ANTRIM, a county in the north-east corner of Ireland, in the province of Ulster. It is bounded N. and E. by the narrow seas separating Ireland from Scotland, the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea, S. by Belfast Lough and the Lagan river dividing it from the county Down, W. by Lough Neagh, dividing it from the counties Armagh and Tyrone, and by county Londonderry, the boundary with which is the river Bann.
The area is 751,965 acres or about 1175 sq. m. A large portion of the county is hilly, especially in the east, where the highest elevations are attained, though these are nowhere great. The range runs north and south, and, following this direction the highest points are Knocklayd (1695 ft.), Slieveanorra (1676), Trostan (1817), Slemish (1457), and Divis (1567). The inland slope is gradual, but on the northern shore the range terminates in abrupt and almost perpendicular declivities, and here, consequently, some of the finest coast scenery in the island is found, widely differing, with its unbroken lines of cliffs, from the indented coast-line of the west. The most remarkable cliffs are those formed of perpendicular basaltic columns, extending for many miles, and most strikingly displayed in Fair Head and the celebrated Giant’s Causeway. From the eastern coast the hills rise instantly but less abruptly, and the indentations are wider and deeper. On both coasts there are several frequented watering-places, of which may be mentioned on the north Portrush (with well-known golf links), Port Ballintrae and Ballycastle; on the east Cushendun, Cushendall and Milltown on Red Bay, Carn Lough and Glenarm, Larne, and Whitehead on Belfast Lough. All are somewhat exposed to the easterly winds prevalent in spring. The only island of size is Rathlin, off Ballycastle, 61 m. in length by 11 in breadth, 7 m. from the coast, and of similar basaltic and limestone formation to that of the mainland. It is partially arable, and supports a small population. The so-called Island Magee is a peninsula separating Larne Lough from the Irish Channel.
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, among them the Crumlin, whose waters have petrifying powers. The fisheries of the Bann and of Lough Neagh (especially for salmon) 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 15 ft. lower than Lough Neagh, which it excels in the pleasant scenery of its banks. The smaller streams are of great use in working machinery.
Geology.—On entering the county at the south, a scarped barrier of hills is seen beyond the Lagan valley, marking the edge of the basaltic plateaus, and running almost continuously round the coast to Red Bay. Below it, Triassic beds are exposed from Lisburn to Island Magee, giving sections of red sands and marls. Above these, marine Rhaetic beds appear at intervals, notably near Larne, where they are succeeded by Lower Lias shales and limestones. At Portrush, the Lower Lias is seen on the shore, crowded with ammonites, but silicified and metamorphosed by invading dolerite. The next deposits, as the scarps are approached, are greensands of “Selbornian” age, succeeded by Cenomanian, and locally by Turonian, sands. The Senonian series is represented by the White Limestone, a hardened chalk with flints, which is often glauconitic and conglomeratic at the base. Denudation in earliest Eocene times has produced flint gravels above the chalk, and an ancient stream deposit of chalk pebbles occurs at Ballycastle. The volcanic fissures that allowed of the upwelling of basalt are represented by numerous dykes, many cutting the earlier lava-flows as well as all the beds below them. The accumulations of lava gave rise to the plateaus which form almost the whole interior of the county. In a quiet interval, the Lower Eocene plant-beds of Glenarm and Ballypalady were formed in lakes, where iron-ores also accumulated. Rhyolites were erupted locally near Tardree, Ballymena and Glenarm. The later basalts are especially marked by columnar jointing, which determines the famous structures of the Giant’s Causeway and the coast near Bengore Head. Volcanic necks may be recognized at Carrick-a-rede, in the intrusive mass of dolerite at Slemish, at Carnmoney near Belfast, and a few other points. Fair Head is formed of intrusive dolerite, presenting a superb columnar seaward face. Faulting, probably in Pliocene times, lowered the basaltic plateaus to form the basin of Lough Neagh, leaving the eastern scarp at heights ranging up to 1800 ft. The glens of Antrim are deep notches cut by seaward-running streams through the basalt scarp, their floors being formed of Triassic or older rocks. Unlike most Irish counties, Antrim owes its principal features to rocks of Mesozoic and Cainozoic age. At Cushendun, however, a coarse conglomerate is believed to be Devonian, while Lower Carboniferous Sandstones, with several coal-seams, form a small productive basin at Ballycastle. The dolerite of Fair Head sends off sheets along the bedding-planes of these carboniferous strata. “Dalradian” schists and gneisses, with some dark limestones, come out in the north-east of the county, forming a moorland-region between Cushendun and Ballycastle. The dome of Knocklayd, capped by an outlier of chalk and basalt, consists mostly of this far more ancient series. Glacial gravels are well seen near Antrim town, and as drumlins between Ballymena and Ballycastle. The drift-phenomena connected with the flow of ice from Scotland are of special interest. Recently elevated marine clays, of post-glacial date, fringe the south-eastern coast, while gravels with marine shells, side by side with flint implements chipped by early man, have been lifted some 20 ft. above sea-level near Larne.
Rock-salt some 80 ft. thick is mined in the Trias near Carrickfergus. The Keuper clays yield material for bricks. Bauxite, probably derived from the decay of lavas, is found between Glenarm and Broughshane, associated with brown and red pisolitic iron-ores; both these materials are worked commercially. Bauxite occurs also near Ballintoy. The Ballycastle coal is raised and sold locally.
Industries.—The climate is very temperate. The soil varies greatly according to the district, being in some cases a rich loam, in others a chalky marl, and elsewhere showing a coating of peat. The proportion of barren land to the total area is roughly as 1 to 9; and of tillage to pasture as 2 to 3. Tillage is therefore, relatively to other counties, well advanced, and oats and potatoes are largely, though decreasingly, cultivated. Flax is a less important crop than formerly. The numbers of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry are generally increasing. Dutch, Ayrshire and other breeds are used to improve the breed of cattle by crossing. Little natural wood remains in the county, but plantations flourish on the great estates, and orchards have proved successful.
The linen manufacture is the most important industry. Cotton-spinning by jennies was first introduced by Robert Joy and Thomas M‘Cabe of Belfast in 1777; and an estimate made twenty-three years later showed upwards of 27,000 hands employed in this industry within 10 m. of Belfast, which remains the centre for it. Women are employed in the working of patterns on muslin. There are several paper-mills at Bushmills in the north; whisky-distilling is carried on; and there are valuable sea-fisheries divided between the district of Ballycastle and Carrickfergus, while the former is the headquarters of a salmon-fishery district. The workings at the Ballycastle collieries are probably the oldest in Ireland. In 1770 the miners accidentally discovered a complete gallery, which has been driven many hundred yards into the bed of coal, branching into thirty-six chambers dressed quite square, and in a workman-like manner. No tradition of the mine having been formerly worked remained in the neighbourhood. The coal of some of the beds is bituminous, and of others anthracite.
Communications.—Except that the Great Northern railway line from Belfast to the south and west runs for a short distance close to the southern boundary of the county, with a branch from Lisburn to the town of Antrim, the principal lines of communication are those of the Northern Counties system, under the control of the Midland railway of England. The chief routes are:—Belfast, Antrim, Ballymena (and thence to Coleraine and Londonderry); a line diverging from this at White Abbey to Carrickfergus and Larne, the port for Stranraer in Scotland; branches from Ballymena to Larne and to Parkmore; and from Coleraine to Portrush. The Ballycastle railway runs from Ballymoney to Ballycastle on the north coast; and the Giant’s Causeway and Portrush is an electric railway (the first to be worked in the United Kingdom). The Lagan Canal connects Lough Neagh with Belfast Lough.
Population and Administration.—The population in 1891 was 208,010, and in 1901, 196,090. The county is among those least seriously affected by emigration. Of the total about 50% are Presbyterians, about 20% each Protestant Episcopalians and Roman Catholics; Antrim being one of the most decidedly Protestant counties in Ireland. Of the Presbyterians the greater part are in connexion with the General Synod of Ulster, and the other are Remonstrants, who separated from the Synod in 1829, or United Presbyterians. The principal towns are Antrim (pop. 1826), Ballymena (10,886), Ballymoney (2952), Carrickfergus (4208), Larne (6670), Lisburn (11,461) and Portrush (1941). Belfast though constituting a separate county ranks as the metropolis of the district. Ballyclare, Bushmills, Crumlin, Portglenone and Randalstown are among the lesser towns. Belfast and Larne are the chief ports. The county comprises 14 baronies and 79 civil parishes and parts of parishes. The constabulary force has its headquarters at Ballymena. The assize town is Belfast, and quarter sessions are held at Ballymena, Ballymoney, Belfast, Larne and Lisburn. The county is divided between the Protestant dioceses of Derry and Down, and the Roman Catholic dioceses of Down and Connor, and Dromore. It is divided into north, mid, east and south parliamentary divisions, each returning one member.
History and Antiquities.—At what date the county of Antrim was formed is not known, but it appears that a certain district bore this name before the reign of Edward II. (early 14th century), and when the shiring of Ulster was undertaken by Sir John Perrot in the 16th century, Antrim and Down were already recognized divisions, in contradistinction to the remainder of the province. The earliest known inhabitants were of Celtic origin, and the names of the townlands or subdivisions, supposed to have been made in the 13th century, are pure Celtic. Antrim was exposed to the inroads of the Danes, and also of the northern Scots, who ultimately effected permanent settlements. The antiquities of the county consist of cairns, mounts or forts, remains of ecclesiastical and military structures, and round towers. 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 Island Magee. The mounts, forts and intrenchments are very numerous. There are three round towers: one at Antrim, one at Armoy, and one on Ram 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 White Abbey. The noble castle of Carrickfergus is the only one in perfect preservation. There are, however, remains of other ancient castles, as Olderfleet, Carn’s, Shane’s, Glenarm, Garron Tower, Redbay, &c., but the most interesting of all is the castle of Dunluce, remarkable for its great extent and romantic situation. Mount Slemish, about 8 m. east of Ballymena, is notable as being the scene of St Patrick’s early life. Island Magee had, besides antiquarian remains, a notoriety as a home of witchcraft, and was the scene of an act of reprisal for the much-disputed massacre of Protestants about 1641, by the soldiery of Carrickfergus.