County Antrim (, named after its former county town, Antrim) is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland, situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of , with a population of approximately 618,000. It is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland, lying within the historical province of Ulster.
The Glens of Antrim offer isolated rugged landscapes, the Giant's Causeway is a unique landscape and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bushmills produces whiskey, and Portrush is a popular seaside resort and night-life area. The majority of the capital city of Northern Ireland, Belfast, is also in County Antrim, with the remainder being in County Down.
At what date the county of Antrim was formed is not known, but it appears that a certain district bore this name before the reign of Edward II (early 14th century), and when the shiring of Ulster was undertaken by Sir John Perrot in the 16th century, Antrim and Down were already recognised divisions, in contradistinction to the remainder of the province. The earliest known inhabitants were Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of pre-Celtic origin, but the names of the townlands or subdivisions, supposed to have been made in the 13th century, are all of Gaelic derivation.
In ancient times, Antrim was inhabited by a Celtic people called the Darini. In the early Middle Ages, southern County Antrim was part of the Kingdom of Ulidia, ruled by the Dál Fiatach clans Keenan and MacDonlevy/McDunlavey; the north was part of Dál Riada, which stretched into what is now western Scotland over the Irish Sea. Dál Riada was ruled by the O'Lynch clan, who were vassals of the Ulidians. Besides the Ulidians and Dál Riada, there were the Dál nAraide of lower County Antrim, and the Cruthin, who were pre-Gaelic Celts and probably related to the Picts of Britain. Between the 8th and 11th centuries Antrim was exposed to the inroads of the Vikings.
In the late 12th century Antrim became part of the Earldom of Ulster, conquered by Anglo-Norman invaders. A revival of Gaelic power followed the campaign of Edward Bruce in 1315, leaving Carrickfergus as the only significant English stronghold. In the late Middle Ages, Antrim was divided into three parts: northern Clandeboye, the Glynnes and the Route. The Cambro-Norman MacQuillans were powerful in the Route. A branch of the O'Neills of Tyrone migrated to Clandeboye in the 14th century, and ruled it for a time. Their family was called O'Neill Clannaboy. A Gallowglass sept, the MacDonnells, became the most powerful in the Glynnes in the 15th century.
During the Tudor era (16th century) numerous adventurers from Britain attempted to colonise the region; many Scots settled in Antrim around this time. In 1588 the Antrim coast was the scene of one of the 24 wrecks of the Spanish Armada in Ireland. The Spanish vessel La Girona was wrecked off Lacana Point, Giant's Causeway in 1588 with the loss of nearly 1,300 lives.
Antrim is divided into sixteen baronies. Lower Antrim, part of Lower Clandeboye, was settled by the sept O'Flynn/O'Lynn. Upper Antrim, part of Lower Clandeboye, was the home of the O'Keevans. Belfast was part of Lower Clandeboye and was held by the O'Neill-Clannaboys. Lower Belfast, Upper Belfast, and Carrickfergus were also part of Lower Clandeboye. Cary was part of the Glynnes; ruled originally by the O'Quinn sept, the MacDonnell galloglasses from Scotland took power here in the late Middle Ages and some of the O'Haras also migrated from Connaught. Upper and Lower Dunluce were part of the Route, and were ruled by the MacQuillans. Upper and Lower Glenarm was ruled by the O'Flynn/O'Lynn sept, considered part of the Glynns. In addition to that sept and that of O'Quinn, both of which were native, the Scottish Gallowglass septs of MacKeown, MacAlister, and MacGee, are found there. Kilconway was originally O'Flynn/O'Lynn territory, but was held by the MacQuillans as part of the Route, and later by the gallowglass sept of MacNeill. Lower Massereene was part of Lower Clandeboye and was ruled by the O'Flynns and the O'Heircs. Upper Massereene was part of Lower Clandeboye, ruled by the O'Heircs. Upper and Lower Toome, part of the Route, were O'Flynn/O'Lynn territory. Misc was first ruled by the MacQuillans. Later, the Scottish Gallowglass MacDonnells and MacAlisters invaded. The MacDonnells were a branch of the Scottish Clan MacDonald; the MacAlisters traced their origin back to the Irish Colla Uais, eldest of the Three Collas.
Islandmagee had, besides antiquarian remains, a notoriety as a home of witchcraft, and during the Irish Rebellion of 1641 was the scene of an act of reprisal (for the massacre of Protestants) against the Catholic population by the Scottish Covenanter soldiery of Carrickfergus.
There are three round towers: one at Antrim, one at Armoy, and one on Ram's Island in Lough Neagh, only that at Antrim being perfect. There are some remains of the ecclesiastic establishments at Bonamargy, where the earls of Antrim are buried, Kells, Glenarm, Glynn, Muckamore and Whiteabbey.
The castle at Carrickfergus, dating from the Norman invasion of Ireland, is one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland. There are, however, remains of other ancient castles, as Olderfleet, Cam's, Shane's, Glenarm, Garron Tower, Red Bay, and Dunluce Castle, notable for its dramatic location on a rocky outcrop.
The principal cairns are: one on Colin mountain, near Lisburn; one on Slieve True, near Carrickfergus; and two on Colinward. The cromlechs most worthy of notice are: one near Cairngrainey, to the north-east of the old road from Belfast to Templepatrick; the large cromlech at Mount Druid, near Ballintoy; and one at the northern extremity of Islandmagee. The mounts, forts and entrenchments are very numerous.
Slemish, about eight miles (13 km) east of Ballymena, is notable as being the scene of St Patrick's early life. According to tradition Saint Patrick was a slave for seven years, near the hill of Slemish, until he escaped back to Great Britain.
Linen manufacturing was previously an important industry in the County. At the time Ireland produced a large amount of flax. Cotton-spinning by jennies was first introduced to Belfast by industrialists Robert Joy and Thomas M'Cabe in 1777; and twenty-three years later it was estimated that more than 27,000 people were employed in the industry within ten miles (16 km) of Belfast. Women were employed in the working of patterns on muslin.
Map showing civil parishes of County Antrim
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