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Monea CastleSt Columb's Cathedral

The Plantation of Ulster

The Plantation of Ulster began 400 years ago during the reign of King James the First. King James had been the King of Scotland and in 1603 he also became the Kind of England when Queen Elizabeth the First died. He wanted to make changes and planted thousands of people into Northern Ireland from Scotland and England, hoping they would be obedient to him and to his government. Most settlers moved with the hope that they would find a new and better life for themselves and their families. Most of the Irish people resented the King interfering in their land.

The Plantation brought big changes to Northern Ireland. The population grew rapidly as thousands of settlers arrived. The new people brought new customs and a new religion - Protestantism. Surnames such as Hamilton, Stewart, Montgomery and Forsythe are Scottish in origin. Other names such as Babingtown, Poots and Parke are English. Differences in speech were also introduced as a result of the Plantation with the most important being the spread of the English language. The Scottish settlers spoke Scots which continued to develop into what we call Ulster-Scots today. Learn about the Ulster Scots Language.

Immigration-Emigration Timeline

  • 1606: Hamilton & Montgomery settlement of County Down, a natural settlement of Scottish immigrants due to the close proximity of Counties Antrim and Down to Scotland.
  • 1607: Flight of the Earls to Europe
  • 1608: King James I granted Bushmills, County Antrim the first licence to distil whiskey in the British Isles. The term whiskey itself distinguishes the Scottish and the Irish: in Scotland it is ‘whisky’, in Ireland, ‘whiskey’.
  • 1610: Plantation of Ulster starts
  • 1718: Large scale migration of Ulster-Scots to America
  • 1845: The Great Famine in Ulster led to a huge number emigrating to America

Places to Visit

Although the Plantation of Ulster began nearly 400 years ago, you can still visit some of the sights today.

Historic Walls of Derry  – Today the walls survive almost intact and it is possible to walk along their full length of just over one mile. The walls are the most important surviving 17th century fortifications in the British Isles and well worth a visit.

Plantation Castles – Those granted land were required to build a fortification on their lands. Visit Monea Castle in County Fermanagh, one of the finest surviving Plantation Castle. Dunluce Castle - built by Sir Randal MacDonnell the 1st Earl of Antrim.

Plantation Churches – The largest church built in the Plantation counties is St.Columb’s Cathedral in Derry~Londonderry.

Plantation Houses - Visit the pretty home Springhill House, Moneymore.  Once the home of the Conynghams, a Planter family from Scotland it is now a National Trust property.  An earlier example of Plantation architecture can be found at Bellaghy Bawn, a ‘bawn’ is a fortified enclosure typical of the Plantation era.  Bellaghy Bawn has the added attraction of displaying the original working papers of the much loved , Nobel Prize winning Poet, Seamus Heaney.


Places To Visit

Dunluce Castle Medieval Irish Castle on the Antrim Coast, Bushmills

Dunluce Castle is located dramatically close to a headland that plunges straight into the sea, along the North County Antrim coast.

Monea Castle, Enniskillen

Built for Malcolm Hamilton and completed in 1618, it has a Scottish look about it, with corner turrets at one narrow end of a rectangular four-storey building and with two massive full-height round towers having angular tops guarding the entrance.

St Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry/Derry

Dominating the skyline on all approaches to the city of Londonderry is Saint Columb's Cathedral, which has stood on its prominent site inside the famous walls of Derry since 1633. Dedicated to the name of Saint Columba (Columb)

17th Century City Walls, Londonderry/Derry

Londonderry/Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and is one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. A walk around the walls reveals a city crammed full of history, heritage, interest and a vibrant cultural scene.

Did You Know?

Ancestry Links

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland