County Antrim Antiquities

The remains of antiquity of earliest date consist of cairns or barrows, cromlechs, raths or intrenchments, and mounts differing in magnitude and form. The most remarkable of the cairns is that on Colin mountain, about three miles north of Lisburn; there is also one on Slieve True, to the west of Carrickfergus, and two on Colinward. Near Cairngrainey, to the north-east of the old road from Belfast to Templepatrick, is the cromlech most worthy of especial notice: it has several table stones resting on numerous upright ones; and near it is a large mount, also several fortified posts different from all others in the county. There is likewise a large cromlech at Mount Druid, near Ballintoy; another at the northern extremity of Island Magee; and Hole Stone, to the east of the road from Antrim to Glenavy, appears to be a relic of the druids.

Of mounts, forts, and intrenchments, there is every variety which exists in Ireland; and so numerous are they, that the parishes of Killead and Muckamore alone contain two hundred and thirty, defended by one or more ramparts; and ton mounts, two of them containing caves, of which that called Donald's Mount is a fine specimen of this kind of earthwork. Among the most remarkable of the rest are, one at Donegore, one at Kilconway, one at the dough-water, one at Dunethery, the last of which is planted with trees; one with a square outwork at Dunmacaltar, in the parish of Culfeightrin; Dunmaul fort, near Nappan; one at Cushendall, having a castle within its defences, and probably a Danish relic; one at Drumfane on the Braid, one at Camlent-Oldchurch, and another in a bog near Ballykennedy: one near Connor has outworks exactly resembling that at Dromore, and in another near Carrickfergus have been found several curious Danish trumpets. Stone hatchets or celts of various sizes have been discovered in several places, but in the greatest numbers near Ballintoy; arrowheads of flint, spear heads of brass, and numerous miscellaneous relics have been found.

There have also been discovered a Roman torques, a coin of Valentinian, fibulae, and other Roman antiquities, supposed to be relics of the spoil obtained by the Irish Scots in their plunder of South Britain, in alliance with the Picts. Of the singular round towers, the original purpose of which has been a fertile source of almost innumerable conjectures, there are at present four in this county; viz., one at Antrim, one on Ram's Island in Lough Neagh, a fragment of one near the old church at Trummery (between Lisburn and Moira), and one in the churchyard of Armoy. Archdall enumerates forty-eight religious establishments, as having existed in this county, but adds, that twenty of them are now unknown, and scarcely can the existence of half the entire number be now established by positive evidence. There are still interesting remains of those of Bonamargy, Kells, Glenarm, Glynn near Larne, Muckamore, and White Abbey, to the west of the road from Belfast to Carrickfergus; and extensive ruins of other religious edifices, in the several townlands of Dundesert, Ballykennedy, and Carmavy, in the parish of Killead.

Of ancient fortresses, that of Carrickfergus, which has always been the strongest and most important, is the only one in complete preservation: there are interesting ruins of Green Castle, to the west of the road between Belfast and Carrickfergus; Olderfleet Castle, situated at the extremity of the peninsula which forms one side of the harbour of Larne; Castle Chichester, near the entrance to the peninsula of Island Magee; Red Bay Castle; and the Castle of Court Martin, near Cushendall. Near the northern coast are likewise several old castles, some of which are very difficult of access, and must have been fortresses of great strength prior to the use of artillery: of these the principal are Dunluce, remarkable for its amazing extent and romantic situation, also Dunseverick, Kenbane, Doonaninny, and Castle Carey; in Rathlin Island are the remains of Bruce's Castle. Inland there are also many remains of fortified residences, of which Shane's Castle, the venerable seat of the O'Nials, was destroyed by fire in 1816: Castle Upton is the only mansion of this kind at present habitable. Lisanoure, the beautiful seat of George Macartney, Esq., on the banks of Lough Guile, is so called from an old fort in the vicinity. Near the summit of White Mountain, two miles north of Lisburn, are the extensive remains of Castle Robin; and at Portmore, near the Little Lough in Ballinderry, are similar remains. Among the mansions of the nobility and gentry, few are splendid, though many are of considerable elegance; they are noticed under the heads of the parishes in which they are respectively situated.

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