Virtual Reality Gets Real At Shanes Game Fair

History will get real at the largest ever Irish Game Fair at Shanes Castle in Antrim over the weekend of 23 and 24 June with battle re-enactments, a Medieval Village and a fascinating Viking encampment.

Taking centre-stage with movie-set authenticity and excitement will be a blood-curdling re-enactment to mark the 220th anniversary, this year, of the Battle of Antrim.  That battle, fought in June 1798, was a historic and decisive clash between British troops and Irish insurgents led by Henry Joy McCracken. The British won the battle, beating off a rebel attack on Antrim town but Lord O’Neill, the county governor, was fatally wounded in the fighting. A spree of looting, burning and murder followed as the victors drove off McCracken and his followers who were finally to be defeated at the Battle of Ballynahinch just weeks later. McCracken was arrested and was hanged in Belfast on 17 July 1798 having refused an offer of clemency in return for informing on his comrades.

British forces at the Battle of Antrim.

Fair Director and history enthusiast Albert Titterington said that the public can expect some thrilling action when the re-imagined Battle gets under way.  He added:  “The name of Henry Joy McCracken has lived on and has enormous resonance in Ireland, yet I suspect all too few people know much detail about that far off, yet important, period of history.  We have found a glorious way to bring it all to life for them, marking the anniversary with an incredible visual history lesson!

“Visitors can expect to see troops in period costume battling to the background beat of war drums and skirl of pipes. The re-enactors will use authentic de-activated weaponry from the period, and the drama of the battle will really take off as the thunderous sounds of cannon fire and musketry echo around the glorious setting of Shanes Castle. It promises to be a stunning spectacle and a fabulous way to bring an important chapter of history to life for audiences of all ages.”

Re-enactors will also be setting up their own battle encampment, just below the old castle battlements, where they will be going about their daily life, just as they might have done more than two centuries ago. The public will be invited to interact and speak with re-enactors, examine the sort of weaponry used in the battle, see inside their tents and discover how it felt to be part of the preparation for battle.

The Rebels loose out at the Battle of Antrim. 

The Irish Game Fair which this year is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year with a larger than ever, all-Ireland, event.  This focus on the past is a key element of that bigger-than-ever-before theme.

Albert Titterington explained: “Fantasy battles and reinterpretations of history has taken a real grip with today’s computer games fans, but we’re ready to take that to a whole new level with physical, rather than virtual, battle excitement!  Our Battle of Antrim re-enactment will be an amazing experiential step back in history, but this is just one of several ‘time travel’ opportunities on offer at this packed weekend.

“Visitors will also find themselves walking through a Viking Village where they can discover the softer side of the fearsome Norsemen of old and strolling through a Medieval Marketplace before watching the thrilling spectacle of a Jousting Tournament.  History lessons have never been so much fun, or so ‘up close and personal’!”

The Irish Game Fair is supported by TourismNI and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

The Irish Game Fair will be open to the public on 23 and 24 June at Shanes Castle, Antrim, with an advance flavor of what to expect available at: