LARNE, a sea-port, market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of UPPER GLENARM, county of ANTRIM, and province of ULSTER, 11 miles (N.) from Carrickfergus, and 97 (N. by E.) from Dublin, on the road from Belfast to Ballycastle ; containing 3182 inhabitants, of which number, 2616 are in the town. This place is situated on the shore of Lough Larne, which was formerly called Olderfleet, and gave name to a castle built on the extreme point of the promontory of Curraan, which forms the small bay adjacent to the town. This fortress, under the protection of which the town arose, is supposed to have been erected by a Scottish family named Bisset, to whom a settlement on this part of the coast was granted by Hen. III., and to have been subsequently improved by the English. Edward Bruce landed here in 1315 with an army of 6000 men for the conquest of Ireland ; and during the same reign, Hugh Bisset forfeited his lands here by taking part in the rebellion. These were subsequently claimed in right of the same family, by James Mac Donnell, Lord of Cantire, and after his death were granted by Queen Elizabeth during her pleasure, to his son Angus, on condition that he should carry arms only under the King of England, and pay annually a certain number of hawks and cattle. Olderfleet castle was at that time considered so important a defence against the Scots that, in 1569, it was entrusted to Sir Moyses Hill, but was dismantled in 1598. Jas. I., in 1603, granted the entire headland to Sir Randal Mac Donnell, surnamed Sorley-Boy ; but in 1612 gave the castle and lands to Sir Arthur Chichester, together with the right of ferry between this place and Island Magee. During the disturbances of 1798, the town was attacked by the insurgent army from Ballymena, but the assailants were repulsed by the Tay fencibles, assisted by the yeomanry and inhabitants.
The town is beautifully situated on the shore of Lough Larne, on the eastern coast, and is divided into the old and new towns, containing together 482 houses, most of which are well built, and of very neat appearance ; the streets in the old town are narrow and indifferently paved ; the new town consists of one long and regular street, in which the houses are of stone and handsomely built. There are two public libraries, supported by subscription, both containing good collections. During the last century a very extensive trade was carried on in salt, of which large quantities prepared here from rock salt imported from Liverpool were sent from this port to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and Prussia ; the duties paid thereon, on the average, amounted to £18,000 per annum. About the middle of the last century this was the only port in the North of Ireland from which emigrant vessels sailed. The present trade consists chiefly in the exportation of oats, beans, flour, and, occasionally, black cattle, and a very considerable quantity of lime ; and the importation of coal, slates, wheat, and North American timber. The number of vessels that entered inwards during the year ending Jan. 5th, 1835, was 340, of the aggregate burden of 13,517 tons, and of which 298 were from British ports and 42 employed in the coasting trade ; and during the same year, 113 vessels, of the aggregate burden of 4329 tons, cleared out from this port, of which 64 were bound to British ports and 49 were coasters. The port, which is a member of that of Belfast, has an excellent harbour for small vessels, for which there is good anchorage between the Curraan, and the peninsula of Island Magee, in 2 or 2- fathoms, quite landlocked ; great numbers of vessels from Scotland anchor off this place, while waiting for their cargoes of lime from the Maghramorne works. There are some good quays on both sides of the lough about a mile from the town, the water being too shallow to float vessels further up. The royal military road along the coast passes through the town. The market is on Tuesday; a great market is held on the first Monday of every month, and there are fairs on Dec. 1st and July 31st, principally for black cattle, a few inferior horses and pigs. A constabulary police force has been established in the town, and there is also a coast-guard station belonging to the Carrickfergus district. A court for the manor of Glenarm is held here every six weeks ; and petty sessions are held every alternate week.
The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 2210 statute acres of good arable and pasture land ; the system of agriculture is slowly improving, and there is neither wasteland nor bog. Limestone abounds, and is quarried both for building and agricultural purposes ; at Ballycraigey, about a mile to the north of the town, is a quarry of felspar, worked occasionally for building ; and at Bankhead a fine stratum of coal has been discovered, but is not worked. The principal seats are Gardenmore, the elegant villa of S. Darcus, Esq. ; the Curmaan, the residence of M. McNeill, Esq. ; and the glebe-house, of the Rev. S. Gwynn. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Connor, and in the patronage of the Dean ; the tithes amount to £135. 11. 11., of which £123. 15. 7. is payable to the curate, who receives also £23. 8. from Primate Boulter's fund. The glebe-house was built in 1824, by a gift of £450 and a loan of £50 from the late Board of First Fruits ; the glebe comprises 3- acres. The church, previously to its alteration in 1819, had some interesting details of ancient architecture. In the R. C. divisions the parish forms part of the union or district of Carrickfergus and Larne ; a chapel was erected here in 1832 by subscription. There are places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster and the Seceding Synod, each of the second class, and with the Presbytery of Antrim of the first class, also for Wesleyan Methodists. About 150 children are taught in the national school of the parish, and a dispensary is supported by subscription. There are some remains of the ancient castle of Olderfleet on the promontory of Curraan ; and on the sea side, about a mile north of the town, is a cavern called the Black Cave, passing under the projecting base of a huge rock ; the length of the cave, which is open at both ends, is 60 feet, and its height from 3 to 30 feet ; the sides are formed of basaltic columns of large dimensions. On the shore of the lough, near the town, are some singular petrifactions of a blue colour, apparently the result of a spring issuing from a bank at high water mark. In a short road leading from the east to the north of the town is a chalybeate spring, at present little used.