Larne is both tbe most modern and the most ancient of places. The name of the town is believed to have derived from a prince called Lathar, son of an ancient Irish king, who was granted the lands by his father. The area came to be called Lathar-na, meaning the lands of Lathar, and this has been anglicised to Larne. Archaeology has produced remains and artifacts in the area suggesting an ancient culture which lived close to the shores of the North Channel and traded with others around the coasts of Scotland.
Nowadays the trade links still remain, as the port is one of the most modern roll-on/roll-off terminals in the United Kingdom, and ships daily take passengers and goods to and from the coast of Scotland. Today the town combines a historical past with modern port, shopping and leisure facilities. In addition to having many attractions of its own, it is also ideally located for those wishing to use Larne or surrounding areas as a base to further explore the Glens of Antrim and scenic Antrim Coast Road, which stretches from the town northwards through the nine glens.
Larne town centre offers an excellent range of shops, from large department stores to small family run businesses. There are shopping centres at Murrayfield, adjacent to Broadway, and at Riverdale, and ample car parking at Circular Road, Agnew Street, Fairhill and RiverdaIe. There is also a cinema at Curran Road and various cafes, bars and restaurants within easy reach of the town centre. The town centre area is also the location for a number of distinctive blue plaques commemorating the town's links with the USA as a result of emigration which started in the 18th century.
This modern centre, officially opened in 1993, is an ideal starting point for the tourist, with both local and provincial tourist information available. The centre offers a three dimensional presentation on the Coast Road, offering a flavour of this most unique of attractions. There is also a tableaux displaying the coastal area with its castles, historical sites, forest parks, and other notable landmarks. The staff are friendly and delighted to help all who visit the centre, whether they require accommodation information or just brochures to take away and browse through. Services available include Bureau de Change, accommodation booking, free information, tickets and reservations, car hire and an excellent range of gifts and crafts.
Situated at Tower Road in the harbour district, this modern and well-equipped leisure centre, which was opened in 1994, can cater for a wide variety of sports and leisure facilities. It includes a swimming pool, children's pool, spa, sauna and steam, fitness suite, squash courts, large main hall, and the MeNeill Theatre, which can seat over 250 people.
Situated in the Carnegie Arts Centre at Victoria Road, convenient to the Fairhill car park, the town's historical centre offers a glimpse into a rich and varied past. There are hundreds of old photographs as well as artifacts ranging through old school desks to ship's anchors and everything in between! A major feature is a representation of a cottage interior, which gives some idea of life for ordinary people in the area in bygone years. The centre is an invaluable place to start if you are researching family connections with the area.
For those who wish to experience the atmosphere of a traditional country market, Larne's public market is held on a Wednesday morning, and is located at the Market Yard at Station Road.
An imposing statue featuring three figures is located at Curran Park on Curran Road, and marks the role played by 18th century Ulster emigrants in America. The statue represents a family group on their way to an emigrant ship (the first of which, the Friend's Goodwill, sailed from Larne in May 19l7), and was unveiled in 1992. The statue has a perfect and peaceful surrounding in the Curran Park, which has beautiful trees and flower beds and a fine view overlooking Larne Lough and the hills beyond. Curran Park is also the venue for a public bowling green.
Adjacent to the statue is the Curran Caravan Park, which is an ideal base for a few day's stay in Larne town and one of a number of such facilities which the borough has to offer.
Chaine Park is one of the parklands that overlook the channel which leads to Larne Harbour, and is attractively laid out either to walk around or sit and enjoy. Situated off the main coastal route towards the Glens of Antrim, the park has delightful views.
The Town Park, situated off the Glenarm Road adjacent to the Chaine Park, is an excellent activity base for all the family. There are tennis courts, a putting green and a children's playground, while the less energetic can have a stroll to the Bankheads area which overlooks the North Channel and the harbour and mouth of Larne Lough.
Situated close to the harbour the ruin of Olderfleet Castle tower house. A castle was built here by the Scots Bissett family in the 13th century, and they welcomed a Scottish invasion fleet in 1315 which was commanded by Edward Bruce, brother of Robert the Bruce.
Situated at the mouth of Larne Harbour, and reached via Chaine Memorial Road (access off Curran Road via Bay Road), the Chaine Tower is a memorial to James Chaine, a former Member of Parliament for the area and the man who developed Larne's short sea route to Scotland as well as establishing the town as a transatlantic port. The memorial, built in 1888, is a replica of an Irish Round Tower.
Also on the sea front is a memorial to the Princess Victoria, the Larne-Stranmer steamer which was sunk during the Great Storm of 1953 with terrible loss of life, affecting both ports on each side of the North Channel.
Situated close by the Princess Victoria Memorial, an old lamp on a plinth commemorates the arrival of the steamer Clyde Valley in the port in April 1914 with a cargo of rifles and ammunition for Ulster's unionists, who were opposing Home Rule for Ireland.
Another link with the past, this is the oldest churchyard in Larne and includes many interesting armorial stones dating back to the early period of the Plantation settlement in the town. The church of St Cedmas is an ancient foundation, and the grounds are entered via a beautiful lynch gate. The building includes a leper's window as well as several beautiful stained glass windows.