village and civil parish
Carncastle or Cairncastle (from Irish: carn, meaning "mound", and the English word "castle") is a small village and civil parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland near the town of Larne and inland from the village of Ballygally. It had a population of 66 people in the 2001 Census. It is part of the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area.
Cairncastle Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. The congregation was founded in 1646, four years after the foundation year of the Presbytery of Carrickfergus, which is the oldest presbytery in Ireland. The current minister is The Reverend Fiona Forbes, who was installed in 2014.
St Patrick's Church of Ireland - there has been a church on the site since medieval times. The date of its foundation is not known, but it appears in the papal taxation of 1306 as Karkastell. The present parish church was completed in 1815. Repairs in the early 1860s saw the roof replaced, roughcast removed from the walls, and smaller panes inserted in the windows. The pulpit and reading desk were moved to the east end and box pews replaced. The east window in St Patrick's was made by the famed Mayer Company in Munich. Further changes were made to St Patrick's in the twentieth century. The octagonal spire was rebuilt in 1960 and a Sunday School extension added in 1993. In 2007, following major restoration, the church was rededicated by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd. Alan Harper. One of the most interesting items in St Patrick's is the font. A brass plate tells us it was used by Dean Swift when he was in Ballynure Church during his incumbency in 1695. The churchyard has probably been used as a place of interment since the medieval period. One of its most interesting features is a beautiful Spanish chestnut tree, locally known as the “Spanish Armada Tree”. According to local legend, this Spanish Sweet Chestnut tree sprouted from seeds stored within a dead sailor's pocket. Supposedly, the 16th-century Spanish sailor buried beneath it had been carrying chestnuts with him while on his maritime journey, likely to ward off scurvy. The sailor was part of the Spanish Armada. Unfortunately for him and the rest of his crew, gales whipped the waves into a furious frenzy, blowing their ship off course and wrecking it near Northern Ireland. One sailor's body washed up on the shores of Ballygally in 1588, where kind locals discovered the corpse and buried it in an unmarked grave at St Patrick's Church of Ireland. But his grave didn't remain unmarked for long. Soon, a sapling sprouted from the wet earth. It somehow managed to survive, despite the strong winds that so often battered the village. Now dubbed the Armada Tree, it's viewed as an unlikely, unexpected transplant from the Spanish Armada. Scientists who analyzed the tree have dated it to the 16th century, adding some credence to its legendary origin story.
Knockdhu (from Irish: Cnoc Dubh, meaning "black hill") is a Bronze Age promontory fort and settlement situated approximately one mile to the west of Cairncastle. The site consists of a set of three banks and ditches, Bronze Age roundhouses, and a probable gatehouse. It was excavated for the first time in 2008 for a Time Team episode that was first broadcast on 18 January 2009.
Game of Thrones
Cairncastle has recently had its profile raised due to the filming of HBO's fantasy series Game of Thrones. Season One used the mountains above Cairncastle for the location where Ned Stark executed Will, the deserter from the Night's Watch. This was at Knock Dhu, a basalt escarpment above the village.
Cairncastle Flute Band
One of the oldest Protestant marching bands in Northern Ireland. having been formed around 1855-1859. The band hold their practice sessions in Cairncastle but the majority of their members come from the nearby town of Larne.
One of the outstanding features of the small village is the small, but popular traditional pub called the Meeting House. It is also often referred to as Mattie Moore's, who was the former owner and operator of the pub during its early days.
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- Time Team: Heroes' Hill - Knockdhu, County Antrim
- Time Team: Finds report
- The Larne Times: "The Time Team find their holy grail at Cairncastle" (25 September 2008)
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