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Local History and Heritage

Larne was named when Lathar, the son of an Irish High King, was granted lands on the north eastern coastline of Ireland.  The area became known as Lathar-na, or the lands of Lathar, anglicised to Larne.

Archaeological digs have revealed a sophisticated culture in this area, a people who lived close to the shores of the North Channel and traded with other settlements on the coasts of Scotland.  The term 'larnian' culture was coined to describe the way of life in this, one of the earliest inhabitated areas of Ireland.

Other visitors to our shores date back to far off times when a Roman slave galley, hugging the west coast of Scotland, was blown off course by the harsh winds of the North Channel and came to shelter in Larne Lough.  Relieved and exhausted, the Romans sheltered in Larne, known to them as 'Portus Saxa' - the Port of the Standing Stones, and noted its value as a safe haven in ancient records.

Some of our visitors were less welcome - the Norsemen who came to Larne called the Lough 'Ulfreksfjord' after one of their kings.  Olderfleet on Larne Lough may have been one of their settlements and in more recent times excavations on the shoreline just north of the town resulted in the discovery of the skeleton of a Norse warrior, his body unclaimed after battle.

It was Viking custom to bury their dead in soil brought with them from their homelands in the cold north.  Perhaps it is this tradition that causes the earth of the Viking graveyard in Islandmagee to be so different from the native soil that surrounds it.

To look at the remains of the Tower House at Olderfleet today, one can barely imagine the arrival of thousands of Scottish Knights under the command of Edward Bruce, hopeful of winning the kingship of Ireland.

Our rich heritage is visible in many areas of our Borough - a pre-history burial tomb, known locally as 'the Druids Altar' in Islandmagee, mysterious souterrains above Cairncastle village, the atmospheric standing stones which litter our countryside, the 'famine stone' at Garron Point and St. Cedma's Church of Ireland, once the site of an Augustinian Friary, with its leper's window and fascinating graveyard.

History has also left its mark on our architecture - Ballygally Castle - a stronghold against the native Irish, built by Scot James Shaw in 1625; Garron Tower and the Londonderry Arms, built by Frances Ann Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry for the benefit of the people of Carnlough on her Irish estates; Glenarm Castle, home to Lord Antrim, descendant of the warlike MacDonnells, the Lords of the Isles, who conquered and ruled from their stronghold in the Glens.

Memorials tell of more modern events - the replica Irish Round Tower at the entrance of the harbour is dedicated to James Chaine, founder of the sea route from Larne to the Scottish mainland; the simple basalt stone which services as a memorial to engineer William Bald and 'the men of the Glynnes' who built the Coast Road in 1832; the anchor which poignantly reminds us of those who perished at sea in the Princess Victoria ferry disaster of 1953.



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