Many people like to dress up for marathons, as viewers of the annual London marathon will know – everything from a lion suit to a full antique diving suit. What has this got to do with Carrickfergus I hear you cry? Well, earlier this month a couple from Carrickfergus who are members of the local running club decided to work a marathon run into their wedding celebrations. The couple, accompanied by their guests, changed into running gear with a wedding theme and ran a variety of distances so that as many people as possible could take part, right up to the full 26 miles.
Carrickfergus is on the north shore of Belfast Lough, just over the Antrim side of the County Down/County Antrim border which crosses the eastern suburbs of Belfast. The town takes its name from Fergus the Great, a legendary king of Dál Riata, a kingdom that encompassed parts of Western Scotland as well as northeastern Ireland. Carrickfergus was a prominent settlement before Belfast, meaning that until the 17th Century the Lough was known as Carrickfergus Bay. John de Courcy, the Anglo-Norman knight who we have met several times already in this blog, established his headquarters here in the 12th century and built Carrickfergus Castle on "Carraig Fhearghais" (the rock of Fergus) in 1177.
Carrickfergus has had an eventful history over the centuries, at one point even becoming involved in the American War of Independence. During the Nine Years War, a struggle against English rule which began at the end of the 16th century, the town was the scene of the Battle of Carrickfergus, which saw the English defeated. The much wider Seven Years’ War in the mid-18th century brought the forces of William of Orange to the town, where they besieged the castle for several days and William himself arrived on the scene. In 1777 there was a naval duel off Carrickfergus between the British Royal Navy vessel HMS Drake and the 18-gun sloop Ranger of the Continental Navy, as the US Navy was called during the War of Independence, which the Americans won. By the time of World War Two relations with the US had improved to the point where the US Rangers used the Sunnylands Camp in Carrickfergus for training before heading to Normandy.
Carrickfergus Castle is still remarkably well preserved and is open to visitors, with historical displays on view. The castle occupies a fetching position on the northern shore of Belfast Lough. Near the castle is the King William III (William of Orange) monument, a statue of the king commemorating his landing in the town. Further away from the shore, the Carrickfergus Museum, attached to the Civic Centre, has displays dating from the Middle Ages onwards. For visitors staying in Belfast, the town is easily reached by car or train from the capital.
|Photo by Albert Bridge, via Wikimedia Commons|