Visit Northern Ireland’s Dunluce Castle

If your notion of a castle brings to mind an impenetrable fortress balanced high on a precipice above the sea, with churning waves crashing against its walls and seagulls circling overhead, then Northern Ireland’s Dunluce Castle may be the castle for you.

 Duncluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

While living in Country Antrim several years ago, I visited Dunluce Castle and remain awestruck to this day by its aura and beauty. Located almost equidistant between Portrush and Portballintrae, the castle ruin is a protected historic site with a visitor center and is accessible daily via a footbridge connecting it to the mainland. Dramatically perched on a high basalt cliff above the Atlantic Ocean, the castle remains impressive even its ruined state.

duncluce castle

Visitors at Dunluce Castle © Discover Northern Ireland.com

Like most castles, its architectural structures reflect its history. Some portions of Dunluce date to the 1500s, when the castle was in the hands of the McQuillan family. Other parts of the castle recall its heyday during the 17th century, when it served as the seat of the MacDonnells, whose descendants became Earl of Antrim.

One outstanding portion, the Manor-House, was built in 1636 to provide a stylish and modern residence for the second Earl of Antrim and his wife, Lady Catherine. Its reconstructed stone-carved bay window frames struck me during my visit, making it easy to imagine how appealing the castle must have been just a few centuries ago when it was filled with life and activity.

Lady Catherine by artist Peter Paul Rubens.

Lady Catherine by artist Peter Paul Rubens.

Interestingly, Lady Catherine insisted on leaving Dunluce Castle in 1639, just three years after her lovely Manor-House was built within its walls. She reportedly loathed the constant noise of the ocean, and her worst fears were realized when part of the kitchen court fell into the sea, killing several servants. Afterwards, she refused to live on the rock and a new house was built for her on the mainland.

An imposing view of Duncluce Castle.

An imposing view of Dunluce Castle.

Based on its location, it is not surprising that Dunluce Castle’s history is also linked to the Spanish Armada’s failed invasion of England in 1588. Damaged during the conflict and repaired, the Spanish ship Girona wrecked on the Irish coast near Dunluce while attempting to sail back to Spain.

James MacDonnell in Dunluce Castle and his father, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, at Duineany Castle in Ballycastle gave shelter to the ship’s survivors, hiding them from the English and assisting them back to Spain. In return, two salvaged chests of treasure and three cannons were claimed by the MacDonnells to strengthen the castle at Dunluce.

The Giant's Causeway © Discover Northern Ireland.com

The Giant’s Causeway © Discover Northern Ireland.com

While the striking beauty and fascinating history of Dunluce Castle would make a worthwhile stop in anyone’s Northern Ireland travel itinerary, the castle is also located near other interesting destinations. Not far east of Dunluce lies the Giant’s Causeway, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland, and an unusual geological treat.

The hexagonal columns of basalt rock that form the naturally made structure resulted from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago and make for a photo op of unusual natural beauty. Also, in between Dunluce and the Giant’s Causeway, travellers can stop in at The Old Bushmills Distillery and tour the buildings where one of Ireland’s most famous whiskeys has been brewed for over four hundred years.

Christy Carlyle is a writer, graphic/web designer, and avid Britophile. She has been lucky enough to live in both England and Ireland and to marry a Scotsman. She writes historical romance and mysteries and blogs about Victorian Britain at Romancing the Victorians.

Comments

  1. Christy@SweetandSavoring says

    This castle looks straight out of a movie! I love that you included the history of it because it makes the whole place that much more fascinating. On my list for when I eventually get back to the UK!

  2. says

    Thanks for your comment, Christy! It truly did have that feel when I visited—some fascinating place right out of a film or storybook. The sound of the sea is constant and the castle and area around it exude an aura of grandeur and a bit of mystery.

  3. Cynthia Woolf says

    What a fascinating blog. I’d love to be able to go see the castle and picture it in it’s heyday. Maybe you should include the castle in one of your books, if you haven’t already.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

  4. says

    It looks so lovely on a sunny day, but my thoughts flew back through history to imagine it in mid-winter, freezing, dark, drafty, the raging sea hitting on three sides. Though I love the ocean, I also like hot running water and central heat. I don’t blame Lady Catherine for leaving, though I doubt her mainland home was all that more comfy. Good thing I’m a 21st-century woman, I would not have done well on that rock.

  5. Lana Williams says

    What a fascinating post, Christy! Now I feel like I’ve visited there as well! Love it! Tweeted too. :) Thanks for sharing!

  6. says

    Hi Christy,

    I just came across your blog and love the image you have used for the Giants Causeway. You have credited Discover Northern Ireland under the image but I can’t seem to find it in my Photo Library, could you let me know where you got the image or if it is your own as I would like to perhaps use it in the future.

    Best wishes,
    Rachel