This castle is one of the best preserved medieval structures in the whole of Ireland. It was built by the Norman conqueror John de Courcy in 1177 who was then ousted in 1204 by another Norman adventurer, Hugh de Lacy. In 1245 a royal mandate was issued insisting that the castle and its buildings were to be maintained and protected from falling into ruin. Over the centuries the castle has been attacked and captured numerous times and used for many purposes. Lord Edward Bruce, brother of Robert the Bruce of Scotland, invaded Ulster in 1315, but Carrickfergus Castle was to remain the one sure bastion of the English. In 1602, Conn O’Neill, the chief of Clandeboye, was imprisoned there. In the late 1790s the castle was employed as a prison and many United Irishmen were incarcerated here. A century later it was used as an armoury and magazine, with anti-submarine guns mounted in the early 20th century to protect Belfast Lough during WW1. In August 1961 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip landed at Carrickfergus from the Royal Yacht Britannia to begin a short visit to Northern Ireland, maintaining the regal connections of both the town and castle. The castle has survived over 750 years of continuous military occupation and in 1928 ownership was transferred to the state for preservation as an ancient monument.

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