More than a Castle

When I suggest to someone that they should come and visit Carrickfergus, I usually get the same response.

“Oh, I hear it has a Castle.”

Well, yes it does. And a very good one at that. Almost 850 years old and in remarkable condition. It’s a real castle, too. Not an artificial “Game of Thrones” film location. Worth going on one of the free guided tours.

There’s much more to Carrickfergus than the Castle, though.

The Carrickfergus story

The museum in the Civic Centre may be compact and bijou, but there is enough there to tell the story of Carrickfergus through the ages.

If you want a really edited version of the town’s history, pop into Market Place and a handful of wall plaques display a neat timeline.

Medieval

Almost as old is Saint Nicholas Church. Obviously it has been through a few revisions over the centuries, but it remains on the same plot as the original. Internal visits are offered, though the Church is not always open. If you get the chance to see inside, you won’t be disappointed.

The defensive Town Walls are well preserved, with the majority of them still standing. There are information boards placed at strategic points around the walls. Start just to the right of the local library. The first board will set the route out for you.

Victorian

The only preserved Victorian gasworks in Ireland is just outside the town centre. More interesting than you may think. Constructed in 1855, it supplied the town with coal gas right up to 1967. Those Victorian engineers built things to last!

Second World War

During the Second World War, Carrickfergus was a veritable hive of activity. It had a tank factory, a linen works converted to make parachutes (and a few other items for the war effort), it was a base for various military units (British, American and Belgian), and a United States special operations force was created here. Little of the wartime infrastructure remains, but this is where my Tour comes in (unashamed plug). It brings the events that took place in Carrickfergus during the Second World War to life.

Food and Drink

Of course, it you are going to spend a day or two in the town, you will need fed and watered. Did you know there are more sit-in places to catch a light snack or meal within a half-mile radius of the Castle than there are letters in the alphabet?

Getting here couldn’t be easier

If travelling by public transport, the train station is only a few hundred yards from the town centre and the bus drops you off even closer.
There are plenty of car parks dotted around, with the Harbour one (only 150 yards on the Belfast side of the Castle) the most convenient – and it’s free.

And there’s more….

If you are prepared to venture a little further, the Andrew Jackson Centre and the US Rangers Museum are jointly located about a mile towards Larne.

So, yes, do come and visit Carrickfergus.

Marvel at our beautiful Castle, but don’t miss out on the rest of the town’s offerings.

Top Tip: please check the opening times of these attractions before you travel. They vary a bit, and some may require advance notice of your intention to visit. Click on the attractions that are in bold to take you to an appropriate website.

YouTube Channel

As well as reading a small mountain of books and innumerable pages on the internet while researching content for the tour, I have come across quite a few interesting and useful videos on YouTube.

I thought I would put these together in a collection, so here’s a link to my YouTube Channel: Lead The Way Tour YouTube Channel

The Channel has only 1 video specific to the Tour, at the minute, but if you visit the associated playlist there’s a lot there of interest. Please feel free to subscribe to the Channel to view any more videos I add to it.

If I had to recommend a particular video on the playlist to start you off, it would be A Letter from Ulster (1942).

Enjoy the nostalgia.

Always looking for more…..

If you come across any more videos that you think could be added to that playlist, please contact me with the details.

Happy New Year

A new year and a new decade begins.

From a Second World War perspective, 2020 brings us the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V.E.) Day on the 8th May and Victory over Japan (V.J.) Day on August the 15th (though the United States of America commemorate V.J. Day on the 2nd of September).

V.E. Day is on a Friday, and I’m delighted that the Government has moved the May Bank Holiday to this date this year.

I am in the planning stages for a variation of my standard Walking Tours to take place over the V..E Day weekend, and I hope to soon be able to share details of a special extended Tour on V.E. Day itself.

Standard Tours are available throughout the winter months on request – just get in touch.

In the meantime, I wish you the very best for a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Request for information

With the Tour now in mini-hibernation for the winter (though willing to be woken up on request), I am continuing with research on events in Carrickfergus during the Second World War.

As well as using published material in books, magazines, websites and newspapers of the time, I would like to hear personal stories from those who lived in the town during this period.

Sadly, many of those citizens are no longer with us. However, I am sure many of their personal stories have been handed down the generations.

If you, or people you know, have any recollections of what it was like to live and/or work in Carrickfergus during the Second World War, please get in touch with me.

For example, from my own family I have discovered that:

  • my dad studied at the Tech on High Street, before getting a job helping with horse-drawn bread deliveries;
  • my grandmother used to watch the American soldiers parading down Lancasterian Street from her first floor landing window (she used to live in what is now a charity shop opposite the Fire Station);
  • my grandfather got a suspended prison sentence for his part in the theft of petrol from the Army store at Kinnegar barracks, where he was working (not the sort of story I hoped to find!);
  • my father-in-law was in the local Home Guard; and
  • my mother-in-law worked in Barn Mills (I recently found a photo of her there, taken in 1943)

Perhaps this request for stories is a good excuse for the younger generations to sit down and chat with their elders about this period in time.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, please get in touch to let me know if you have anything you think may be of interest – stories, photos, memorabilia etc.

I can arrange to meet up, if necessary, to record these stories or take copies/photos of any useful items. Or if you are happy to email me the stuff, that’s great.

The best way to get in touch, initially, is by emailing me at: leadthewaytourcarrickfergus@gmail.com

I will follow up any offers of information over the winter months. I may not do this immediately after you email me, so don’t worry if you don’t hear back from me straight away.

Winter Tour Arrangements

During the winter period, there are a few changes to how you can join me for a Guided Walking Tour around Carrickfergus.

Scheduled Saturday morning Tours, offered on a “just turn up” basis, will stop after 26 October 2019 and re-start on 29 February 2020.

During this period, Walking Tours will continue to be available on request.

I know that weather conditions may have an impact on your decision to consider a Tour. I don’t mind getting wrapped up to tackle the elements, but it’s not everyone’s idea of fun. For that reason, I am more than prepared to consider requests for a Tour at short notice, so you can factor in the weather forecast. I will do my very best to fit something in for you.

To help with your planning, here are a few useful hints and tips:

  • To get the most from a Tour, it’s best it takes place during daylight hours.
  • I can include a supported visit to the US Rangers Museum where a Tour fits in with their opening times of Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 – 15:00.
  • My contact details are here: Contact Me
  • Here’s a link to the BBC Weather Forecast: BBC Weather

More details about the Tour, including how to get here and other things you may want to do while in Carrickfergus, are available here: Lead The Way Tour Website

Please note, I will definitely be unavailable for Tours from 21 November through to 9 December.

Antiques Road Trip

This very popular BBC TV programme made a visit to Northern Ireland recently, and as part of the show it visited the US Rangers Museum in Carrickfergus.

This gave a flavour of the important part Carrickfergus played during the Second World War.

You will find out even more on one of my Tours, but in the meantime, here is a link to that episode of Antiques Road Trip: Antiques Road Trip Series 19, Episode 16

To book one of my Guided Walking Tours, please get in touch.

Recent Reviews (taken from the Tour’s Facebook Page)

As the Tour season moves towards a slowdown over the winter, I would like to thank those who have already gone on a Tour with me. I have been delighted with the feedback so far.

Here are some examples of what recent guests on my Tour have had to say:

“Just completed the Lead the Way tour…. absolutely brilliant and very informative. Great to learn so much about the wee town where I live and its involvement in the war effort! Couldn’t recommend it highly enough!”

“A fantastic tour around my home town and learnt a lot that I didn’t know in my 28 years living there. Adrian’s knowledge of Carrickfergus as a whole was excellent as well. Highly recommended.”

”Great presentation at a steady pace and very informative. Highly recommended.”

”Did the tour this morning excellent and well worth the wee walk great presentation and delivery I highly recommend it what a wealth of history around this great town .”

Please note that from the end of October until the Spring (exact date will be published closer to the time) there will be no “Just Turn Up” Tours planned.

However, Tours can be offered during this period on request – just get in touch.

Eighty Years Ago

Before dawn on the 1 September 1939, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler sent his armed forces into Poland.

At 04:45, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish port of Danzig on the Baltic Sea. The Luftwaffe attacked Wieluń around the same time, and at 08:00, German ground troops attacked the village of Mokra.

The World held its breath…….

On the 3 September, just eleven months after he declared “Peace for our time” on his return from Munich, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gave a live radio broadcast:

“This morning the British ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.

“You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed.

“Hitler’s actions, show convincingly that there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force.

“We have a clear conscience. We have done all that any country could do to establish peace.

“But the situation in which no word given by Germany’s ruler could be trusted, and no people or country could feel itself safe, had become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage.”

British armed forces had already been mobilised following the invasion of Poland; but it wasn’t until the declaration of war that the National Service Act was enacted, immediately enforcing full conscription for all men between 18 and 41.

Chamberlain also restructured his existing Conservative government to create a War Cabinet, with Winston Churchill returning as First Lord of the Admiralty.

The same day, King George VI addressed those in Britain and across the Empire. Speaking in a live broadcast from Buckingham Palace, he called upon “my people at home and my peoples across the seas” asking them “to stand calm, firm and united in this time of trial.

“The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield. But we can only do the right as we see the right and reverently commit our cause to God.

“If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God’s help, we shall prevail.”

This was the start of a conflict that would eventually engulf every Continent on the planet and affect countless millions of people.

Join my Walking Tour around Carrickfergus, and discover how this small town in Northern Ireland rose to the challenge, and made a significant contribution to the eventual Allied victory.

Hear how Matilda, Rupert and Franklin all departed from Carrickfergus to leave their mark on the outcome of WW2.

Re-opening of the US Rangers Centre

With the imminent re-opening of the Andrew Jackson Cottage and US Rangers Centre at Boneybefore, I am going to incorporate a visit there into a variation of the Tour.

The story of the US Rangers forms a significant part of the Tour, and the exhibitions in the Centre really add to that.

It’s a right wee dander (or “quite a walk” for any non-Northern folk out there) from the town to Boneybefore. It turns the Tour’s standard two-mile circuit into a three-and-a-half mile round trip. I think that for all but the most ambitious visitor, those are a few steps too far.

So, I’m going to try to do few variations of the Tour, to see how they work out.

My standard, “just turn up” scheduled Tours on most Saturday mornings at 10:30am will remain as they are: a two-mile, ninety-minute circular route that does not incorporate the US Rangers Centre. You can always visit the Centre at your leisure after the Tour.

I can also offer this standard Tour on other days and times, on request.

On a request-only basis (contact me to agree a day and time), if anyone wants to come on a Tour that includes a stop at the US Rangers Centre, I have a few permutations:

Walk the Walk. I don’t mind taking the extra steps. In fact, I could probably do with them! By doing the Tour (inclusive of visiting the US Rangers Centre), you will end up walking three and a half miles, in around two hours. You will follow most of the route we use in the Standard Tour, starting at the Castle, but deviate to Boneybefore, and then walk back along the promenade side of the Marine Highway. You get some decent photos of the Castle along this stretch. The standard Tour prices will apply.

Walk and Ride. This will be a combination of a shorter walk (about a mile and a half), followed by transportation to the US Rangers Centre, and then back to the Castle. The information I share during the Tour remains exactly the same as in the other Tours: you just do less walking. If you are able to provide your own transport, that’s great. If you don’t, I was planning just to use the local taxi service. The walking part of this Tour starts at the Castle, and ends at Taylors Avenue. From there, I will arrange for transportation to take us to the US Rangers Centre for 30-45 minutes, and then back to the Castle. I reckon, depending on how many are in the group taking the Tour, it should not add more than £2 to the standard cost of the Tour.

For these variations it really is only feasible if there are at least 3 people on the Tour, so you may need to rustle up a few additions from family & friends, or be prepared to join a waiting list until I get the necessary numbers. The more flexible you are about preferred days and times, the easier I may be able to cobble together a group.

A point to remember – the US Rangers Centre normally opens on Wednesdays to Sundays, from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Tours incorporating a visit need to work round those times. In some circumstances, though, if there is decent size Group booking, the Centre may open outside of those times. I would need to be given a decent bit of notice in advance to make a request.

I am trying to be as flexible as I can for anyone wishing to come on one of my Tours. I appreciate that not everyone may be comfortable walking two miles (though it feels less – honestly!), or the Saturday morning slot may not suit. If you have any special requests about how I can help you join a Tour, please get in touch. I’ll do my very best to accommodate you.

The story of Carrickfergus during the Second World War is much more interesting than you may think! Join me to find out more.

All Tours conclude with a complimentary regular size tea or coffee at Dobbins Inn.

Tour now includes complimentary tea or coffee

I am delighted that Dobbins Inn is supporting the Lead The Way Tour.

I am now able to offer a complimentary regular size cup of tea or coffee to Tour participants at the conclusion of the Tour, in one of Ireland’s oldest buildings that is steeped in history and oozing character, offering a great atmosphere, real coal burning fire, “craic”, quality service and top class food.

There’s also accommodation available, with all bedrooms en suite complete with TV, telephone, complimentary WI-FI and tea/coffee making facilities.

Click on the logo below to visit the Dobbins Inn website.