County Antrim - Heritage/Historical

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1. Heritage Centres

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The Old Bushmills Distillery, Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Old Bushmills Distillery

2 Distillery Road, Co. Antrim

The 'Old Bushmills' Distillery is the World's Oldest Licensed Whiskey Distillery. King James I in April 1608 and Bushmills has been making the finest Irish Malt Whiskey here for almost four hundred years since. Situated just a mile from the spectacular Giant's Causeway, the distillery lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty and rich in history and folklore. During the guided tour you will discover the secrets of the special water from St. Columb's Mill, the malted Irish barley, triple distillation in copper stills and ageing for long years in oak casks. Of course no visit would be complete without enjoying a complimentary glass of the final product, one of our famous Bushmills whiskeys.

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2. Heritage Centres

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Carrickfergus Castle,Antrim, Northern Ireland

Carrickfergus Castle

Co. Antrim

Its core, the oldest part, is the inner ward and massive four-storey keep, entered at first-floor level and now, used for historical displays. Sited on an easily fortified rock jutting out into the sea, it was probably constructed by John de Courcy in the years after his initial conquest of Ulster in 1177. Attached to its southern flank was a walled courtyard, entered from the east by a gateway through which visitors to the castle had to pass. Within this courtyard was a large hall, remnants of which still survive. When King John came to Ireland in 1210, he captured the castle and, after his departure, the castle was further fortified by the addition of an outer wall defended by a strong square tower on the vulnerable eastern flank, which also gave cover to a new entrance north of the keep. Just to the north of this entrance there was a gully in the rock, which formed a natural defence and between 1226 and 1242, the remainder of the rock-spur to the north of the gulley, originally unfortified, was enclosed by a wall entered through a massive gate-house with two round towers. To this day, these portly towers-with their portcullis-guard the entrance for modern visitors (who, unlike their medieval counterparts, can gain entrance by mere payment of an entrance charge). During the Later Middle Ages, the castle played a purely administrative role, and only saw action again in 1689, when Schomberg took it for King William, who landed in Ireland here the following year. Its final, unsuccessful defence was against the French commander, Thurot, who succeeded in seizing it in 1760. Subsequently, it acted in turn as a prison, magazine and armoury, and served as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War. The cannons which can be seen on its walls date partly from the 17th century, and partly from the early 19th century, when the castle was provided with new weaponry to guard against the threat of a Napoleonic invasion. The town which grew up on the mainland under the protection of the castle was small and fortified by town walls. The size of both town and walls was virtually doubled by Arthur Chichester in the early 17th century. The walls are best seen from the outside in the north-eastern sector, at the car-park next to the modern bowling green. On the western side, outside which the Scots and Irish lived, parts of the walls were exposed in excavations conducted in the 1970s by Tom Delaney, in whose memory a plaque has been erected in a green space outside them. Within the walls is one of Ulster's most interesting churches, going back to the late 12th century-St. Nicholas (open on Sundays) with a late 12th-century arcade, very rare in Ulster. Though founded probably by John de Courcy shortly before 1200, its present from dates partly from a re-building of 1614, and it contains the fine 17th-century tomb of Arthur Chichester in the north transept, which he himself had added. His residence at Joymount, within the walls, stood on the site of the present Town Hall.

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3. Railway Museums

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Railway Preservation Society of Ireland

Co. Antrim

Based close to Whitehead Railway Station, the RPSI has a unique collection of Irish Standard Gauge steam locomotives and coaches on display. The headquarters are open every Sunday in July, when an engine will be in steam to give short rides on the site and most other weekends for static displays. The society also runs a number of mainline steam events. The Portrush Flyer The Flyer is rapidly becoming one of the famous railway names to rank along with images like the 'Flying Scotsman' and the 'Orient Express'. This is the main chance for local people to travel by steam. It combines this valuable opportunity with a day out in Portrush. The train sets off from the Society base at Whitehead, and runs into Belfast to collect most of the passengers - mostly family groups, and parties from social clubs. Often neighbours get together to take a group on the Flyer - the larger the group, the cheaper the fare per person. Then, from Belfast the Flyer runs along the main Londonderry line as far as Coleraine, before taking the Portrush branch and into the popular resort. Passengers have six relaxing hours by the seaside and then the Flyer leaves again for the brisk run back to Belfast. The Society moved into Whitehead Excursion Station in 1966 and since then it has been the centre for work and the base of operations for many railtours and outings.

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4. Monuments

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Lough Neagh System

Co. Antrim

Lough Neagh has been described as a huge fish factory. It is the biggest lake in the British Isles, and it covers 153 square miles (400 km). Its uncanny similarity in size and shape to the Isle of Man gave rise to the legend that the mythical giant Fiann McCool scooped out a huge lump of earth and threw it into the Irish Sea - the lump of earth formed the Isle of Man, and the hole filled with water became Lough Neagh. For the tout angler its main interest is the dollaghan, a unique species of lake trout. These trout can be caught when they run the many tributaries from mid-July. Dollaghan are in many ways similar to salmon and grow by up to 3Ib every year while in the lough. Successful methods are spinning, worming and fly fishing. The many tributaries also support a large stock of native brownies from 1/2 Ib with the occasional big river trout specimen. Tangible evidence of more legends can also be found as you travel around this historic region. In the hills to the West the famous Beaghmore Stone Circles are popularly believed to have powers of fertility and on the crest of a hill outside Dunadry stands the finest Bronze-age holestone in the British Isles where it's believed lovers in ancient times solemnised their marriages. Over hundred of years the Celts, along with the Vikings, Normans, Scots and English, have all left their footprints around this inland sea. The hill top enclosure of Tullyhogue near Cookstown is where the Celtic kings of Ulster were inaugurated as the O' Neils, while at Donaghamore you'll find a fine example of an early Christian Cross. Further north on the western shore Ardboe Cross a one-thousand-year old Celtic crosses which is intricately carved with biblical scenes has been described as "the finest High Cross in Ireland". Places such as the fine monastery Round Tower in Antrim which has withstood the dramas of ten centuries, or the excellently preserved artillery fort built in the picturesque village of Hillsborough in 1640 lie waiting to be discovered.

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5. Interpretative Centre

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See the Giants Causeway with Dulsey,Antrim, Northern Ireland

See the Giants Causeway with Dulsey

Giant's Causeway Centre , Co. Antrim

This attraction was heightened in 1986 by the completion of an interpretative centre which attempts to explain the geological enigma of the Causeway and other mythical legends associated with it. The Centre includes a theatre in which a lively and colourful audio visual programme explains the volcanic origin of the Causeway and also suggests that a legendary Irish giant, Finn MacCool undoubtedly has a hand in its creation. In addition to the theatre, the Centre houses an exhibition which includes a full scale model of Europe's first hydro-electric tram which operated from Portrush to the Causeway between 1883 and 1949. There are also exhibits of the flora and fauna of the area, local events, history, the wreck of the Girona and quotes from many famous people who visited the causeway. The Grand Causeway is an astonishing complex of basalt columns packed together, whose tops form 'stepping stones' leading from the cliff foot and disappearing under the sea. Over the causeway as a whole, there are about 37,000 of these stone columns, mostly 6-sided, but some 4, 5, 7 and 8 sided. They were formed about 60 million years ago by the cooling and shrinking - along regular lines of force - of molten lava from a vast volcanic eruption that formed the Antrim plateau. The tallest columns, in the Giant's Organ, are 12m. high. But the solidified lava in the cliffs is at places 24m. thick. Light-coloured patches in the cliffs are the residue of bubbles in the boiling lava. Plant fossils show that the lava erupted over vegetation and that the climate of Ireland was semi-tropical. The Causeway's fame has been increased by the discovery - and recovery - at Port na Spaniagh in 1967 and 1968, of the most valuable treasure ever found in a Spanish Armada wreck. The galleass Girona, the biggest ship in the Armada, was wrecked in that jagged gulf in a storm on the night of October 26th, 1588, with only five survivors out of the 1,300 men aboard her. The Girona carried not only her own treasure but also what the Spaniards had been able to save from two other Armada ships wrecked earlier on the west coast of Ireland. Nearly 10,000 objects were brought to shore by a team of Belgian divers led by M. Robert Stenuit of Brussels. The treasure included 400 gold and 750 silver coins; gold jewellery, pendants, rings and cameos containing inset rubies and pearls; eight solid gold chains; silver forks and spoons; the ship's anchor, cannon balls. The most beautiful and valuable items are now on permanent display in the Ulster Museum, Belfast. The story is narrated on picture-boards at the Causeway.

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6. Motte (Historical)

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Harryville

Co. Antrim

The motte is a tall, flat-topped earthwork separated by a deep ditch from an extended raised bailey, the whole surrounded by an imposing earthen bank, all constructed around the last decades of the 12th century.

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7. Towers (Historical)

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Antrim Round Tower, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Antrim Round Tower

Antrim Borough Council, The Steeple, Co. Antrim

A well-preserved Round Tower, which stands to a height of 92 feet, though the conical cap was reset after the tower was struck by lightening in 1819. It has one unique feature: a ringed cross carved in relief on a stone above the lintel of the doorway on the north-eastern portion of the tower. The cross does not help us to date the tower which, however, is likely to have been built in the 10th or 11th century. Together with a large bullaun stone nearby, it is the only monumental survivor of a monastery founded perhaps by St. Comgall of Bangor in the 6th century. Located in the grounds of the Antrim Borough Council offices.

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8. Castles (Historical)

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Belfast Castle,Antrim, Northern Ireland

Belfast Castle

Belfast Castle, Antrim Road, Co. Antrim

The Chichesters later the Donegalls lived in England as absentee landlords but came to live at Ormeau at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The 3rd Marquis died in 1884 and 7th Earl of Shaftesbury the following year. Lord Ashley, and his wife Harriet Augusta, thus inherited the Shaftesbury title and the Donegall home. The Shaftebury family were philanthropists, supporting various charities and hosting garden fetes within the castle grounds. The 9th Earl became Lord Mayor in 1907 and Chancellor of Queen's University the following year. The family presented the castle and estate to the City of Belfast in 1934. From the end of the 2nd World War until the 1970's the castle became a popular venue for wedding receptions, dances and afternoon teas. In 1978 Belfast City Council instituted a major refurbishment programme that was to continue over a period of ten years at a cost of over two million pounds. The architiect this time was the Hewitt and Haslam Partnership. The building was officially re-opened to the public on 11 November 1988. The cellars of the castle, opened in 1990 have been transformed to allow visitors to step back in time into a Victorian atmosphere of narrow, paved streets, shop fronts, gas light, etc. The area comprises an interesting antique and craft shop- The Cave Hill Shop, the'Castle Tavern 'bar and the 'Castle Kitchen'-a bistro Restaurant open seven days a week and offering a variety of menus from morning coffee to full meals. The adjoining Haslam Room is a small, cosy function room available for hire. The second floor contains the Cave Hill Heritage Centre which highlight various` aspects of the area e.g history, folklore, wildlife, geology, with a range of static moving and interactive displays. This contre is open to visitors to Belfast Castle. With its fascinating history and associations, its superb setting and views, and well deserved reputation for good food. Belfast Castle is an ideal centre for functions, receptions, conferences, exhibitions, or for that special dining out occasion.

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9. Dolmens

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Ballylumford Dolmen, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Ballylumford Dolmen

Co. Antrim

The Ballylumford Dolmen is better known to locals as the Druid's Altar and is a dolmen typical of many found in Ulster and throughout Ireland. Larne used to be called "the port of the Standing Stones" by the Romans, no doubt because of the presence of dolmens like this one and the numberous standing stones and boundary marker stones which can still be seen across the borough. The dolmen, under which historical artifacts have been recovered by archaeologists, would appear to have stood over a burial chamber of ancient times. It is situated on the road between Mill Bay and Ballylumford.

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10. Forts (Historical)

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Lough-Na-Crannagh, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Lough-Na-Crannagh

Co. Antrim

The custom of building lake-dwellings or crannogs may have started with the Mesolithic hunters and food-gatherers who arrived in Ireland 9,000 years ago, though no example excavated so far has been dated earlier than the Bronze Age. Most in fact appear to belong to the Early Christian period, and doubtless many were inhabited well into Medieval times and beyond. Lough-na-Crannagh, a small limpid lake cradled in a hollow on the summit of Fair Head on the north Antrim coast, contains perhaps the finest walled crannog in the country. Its remarkably well preserved state may be the result of its one-time remoteness, but it is also likely that it was occupied until very late on and could have seen several phases of reconstruction at the hands of successive newcomers. The secluded situation is typical of the dispersed settlement pattern of Celtic Ireland and the site would have been an attractive one down the centuries.

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11. Tombs

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Ballymacaldrack 'Dooey's Cairn' court-tomb

Co. Antrim

It has a more than semicircular stone-paved forecourt, in which stone axes were found. Portals lead into the roofless burial chamber, placed in a long stone-revetted mound. Excavations in 1935 and again in 1975 showed that behind the chambered burial gallery there was a passage, originally timber-roofed, containing pits but also much cremated bone, suggesting that - unusually - the passage may well have been the location of the crematorium itself. A number of Neolithic pottery sherds and flints came to light during the excavation.

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12. Homes (Historical)

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Arthur Ancestral Home, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Arthur Ancestral Home

Co. Antrim

Chester Alan Arthur was the 21st US President, in office from 1881 - 1885. From this thatched cottage at Cullybackey, his father set out for the New World. The house has now been extensively restored with clay floors, open flax-straw thatched roof and early furniture. The site also incorporates an interpretive centre, a display of early agricultural machinery.

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13. Crosses (Historical)

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Lough Neagh System

Co. Antrim

Lough Neagh has been described as a huge fish factory. It is the biggest lake in the British Isles, and it covers 153 square miles (400 km). Its uncanny similarity in size and shape to the Isle of Man gave rise to the legend that the mythical giant Fiann McCool scooped out a huge lump of earth and threw it into the Irish Sea - the lump of earth formed the Isle of Man, and the hole filled with water became Lough Neagh. For the tout angler its main interest is the dollaghan, a unique species of lake trout. These trout can be caught when they run the many tributaries from mid-July. Dollaghan are in many ways similar to salmon and grow by up to 3Ib every year while in the lough. Successful methods are spinning, worming and fly fishing. The many tributaries also support a large stock of native brownies from 1/2 Ib with the occasional big river trout specimen. Tangible evidence of more legends can also be found as you travel around this historic region. In the hills to the West the famous Beaghmore Stone Circles are popularly believed to have powers of fertility and on the crest of a hill outside Dunadry stands the finest Bronze-age holestone in the British Isles where it's believed lovers in ancient times solemnised their marriages. Over hundred of years the Celts, along with the Vikings, Normans, Scots and English, have all left their footprints around this inland sea. The hill top enclosure of Tullyhogue near Cookstown is where the Celtic kings of Ulster were inaugurated as the O' Neils, while at Donaghamore you'll find a fine example of an early Christian Cross. Further north on the western shore Ardboe Cross a one-thousand-year old Celtic crosses which is intricately carved with biblical scenes has been described as "the finest High Cross in Ireland". Places such as the fine monastery Round Tower in Antrim which has withstood the dramas of ten centuries, or the excellently preserved artillery fort built in the picturesque village of Hillsborough in 1640 lie waiting to be discovered.

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14. Museums

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Brookhall Historical Farm, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Brookhall Historical Farm

Pauline Johnston , 2 Horse Park, Magheragall, Co. Antrim

Open farm with farm museum, gardens, tea house, craft and antiques shop and farm animals. Building which represents a 12th century place of worship and a beautiful closed garden which is an ancient burial ground. Also a holy well which is used for its healing properties.

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15. Monastic Sites

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16. Gallery Graves

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Ballykeel

Co. Antrim

Many of the gravestones inside the cemetery relate to seafaring families long associated with this peninsula.

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17. Stones (Historical)

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Doagh, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Doagh

Co. Antrim

Rising picturesquely above a gorse-grown rocky outcrop, on the crest of a hill commanding a broad sweep of countryside, this shapely 'hole stone' is a good example of its type and a familiar landmark in the locality. Typical of places where the dumping of refuse is specifically prohibited, the immediate area abounds in unsightly litter. A tapered dolerite slab about 5 feet high and 21/2 feet wide at the base, it is pierced with a circular hole 3 inches in diameter, neatly cut, with smooth rounded edges on both sides. In the past betrothed couples joined hands through this aperture as a pledge of fidelity, a custom recorded in the Dublin Penny Journal in 1832, which also has a woodcut depicting the monolith. This kind of monument is impossible to date, since like the far more numerous unperforated standing stones, they cannot be attributed to a particular period or culture. That they figured in local customs within living memory does not necessarily signify a lingering on of a prehistoric cult; though it is possible that some recently extinct folk traditions preserved elements derived from ritual practices of great antiquity.

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18. Friaries

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Bonamargy Friary, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Bonamargy Friary

Co. Antrim

Remains of Franciscan friary founded in 1485 by Rory MacQuillan. Many interesting features including a burial vault containing the remains of the celebrated MacDonnell chieftain, Sorley Boy, as well as several Earls of Antrim. East range of cloister, gatehouse and church virtually complete except for roof. Free access always. On A2 1/2 mile east of Ballycastle.

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19. Churches (Historical)

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St Nicholas Church, Antrim, Northern Ireland

St Nicholas' Church

Heritage Plaza, Antrim Street, Co. Antrim

Entrance Porch 1. 'Bomb' fired during Williamite invasion 1689. 2. Copper Collection Plates. 3. Stone Cross Dated 1169. Chancel 4. Wooden Screen - 24 different crosses. 5. Bog Oak Chairs 17th Century 6. Anglo - Norman Grave Slab 12th Century. 7. Founder's Tomb 12th Century. 8. Priest's door - Church now 3ft. higher. 9. Lepper Window. 10. Burial Slab 1645 (William Crispin buried by Admiral William Penn, father of founder of Pennsylvania, U.S.A.) 11. Clustered Norman Pillars. Donegall Aisle 12. Added in 1614 restoration. Chichseter Memorial - finest example of 17th Century memorial dedicated to Sir Arthur Chichester, his wife Lady Lettice Perrot, his baby son, and brother Sir John Chichester. Memorial erected in 1625, made of alabaster and marble by Italian Craftsmen. 13. Crispin Window and Plaque - see 10. 14. 1914 - 1918 Regimental Window. Wills' or Freeman's Aisle 15. Gardiner Memorial - 'Three Cherub Heads' 18th Century. 16. Norman Pillars. 17. Remaining stones from St. Mary's Abbey, Woodburn. Nave 18. Font - Castle Espie Limestone - broken during french invasion 1760. 19. 'John The Baptist' Window, 16th Century. Flemish glass (in gallery 'Bulls Eye' windows). 20. Baptistry - 'Santa Claus' Window. (Formerly church porch and tomb). Note cuts in the archway - made by soldiers on duty. 21. Norman Arches -4- Look out for many interesting memorial tablets throughout the church. Spire S The church spire was erected in 1778 and has recently undergone extensive renovation work. Bell Tower B The Bell Tower was built in 1962 and houses a ring of 8 bells.

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20. Bridges

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Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

Tourist Office, Giants Causeway Centre, Co. Antrim

This is one of the famous things to do in Ireland: walk across the narrow, bouncy bridge of planks, holding tight to a wire handrail, 80 feet above the sea and joining a cliff to a precipitous island.

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21. Mills (Historical)

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Pattersons Spade Mill, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Patterson's Spade Mill

Co. Antrim

This historic property, founded in 1919, is now owned by the National Trust and the last working water-driven spade mill in Ireland. Guided tours show the whole fascinating process from heating a block of metal in the forge through to the finished product, while an exhibition on site reveals some of the history and culture of this humble spade. In addition you can explore the mill race and even buy a turf garden spade on site. Through guided tours, the fascinating process of spade making is demonstrated: Heating a billet of metal in the forge Drawing it out on the massive and noisy tilt hammer Applying the lift and dish on a metal press to give the spade its required shape Sharpening and tempering the blade And then fixing the shaft to the blade with rivets, and finishing the spade off ready for distribution. The mill race can be explored and the remnants of other former industrial processes such as linen beetling and a paper mill can be seen. There is an excellent exhibition in the reception area, which explains the traditional process and reveals some of the history and culture of the humble spade. A visit to Patterson's Spade Mill is a fascinating experience for all the family to enjoy. Come and find out what it takes to call a spade a spadeā€¦

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22. Stone Circles

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The Giant Ring, Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Giant's Ring

Co. Antrim

Four miles south of Belfast in the townland of Ballynahatty, on a plateau overlooking the River Lagan, is the largest prehistoric ritual enclosure in Ireland. A circular earthwork up to 12 feet high surrounds an open space nearly 600 feet in diameter and some 7 acres in area. Five 'entrance' gaps, not all of which are presumed to be original, give access to the interior of the ring, and a few lone trees break the skyline along the rim of the bank. The ground inside the enclosure is somewhat higher at the centre, rather like an inverted saucer, evidently the result of earth having been removed from round the edge to provide additional material for the construction of the bank. Placed slightly off centre in the ring is a megalithic chamber with passage-tomb affinities, consisting of five orthostats supporting a tilted capstone. If there was a covering cairn no trace of it remains. While not necessarily contemporary, both tomb and earthwork are probably of late Neolithic date. In more recent times it is recorded that The Giant's Ring served as a venue for horse races, while nowadays it is a favourite haunt of picnickers and dog-walkers. It is by any reckoning a tremendously impressive place, a silent arena which holds the secrets of forgotten ceremonies of 4,000 years ago. From the top of the bank one has extensive views across suburban countryside to the high-0rise buildings and shipyard gantries of an industrial city; but from the floor of the enclosure the sights and sounds of modernity are shut out and the only sense of movement is from the clouds overhead.

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23. Wells (Historical)

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Brookhall Historical Farm, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Brookhall Historical Farm

Pauline Johnston , 2 Horse Park, Magheragall, Co. Antrim

Open farm with farm museum, gardens, tea house, craft and antiques shop and farm animals. Building which represents a 12th century place of worship and a beautiful closed garden which is an ancient burial ground. Also a holy well which is used for its healing properties.

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24. Farmsteads

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Streamvale Farm, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Streamvale Farm

The Morrow Family , 38 Ballyhanwood Road, Co. Antrim

Streamvale is a family run dairy farm set in the Gilnahirk hills overlooking Belfast. In 1987 we opened our doors for the public to experience the animals, the wildlife, the work and the smells. Come along and watch the milking (4.00-5.30 pm), feed the animals (3.30pm for bottle fedding). Enjoy the full range of farm and pet animals in our Pets' Corner. We have a Straw Bounce, Nature trail, Outdoor Play Area, Picnic Area and Tea Room. Hand milk a goat, cuddle a fluffy chick, have a tractor and trailer ride, watch the sheep racing. Our summer fruit picking is fun for all the family and the farm shop sells fresh food and gifts throughout the summer months. Our animals and activities vary over the farming year so no matter how often you come there is always lots to entertain the whole family.

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25. Rath

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Lissue Rath

Co. Antrim

It is slightly dished in the centre, and the surrounding bank has largely disappeared. this enclosure was preceded by an earlier round structure (built perhaps around A.D. 850) whose inhabitants had used sophisticated domestic wooden vessels. Little more than the ditch of this earlier rath remained when excavations on the site in 1946-47 revealed that the earlier rath had been partially demolished when the existing earthen rath was constructed around A.D. 1000. Six concentric rings of oak posts found in the centre of the rath led the excavator to suggest that the whole rath had once been roofed over as a single, vast round room 120ft in diameter and almost 40 feet high, which probably served as the living area for a single well-to-do family - judging by the items uncovered, including a rare slate decorated with designs.

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26. Bawn

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Dalways Bawn

Co. Antrim

Three miles north-east of Carrickfergus, Dalway's bawn was originally a square, walled area with corner towers, a fine example of what the English planter built to protect his royal grant of land. The bawn was built by John Dalway around 1609, but only that part of it fronting on to the road is well preserved; behind its facade is a modern farm. In contrast, what the Scots planter built to protect himself can be seen at Ballygalley on the coast road north of Larne, where the 3-storey castle now forms part of a fine hotel.

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