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Sails and Tales

Carrickfergus Maritime Exhibition

Did you know that from the arrival of the first Anglo-Normans in the 12th century, Carrickfergus has functioned as a place of shelter for all forms of sailing vessels? The natural harbour protected by the defensible rock outcrop was an attractive quality for the incoming John de Courcy, and because of this, Carrickfergus became one of the key port towns in Ulster, with traders visiting from across continental Europe. 

‘Sails and Tales’ explores this 800 year of history, and the local community bring you key events and stories relating to the maritime history of the town.  From January to April 2021, in the depths of lockdown, local people came together online to share their memories, interests, and photos, helping to shape their exhibition. 

The exhibition is hosted in the refurbished Kelly’s Coal Office.  Built c.1910, the building was constructed by local businessman Charles Legg, and the coal office and business was bought by John Kelly in 1921.  Marked with the iconic ‘K’, it has been known as Kelly’s ever since.   Within a changing 1960s economy, the business closed in the mid-60s, and the building fell into disrepair, eventually being placed on the Buildings at Risk Register. 

Thankfully, the current owner was able to secure funding from the Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) in 2017 and the building has been brought back to life. The coal office is now home to the family run Robinson’s Shoes. Find out more about the restoration project here. 

Our exhibition was awarded £10,000 from the Community Heritage Fund, which the National Lottery Heritage Fund delivered on behalf of the Department for Communities.  This funding was to help people in Northern Ireland to connect with their local heritage.

At Positive Carrickfergus we really love a good collaboration and this project is a great example of what we can do when we work together for the benefit of the town and people who live here. The project was delivered by Laura Patrick, who has a real passion for Carrick’s heritage and supported by Mark Cobain, who owns the building; Robin Stewart of Robinson’s Shoes; Carrickfergus Museum, and most importantly the local community.  Without the enthusiasm of the local people this project would not have been possible.

We hope you enjoy it! Drop us a line at to let us know what you think about the exhibition.  We hope that we’ll continue to add to the exhibition so if you’d like to keep up to date with what’s going on, subscribe to our mailing list.


What better location for a maritime exhibition than opposite the harbour. The Castle Carpark opposite is ideal for parking, and its free!

On street parking is available outside Kelly’s although there is no Disabled parking space.

For those coming to visit us by train, Kelly’s Office is only a 10-minute walk from the Carrickfergus Train Station.  Your route to the exhibition will take you within the medieval town walls, guiding you through the historic streets to the shore front. 

There are also bus stops close by if you’re coming by bus.

Carrickfergus town centre and shore front offers the visitor a selection of excellent eateries; we have it all covered, from coffee to cocktails!

Opening Times

Monday to Friday: 10am to 4pm*
Saturday: 10am to 3pm*


T: 028 9335 5464


For out of hours bookings and tours please contact:

*Times may vary during Bank and Public Holidays, please get in touch before your visit.