Ballycastle - queen of the Antrim coast


Ballycastle is a small and lovely town pf less than 10,000 people, set on the beautiful Antrim coastal road, in County Antrim. There is another town by the same name in County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland and the two should not be confused. The town is built next to the river Tow and lies on the A2 road that goes from Belfast through Larne and on towards Giants Causeway and Portrush. It is famous for Lammas Fair, only of the well know annual markets of Northern Ireland.

History

Before the present town was built the area was known as Claricashan and what today is the Quay as Portbrittes. In some earlier correspondence there is mention of a Marketon that possible refers to the same area. There had been a castle there for some time and it was called Dunananie which means “the fort of the fair games”. In 1612 it was deeded to Hugh McNeill. In 1625 a new castle was constructed but later suffered damage in the numerous wars and fell into disrepair. The last remains of the castle were removed in the 1850's as they were deemed to be a dangerous condition. The castle was located at about the place where the main church stands.

Industrial Center

Until AD 1700 the town was underdeveloped. The area was considered poor and a wild and lawless country. However, during the later half of the 18th century the town developed into an important industrial center thanks mainly to the investments of Hugh Boyd, a colonel and of a local vicar. The town boasted a glass factory which was reputed to be one of the best in Europe. Hugh also requested permission and grants from the local authorities to build a harbor. Permission and funds were granted and Hugh oversaw both its construction and operations. Other businesses also flourished and the town became a small industrial center. Ballycastle church also dates from this era. However, soon after Hugh Boyd died the glass factory and most of the other industrial developments soon closed, and even the harbor fell into disuse and was silted up despite arrangements for its maintenance that Hugh had made before his death.

A Popular Seaside Town

Despite the decline of industry the town was able to find its footing as a popular small town on the coast. A new harbor was eventually built and it came to serve not only the transport of good but also people with a regular ferry to Scotland that lasted until 2002. It also has a regular service to Rathlin Island.



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