Gemma Grant continues her series on Irish castles
Belfast castle sits on such a prominent position on top of the Cave Hill, that visitors will quite literally stand on top of Belfast. Some 400 feet above sea level, it guarantees breathtaking views, of not only the city but also Belfast lough, that opens into the North Channel, connecting Belfast to the Irish Sea.
Another feature of the Cavehill, is McArts Fort, ‘Napoleon’s Nose’, a basaltic outcrop, believed to resemble the profile of the emperor Napoleon. The famous landmark, like a sleeping giant, is credited with being the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s novel, Gulliver’s Travels.
The castle, three miles from Belfast’s city centre, is very much a working castle and available for weddings and functions. It was not the first castle to be built on Belfast soil.
The earliest Castle was built by the Normans in Belfast city centre in the late 12th century. One source believes that John de Courcy, the ‘Prince of Ulster’, could be credited with building the castle, c. 1177, given his penchant for castle building.
When de Courcy arrived in Ireland, he received a grant of all of Ulster, in the hope that he could subjugate the native Irish, so castles were essential to protect his precarious acquisitions.
Over the following centuries, the castle saw many masters as battles fought and won, decided who the next lord would be. Following the Bruce invasion of 1315, Belfast castle was laid waste but later rebuilt and occupied by the Irish chieftains.
Ireland, a green and beautiful land, was a prize worth having. One invasion quickly followed another. During the reign of Henry Vll, Belfast once more saw its share of fighting.