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Built in 1180 by John de Courcy, this massive Norman keep was Ireland’s first real castle, designed to loom darkly over the entrance to Belfast Lough. Centuries later, its defensive location would prove prophetic, as William of Orange landed here on June 14, 1690 en route to the Battle of the Boyne. The central part dates to the 12th century, the thick outer walls were completed 100 years later, and the gun ports are a comparatively new addition (only 400 years old). The outside is more impressive than the inside, which has been largely designed to trigger kids’ interests, with waxwork figures riding horses, threatening to shoot people over the walls, et cetera. Sometimes actors in medieval costume add a touch of hammy fun. The castle has a visitor center and a small museum. In the summer, medieval banquets, a medieval fair, and a crafts market all add a touch of play and pageantry.