Dromore Mound

Dromore Mound is Dromore’s most recognizable feature, the remains of Norman fortifications. It is also known as Dromore Motte and Bailey.

Motte and Bailey Castles

Motte and Bailey castles were a type of fortification or castle popular in the 11th and 12th centuries during Norman times. The name comes from the French word “motte” which means a “mound”. Motte and Bailey castles consisted of an earthen mound, sometimes natural, more often artificial. On top of the mound knights would build a defensive building or tower, initially made of wood but later constructed of stone. This was called the “keep” and formed the last line of defense. It also served as a lookout and as a vantage point from where archers could fire their arrows on approaching enemies. The keep also served as the living space for the local lord and his family.

Beneath the mound on the flat ground there would be an enclosed courtyard which served as an area for the castle’s daily activities and as a first line of defense. In the courtyard the attendants of the lord of the castle would both live and work. Initially the courtyard was surrounded by a palisade, or wooden fence, but with time palisades were replaced with stone walls which provided much higher levels of protection.

The Dromore Motte and Bailey

The Dromore Motte and Bailey was constructed by sir John de Courcy, the famous Norman knight who also played a major part in the history of Carrickfergus Castle. In contrast to Carrickfergus though, the Dromore Motte and Bailey was constructed mainly of wood so little remains of the initial fortifications. However, it still makes for an imposing landmark.

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The Girona shipwreck in Northern Ireland


Background – The Spanish Armada

The Girona was a Spanish Galleass, part of the mighty Spanish Armada that in 1588 set out to conquer England. After the defeat of the Armada in the English Channel, the Spanish ships sailed north into the North Sea and then south-west past the coasts of Scotland and north-western and western Ireland. Due to heavy storms as many as 24 ships were lost to the weather.

Problems Begin

The ship originally had a complement of 121 sailors and 186 soldiers. However, while anchored for repairs on the rudder at Killybegs, harbor, Donegal, she came across about 1000 other Spaniards, the remnants of two Armada ships that had run aground, the Santa Maria Encoronada and the Dunquesa Santa Ana. Rather than stay in Ireland where they were in danger of being found by English soldiers on the look of for Spaniards, Don Alonso Martinez, captain of the Encoronada, decided to load everyone on the galleass Girona and sail for then Catholic Scotland. There they could rest, repair the ship and then set sail for Spain.

The Sinking

With the rudder fixed she sailed from Killybegs to the open sea. It rounded Inishowen but the rudder was again damaged in extremely bad weather. With fierce winds blowing the ship towards the shore, the Spanish tried to keep her from grounding by rowing. However, on the midnight of October 28 it run aground off Lacada Point and sunk. Of the estimated 1300 persons on board, less than 10 survived.

Hundreds of bodies were washed ashore and some were buried on St. Cuthbert’s cemetery in Dunluce.

The destruction of the galleass Girona is commemorated on the reverse side of banknotes printed by the First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland.

In 1967 and 68 a team of Belgian divers discovered the wreck and brought up the largest treasure ever recovered from a wreck. Much is on display in the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

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Old Layde Church, a hidden church in Northern Ireland

The Mysterious Old Layde Church

Nestled among the glens of the North Antrim coast is Old Layde church, a fascinating and mysterious place that until recently was not even signposted. In our almost five years in Ireland I have visited it a number of times and have taken nearly all our visitors there and no-one regretted visiting. If you take even a casual interest in Christian history then the church is really worth a visit.

What makes this church so special?

Lets begin with the basics. Layde church is located in stunning surroundings. The glens of the Antrim coast are one of the most scenic places in Ireland. Layde church is build on the spot where one of the smaller glens meets the ocean. You can just sit on its grassy slops and enjoy the view. On a clear day you can see Scotland a mere 14 miles across the water.

But scenery is only a portion of the fascination. The truth is, Old Layde Church is simply different from most other churches.

First, its location.

Local tourist notes state that Layde was the parish church of Cushendall, a seaside town about one mile away. But, why build a parish church a mile away from where the parishioners live? In olden times of unpaved pathways in rainy times, a mile long walk in the mud would certainly not have been a prospect even the most faithful parishioners would relish.

Second, location again.

In contrast to parish churches with lofty towers visible for miles, with Layde, unless you know exactly where the church is located you will not find it. It only becomes visible 70 meters before you enter the church yard.

Built at the confluence of two hills at a point where its glen takes a steep decline towards the sea, and surrounded with tall vegetation, the church is only visible from far out into the ocean.

Not surprisingly, it is sometimes called “The Hidden Church”.

Why would a church be built to be hidden?

A local amateur historian with an extensive knowledge of Antrim historical places gave me the following explanation:

The church’s earliest mention comes from the 14th century, but the church is probably much older dating back possibly to the high Middle Ages.

At such a time when there were no roads connecting the Antrim coast with the Irish hinterland and the Antrim boglands cut the coast off from the rest of the country, the coastal town did most of their trading with Scotland just across the water and much more easily accessible. This is evident even today by the many Scottish surnames along the Antrim coast indicating interaction and intermarriage.

During the high Middle Ages parts of Scotland refused to conform to the ecclesiastical authorities of the time.

Scottish monarchs tried to suppress them but the remoteness and inaccessibility of the western Scottish coastlands meant that nonconformists survived and flourished. That is, until Margaret of England married Alexander III of Scotland and became queen of Scotland.

Being particularly zealous she set out to eradicate some of what she considered to be “strange” Scottish customs; and did so with determination and a vengeance.

Could it be that Scottish non-conformists tried to find refuge among the more tolerant lands of Antrim?

Could it be that Layde church was built to cater for the needs of a people who couldn’t practice their faith in their homeland?

My historian friend was convinced that this was indeed the case.
Freedom of choice

I stood many a time at the ruined Old Layde Church trying to visualise with my imagination boatloads of people sailing across the straits between Scotland and Ireland hoping to worship God in freedom according to their conscience.

There are some things for which it is worth making sacrifices. Freedom to believe is one. A thought worth remembering in a land where religious intolerance and hatred has produced a lot of hurt.

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Lacada Point

Lacada point is a rock promontory that juts into the ocean a few hundred yards west of Giant’s Causeway. It is typical of the rugged yet beautiful Antrim Coast. Through the centuries a number of ships have floundered there. But Lacada is famous primarily because of one incident the most famous of all shipwrecks there. On the night of October 28, 1588, the galleass Girona, one of the many ships of the mighty Spanish Armada, met her tragic end off Lacada with most of the 1300 men on board dying. Some survived and together with other Spanish survivors from the Spanish Armada have given rise to theories about the Black Irish. Many of the treasures recovered from the Girona are currently on display in the recently renovated Ulster Museum in Belfast.

Lacada is no longer accessible to visitors. You can see it from the vantage point of the cliffs around it and Giants Causeway, but it is not allowed to go down because the path can be dangerous. Because of the dramatic landscape and possibly its notorious past Lacada has been a point of interest for photographers.

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Carrickfergus Castle – history comes alive in a great social events venue.

Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle There are many Irish castles but Carrickfergus Castle is probably the best preserved of the old castles in Northern Ireland and certainly worth visiting. It is a typical example of how castles in the Middle Ages looked like.

The castle has a banquet hall that is perfect for those thinking of a corporate medieval banquet or romantic castle wedding. If you are thinking of getting married at Carrickfergus castle click here, for more information.

It is ideal to visit with children as it easy to access it and the life-size figures will make history come alive. You can even host worry-free children’s birthday parties there.


Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle – How to get there

It is easily accessible from Belfast, just 15 minutes away by car on the M5 north and then A2 along Belfast Lough through Whiteabbey and Jordanstown.

If you are staying in Belfast you can arrange a visit when it suits. If you are staying further afield, you might want to combine a visit to Carrickfergus Castle with other sights on a day tour.

Carrickfergus is also the name of the town where the castle is situated.

Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle – What’s in a Name

“Carrick” means “rock” in Gaelic. The name Carrickfergus means “the rock of Fergus” and derives, according to legend, from king Fergus who died nearby in the sea during a storm.

Carroickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland Travel – The History of Carrickfergus Castle

The castle was built on a rock promontory by John de Courcy in 1177 to serve as his base and guard the entrance to Belfast. John was a Anglo-Norman knight who conquered Ulster for England and ruled it in theory as a vassal to the king of England, but in practice as an independent prince. However, in 1204 he was defeated by another Norman, Hugh de Lacy.

In 1210 King John captured the castle and it henceforth was a base of British rule in Ulster.

Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle: Famous Battles, Famous Events

Carrickfergus Castle has seen its share of important battles and events.

Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle History: Edward the Bruce – 1315

Edward the Bruce (brother of the famous Robert the Bruce) invaded Ulster from Scotland and by 1315 conquered all except Carrickfergus. In 1315 he laid siege to the castle. An attempt to relieve the castle from the sea was defeated. The defenders launched a surprise attack on the Scots and took some captive. According to some sources, they killed some of the prisoners and ate them! The castle surrendered in 1316, only to be recaptured by the English in 1318. The story of this war is told in the audio visual presentation in the castle, which you must see.

carrickfergus-castle-king-william-statue-2 Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle History: King William – 1690

Carrickfergus castle is also famous because King William of Orange (William III of England) landed his army here in 1690.

He then marched south and camped at Scarva village for training, a place they still re-enact the battle of the Boyne every year on July 13, the famous Sham Fight, before proceeding to the River Boyne where he defeated the Catholic forces establishing Protestant ascendancy.

There is a plaque commemorating the landing.

Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle History: Vive le France! – 1760 and the Seven Years War

Carrickfergus castle also played a role in the career of the famous French privateer, Francois Thurot. In late 1759 Francois set sail with a small squadron of ships to raid British shipping and coasts in Northern Ireland and Scotland. After bad weather prevented him from raiding Londonderry Francois, desperate for supplies, landed 600 men and attacked Carrickfergus.

The castle had a handful of defenders and after fierce fighting surrendered. The French looted the castle and the town and set sail. While trying to escape they were intercepted by three British warships. His vessel Belle-Isle was attacked and boarded by the Aeolus but Francois Thurot was already dead, having been killed by a musket shot.

Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle History: American Adventures – 1778

Carrickfergus and the waters beyond it became the scene of possibly the only time the American Navy scored a victory against the Royal Navy without having an overwhelming advantage.

The year is 1778 and the American Revolution is in full swing. A number of American captains including John Paul Jones with his ship, the Ranger, set out to raid British merchant shipping in the Atlantic. Jones enter the Irish Sea where he can operate with some impunity as the majority of the British Fleet is either fighting in America or assembled in the Channel to avert a feared French attack.

After failing to attack Whiteheaven on the coast of England, Jones sails to Carrickfergus to attack the British ship Drake. On the morning of April 24 the Drake set sail to meet the Ranger and after an hour long battle 15 miles to sea from Carrickfergus the Drake surrendered and was taken to France.

Jones’ victory caused a sensation – the Royal Navy could be defeated. To be fair to the Drake however, it was only a merchant vessel, under supplied with war material, and fitted with guns that showed remarkable instability when fired. Key officers were absent during the fight and replaced by novices without naval experience or knowledge of the vessel. The North Channel Naval Battle as it came to be called, was one of the better known episodes of the naval war between Britain and America.


Northern Ireland Travel – Carrickfergus Castle: Our Visit

We visited Carrickfergus a number of times. When you plan your visit, check Opening times to avoid disappointment. Plan to spend about an hour though you can easily spend two if you are keen.

Carrickfergus Castle: Our Visit – The Carrickfergus Castle Keep

First go to the Keep, the 27.5 meter high tower were most of the function took place. In it you can see a model of the castle and the area as it would have been in ages past. You can climb to the first floor that was the main reception and dinning area and where the king and the knights held council. It is nicely maintained and can be let out for wedding receptions, business meals and other functions. On the top floor were the living quarters, sparsely furnished but spacious. Castles in the Middle Ages were not build for comfort but defense. Hence the sparse decorations and spartan environment. But you do have a a vantage point to look out. Have a look out the window for a great view over the Belfast Lough, or play some of the games medieval kings and knights might have played.

afreeca2-2 Northern Ireland Travel, Carrickfergus Castle: Our Visit – The Grounds

Once you are finished with the Keep, walk through the Carrickfergus castle grounds. Scattered around are life size human figures that represent either soldiers defending the castle or important persons associated with it. You will notice John de Courcy and his wife Affreca Godfredsdorrir, the viking princess of Mann who married John but was missing her home in the Isle of Man and so is looking nostalgically out to sea.

Make sure you visit the chapel and the “murder hole” next to it (they are easy to miss) from where they would pelt attackers trapped by the portcullis (a trap at the castle entrance) with rocks, arrows or douse them with boiling oil.

Northern Ireland Travel, Carrickfergus Castle:Children’s Birthday Parties:

The vaults are available to hire for a 2 hour period between the hours of –

10.30 – 15.00 Mon – Sat (Winter)

10.30 – 17.00 Mon – Sat (Summer)

A maximum of 25 children are permitted, for every 8 children 1 adult is admitted free of charge to allow for adequate supervision.

Northern Ireland Travel, Carrickfergus Castle: Opening times:

The castle is open all year round at the following times:


Mon – Sat 10am – 4pm Sun – 2pm – 4pm

April / May / September

Mon – Sat 10am – 6pm Sun – 2pm – 6pm

June / July / August

Mon – Sat 10am – 6pm Sun – 12pm – 6pm

Last admission 30 minutes before closing

Northern Ireland Travel, Carrickfergus Castle: Admission charges:

Adult – £3.00

Children / Senior Citizens – £1.50

Family (2 adults, 2 children) – £8.00

Group rates available (10 plus must be pre-booked)

For further information, you can contact:

Carrickfergus Castle

Marine Highway


Co. Antrim

BT38 7BG

Tel: (028) 9335 1273

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