% lower than that in London. The cost of living in Belfast for a single individual on a monthly basis in late 2022 not including rent, is around £660.50 for regular monthly expenses.
Belfast is the second friendliest city in the UK, according to Condé Nast Traveller magazine’s readers’ choice awards. Ten cities across the UK were featured on “The friendliest cities in the UK 2023” list. Northern Ireland’s capital was pipped to the post by the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
The town of Belfast was established by Sir Arthur Chichester, with the name ‘Belfast’ being an Anglicisation of the Irish Béal Feirste, which roughly translates as ‘the mouth of the sandbar. 
Most people need a valid passport to enter the Republic or Northern Ireland but there are some exceptions: If you’re a UK citizen, you can also use official photo identification.
How many passengers can travel on a black cab? All our black cabs have seating for up to 6 passengers.

Like most of the rest of the UK and Ireland, the summer months are usually regarded as the “best” time to visit Belfast. From May-September, your chances of hitting more sunny days than rainy ones are much higher – though you’ll still definitely want to pack a rain coat, just in case!

Cathedral Quarter: best neighborhood for nightlife and the arts. The Cathedral Quarter, on the fringes of Belfast city center, takes its name from St Anne’s Cathedral, an early 20th-century Romanesque Revival edifice characterized by its rounded arches and turrets.

Popular Bars to Visit in Belfast

  • The Crown Liquor Saloon

  • The Duke of York

  • The Dirty Onion

  • The Spaniard

  • Lavery’s

  • The Perch

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We encourage you to explore our social media channels as well, where you can find additional information and travel inspiration. Trust our team of experts to guide you through the planning process and provide you with the tools you need to fully immerse yourself in the culture and attractions of Ireland.