County Antrim

Maritime county in the extreme northeast, in the province of Ulster, one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. The county has an area of 1,092 square miles and a population of 562,216. Only twenty miles across the Irish Sea from Scotland at its closest  point, Antrim has served as a conduit linking the two Celtic peoples for nearly two millennia. In fact, Scotland draws its very name from an Antrim-based Irish tribe, the Scots, who expanded into the west of Caledonia from their Kingdom of Dal Riata during the fourth and fifth centuries.

County Antrim is known for the beauty of its rugged coastline. Located in the north of the county, the Giants Causeway is a spectacular collection of thousands of black basalt columns which were formed, geologists believe, approximately 60 million years ago. In the northeast, the world famous green Glens of Antrim stretch inland from the sea. Belfast, Antrim’s and Northern Ireland’s capital and largest city, is located in the southern part of the county.

In the late medieval and early modern periods, Antrim and the west of Scotland were linked by the Lordship of the Isles headed by the Scottish MacDonald dynasty. During the late sixteenth and throughout the seventeenth centuries, a heavy influx of Scottish settlers radically altered the religious composition of the county. By the early eighteenth century, the county had the largest Protestant population on a percentile basis of any county in Ireland. In the 1790s, Antrim was at the forefront of the United Irish Movement and along with neighboring Down was one of the only two Ulster counties to rise during the Rebellion of 1798. Today, Antrim’s population is mostly Protestant and unionist. The economy of the county is mostly agricultural with some textile production. Belfast has many different industries, including shipbuilding. Bushmills distillery, in the village of Bushmills, produces a famous whiskey.

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