The valleys of the Bann and Lagan, with the intervening shores of Lough Neagh, form the fertile lowlands. These two rivers, both rising in County Down, are the only ones of importance. The latter flows to Belfast Lough, the former drains Lough Neagh, which is fed by a number of smaller streams. The fisheries of the Bann and of Lough Neagh (especially for salmon and eels) are of value both commercially and to sportsmen, the small town of Toome, at the outflow of the river, being the centre. Immediately below this point lies Lough Beg, the “Small Lake,” about 4.5 m (15 ft) lower than Lough Neagh.
County Antrim has a number of air, rail and sea links.
Northern Ireland’s main airport, Belfast International Airport, at Aldergrove is in County Antrim. Belfast International shares its runways with the Royal Air Force base RAF Aldergrove, which otherwise has its own facilities. It is the fifth largest regional air cargo centre in the UK. There are regular services to Great Britain, Europe and North America.
The region is also served by George Best Belfast City Airport, a mile east of Belfast city centre on the County Down side of the city, which was renamed in 2006 in honour of footballer George Best.
The main Translink Northern Ireland Railways routes are the major line between Belfast, Antrim, Ballymena, Coleraine and Londonderry, Belfast to Carrickfergus and Larne, the port for Stranraer in Scotland and Coleraine to Portrush.
Two of Northern Ireland’s main ports are in County Antrim, Larne and Belfast.
Ferries sail from Larne Harbour to destinations including Cairnryan and Troon in Scotland, and Fleetwood in England.
The Port of Belfast is Northern Ireland’s principal maritime gateway, serving the Northern Ireland economy and increasingly that of the Republic of Ireland. It is a major centre of industry and commerce and has become established as the focus of logistics activity for Northern Ireland. Around two thirds of Northern Ireland’s seaborne trade, and a quarter of that for Ireland as a whole, is handled at the port which receives over 6,000 vessels each year.
The population of County Antrim was 616,384 according to recent census information, making it the most populous county in Northern Ireland.
Statistics for 2009-2010 show 1,832 students attending the 12 Gaelscoileanna (Irish language primary schools) and 1 Gaelcholáiste(Irish language secondary school).
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the largest religious denomination, followed by the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. County Antrim is one of two counties in Ireland in which the majority of people are Protestant, according to the 2001 census, the other being Down. The strong Presbyterian presence in the county is due largely to the county’s historical links with lowland Scotland.
The traditional county town is Antrim. More recently, Ballymena was the seat of county government. The counties of Northern Ireland ceased to be administrative entities in 1973, with the reorganization of local government.
In Northern Ireland the county structure is no longer used in local government. Northern Ireland is split into districts. The majority of County Antrim residents are administered by the following nine councils:
- Antrim Borough Council
- Ballymena Borough Council
- Ballymoney Borough Council
- Belfast City Council
- Carrickfergus Borough Council
- Larne Borough Council
- Lisburn City Council
- Moyle District Council
- Newtownabbey Borough Council
Small portions of the county are administered by councils that are based in neighbouring counties, notably the village of Aghagallon in the Craigavon Borough and the town of Portrush in the Coleraine Borough.
The county contains all of five parliamentary constituencies:
- Belfast North
- Belfast West
- East Antrim
- North Antrim
- South Antrim
Parts of the following constituencies are also in County Antrim:
- Belfast South
- East Londonderry
- Lagan Valley
- Upper Bann
Large towns (population of 18,000 or more and under 75,000 at 2001 Census.
- Lisburn (has city status)
Medium towns (population of 10,000 or more and under 18,000 at 2001 Census)
Small towns (population of 4,500 or more and under 10,000 at 2001 Census)
Intermediate settlements (population of 2,250 or more and under 4,500 at 2001 Census)
Villages (population of 1,000 or more and under 2,250 at 2001 Census)
- Cogry & Kilbride
Small villages or hamlets (population of less than 1,000 at 2001 Census)
- Newtown Crommelin
Main article: Baronies of Ireland * Antrim Lower * Cary * Kilconway * Antrim Upper * Dunluce Lower * Massereene Lower * Belfast Lower * Dunluce Upper * Massereene Upper * Belfast Upper * Glenarm Lower * Toome Lower * Carrickfergus * Glenarm Upper * Toome Upper Parishes
Main article: List of civil parishes of County Antrim Townlands.
Main article: List of townlands in County Antrim.
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, numerous adventurers from Britain attempted to colonize 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.
The natural rock formations of Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim coast are now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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.
- James Adair, (1709–1783), born in County Antrim, explorer, trader, and historian.
- Charles Clinton Beatty (1715?-1772), born in County Antrim, noted clergyman in the New Jersey area.
- John Bodkin Adams, (1899–1983), general practitioner born in Randalstown and suspected of killing 163 patients while practising in Eastbourne, England.
- William Arthur, (1797–1875), born in Ballymena, noted antiquitarian and Baptist clergyman in the United States.
- Joey Dunlop, OBE, (1952–2000), from Ballymoney, five time World Motorcycle Champion.
- Sir John Jamison, (1776–1844), physician and naval surgeon from Carrickfergus who became an important pioneering landowner and constitutional reformer in New South Wales, Australia.
- George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney (1737–1806), from Ballymoney, first British Ambassador to China in 1772.
- Eva McGown, (1883–1972), chorister, pioneer, and hostess in Alaska.
- John O’Kane Murray, (1847–1885), born in Antrim, physician and noted author.
- James Nesbitt, (1965—), from Broughshane (though he lived near Coleraine for most of his teenage and adult life), notable actor.
- Liam Neeson, (1952—), from Ballymena, notable actor.
- Tony McCoy, (1974-), from Moneyglass, notable jockey.
Flora and fauna:
Records of the seaweeds of County Antrim were brought together and published in 1907 by J. Adams who notes that the list contains 211 species. Batter’s list, of 1902, contained 747 species in his catalogue of British marine algae.
Antrim are the only Ulster county to appear in an All-Ireland hurling final, the first of which was in 1943 losing to Cork and the second was in 1989 losing to Tipperary. In 1943 Antrim defeated both Galway (by 7-0 to 6-2) and Kilkenny (by 3-3 to 1-6) in the cramped surroundings of the old Corrigan Park, but disappointed in the All Ireland against Cork. Two years previously, Antrim had been graded Junior a year before, and had been beaten by Down in the Ulster final. They were only competing in the Senior Championship because the Junior grade was abolished. Antrim hurlers featured strongly in Ulster Railway cup final appearances in 1945, 1993 and 1995. In hurling, the progression that began with Loughgiel’s success at club hurling level in 1983 (with players like 15-stone goalkeeper Niall Patterson) culminated in an All Ireland final appearance in 1989. Antrim’s first All-Star, Ciaran Barr, helped Belfastclub Rossa to reach the 1989 club hurling final and after a great show against Buffer’s Alley, Barr starred in a 4-15 to 1-15 All Ireland semi-final win over Offaly. The final was one of the poorest on record, as stage fright overcame the Antrim team. It was no flash in the pan: Antrim failed by just two points against Kilkenny in the 1991 All Ireland semi-final. Dunloy were back in the All Ireland club final in 1995, when they lost in a replay, 1996 and 2003 when they were heavily beaten.
- Christy Ring Cup: 1
- All-Ireland Intermediate Hurling Championships: 1
- All-Ireland Junior Hurling Championships: 1
- All-Ireland Vocational Schools Championships:
- National Hurling Leagues: 3
- 1956 (Div 2)
- 1970 (Div 2)
- 2003 (Div 2)
- All-Ireland Senior B Hurling Championships: 3
- Walsh Cup: 1
- Ulster titles: 136
- Senior: 50 – 1900-01, 1903–05, 1907, 1909–11, 1913, 1916, 1924–31, 1933–40, 1943–49, 1989–91, 1993–94, 1996, 1998–99, 2002–09, 2010
- Under 21: 24 – 1964, ‘65, ‘66, ‘67, ‘70, ‘72, ‘73, ‘74, ‘76, ‘78, ‘79, ‘80, ‘81, ‘82, ‘88, ‘89, ‘91, ‘92, ‘94, ‘95, ‘96, ‘98, ‘99, ’00, 2002, ’06
- Minor: 52 – 1931, ‘33, ‘35-41, ‘45-56, ‘58-66, ‘69, ‘70, ‘86, ‘87, ‘88, ‘92, ‘93, ‘95-99, ’00, ’01, 2002, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
- Junior: 14 – 1950-55, ‘57, ‘58, ‘59, ‘61, ‘63, ‘66, ‘68, ‘69
- Intermediate: 5 – 1966, 67, 69, 70, 73
- 1971: N Wheeler
- 1988: Ciaran Barr
- 1989: Dessie Donnelly
- 1991: Terence McNaughton
- 1993: P. McKillen