Carrickfergus, on the shore of Belfast Lough, grew up around its ancient castle. When the town was enclosed by ramparts at the start of the 17th century, it was the only English-speaking town in Ulster. Not surprisingly, this was the loyal port where William of Orange chose to land on his way to fight the Catholic forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. However, the English did have one or two small setbacks, including the improbable victory in 1778 of John Paul Jones, the American naval hero, over the British warship HMS Drake. Although a long way from home, this stands as the first naval victory of America's fledgling fleet. After this battle, which was waged in Belfast Lough, the inhabitants of Carrickfergus stood on the waterfront and cheered Jones when his ship passed the town castle, demonstrating their support for the American Revolution. Carrickfergus's past can still be seen in some of its old buildings. St. Nicholas's Church, built by John de Courcy in 1205 (remodeled in 1614), and the North Gate in the town's medieval walls are worth checking out. Dobbins Inn on High Street has been a hotel for more than three centuries and is a popular local watering hole. Since 2019 several buildings that are steeped in history, including Dobbins, have benefited from the Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative, a program which helps to refurbish and preserve old properties in the town's conservation area. Its aim is to engage both locals and visitors with the built heritage, creating a greater understanding of the town's quality architecture.
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