Carrickfergus Castle: bringing the 12th century into the 21st

VFX specialists Moonraker explores its project to utilise Augmented Reality technologies to maximise the immersive experience offered to visitors to one of Northern Ireland’s most historic and culturally rich structures

Carrickfergus forms a breathtaking part of Northern Ireland’s landscape, and has an even richer place in European history – built by the Normans in 1177 and later besieged by the Scots, Irish, English and French. It remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland and is a popular destination for visitors from around the world.

From October 2019, visitors will be able to experience this amazing day out like never before – enhanced by a unique visual experience that will take them back to key milestones in the castle’s fascinating past.

How the journey began

Last year, Bristol-based VFX specialists Moonraker partnered with tech studio Zubr and Tourism Northern Ireland, to bring the benefits of Augmented Reality to one of Northern Ireland’s best loved attractions. The result of the project is a unique and immersive experience for castle visitors allowing them to use an app to reveal hidden layers behind the castle’s walls, taking visitors on a journey through pivotal points in the castle’s history.

It comes at a time when the tourism industry is under increasing pressure to innovate and offer a more diverse mix of experiences to guests. For those used to a digital world, experiencing a heritage site simply as it is today is, often, no longer enough. Visitors expect more, and by using cutting edge visual effects, the visitor experience can be taken to a totally new level. This is what Moonraker, alongside Zubr, set out to achieve.

The objective of the project was to create a highly immersive experience for visitors, making it possible to step back in time and experience the Castle’s rich history, just as the residents have over the centuries. A key part of this was to make sure the experience was simply and widely accessible.

Bringing the castle’s history to life

Moonraker played a leading role in the process, using their expertise as visual effects artists to create high-quality and believable content. To really bring the past to life, the Moonraker team chose three points of interest within the Carrickfergus Castle to be visualised. The plan was to combine Moonraker’s beautiful visuals with a bespoke app, powered by cutting-edge technology from Zubr.

The end product takes visitors on a journey through time and space to iconic moments in Northern Ireland’s history, using visual effects and augmented reality technology to create immersive 360-degree scenes. Visitors will have the opportunity to fire an ancient cannon, to walk a historical path from the 12th century to present day and to see behind closed walls into the Castle’s Keep.

This signifies a big step in the movement to innovate and digitalise the heritage industry. The 800 year old Norman castle is steeped in a rich and fascinating heritage which visitors can now navigate with their own footsteps, through a digital window to the past. Moonraker’s work has enabled people to witness the Castle seamlessly transform into a fortress of the 12th century and subsequently reimagine themselves as part of a longer story of the past. What’s more, the new app will allow visitors in Northern Ireland to find and encounter new experiences, while also encouraging them to stay longer.

The new app has officially launched this month, giving visitors the ability to enjoy their trip with a truly immersive experience. If you’re planning a trip in or around County Antrim anytime soon, why don’t you stop by?