Dunluce Castle might be the most well-known castle in Ireland. It is a romantic ruin dramatically set at the very edge of the cliff on the Antrim Coast near Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
“Probably the castle Dunluce, on the North Antrim coast, is the most celebrated, and justly so, of any in Ireland, owing to it’s marvelously picturesque location. It’s satisfied all our preconceptions formed in childhood, of a stronghold. Standing on a rock, almost detached from the shore, and looking out to the wild strength of the north Atlantic, it’s strength and extent and history are enough to stir the imagination of a pale ghost.”
Dunluce Castle site dates back to before 1513, when the McQuillan family is first documented as resident when they were Lords of the Route, northwestern County Antrim. They may have built the two 30’ wide drum towers.
In the 1200s, Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, built a castle or added to this earlier castle, depending on what book you believe.
Dunluce Castle changed hands a few times, belonging to various Cans from Scotland, before it was seized by Sorley Boy MacDonnell.
The McDonnell clan held territories in Ireland and Scotland. Dunluce Castle was Sorley Boy McDonnell’s base when came from Scotland to consolidate the Irish territory. Its situation was very defensible.
In 1588 a treasure ship of the Spanish Armada, wrecked nearby. Sorley Boy MacDonnell recovered 3 brass cannons and 2 chests of treasure. He had the cannons installed at the Dunluce Castle gatehouses. The treasure financed more castle improvements and repairs. (Other treasure recovered by divers in 1967 and 1968 is on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.)
Sorley Boy may have been the most powerful Scoto-Irish chieftain. He stood up to Tudor and Stuart monarchs. For over 40 years he “played those difficulties with courage, skill and deception, to the point that MacDonnell claims were largely accepted and the clan’s fortunes secured.” Wikipedia
I was told that at one point the kitchen fell into the sea and the Queen refused to live in the house any longer. She went back to her father’s house and would not come back to the King until he had built her a new Palace further from the cliffs. This cannot be possible, since the kitchen is still there. In the 1700s, the north wall collapsed into the sea, but the family had already moved out nearly 100 years before.
It appears the cliff had not collapsed yet in paintings from the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Dunluce Castle, County Antrim. – The above storied fortress-now a roofless ruin-is situated on a high point of the coast of Antrim, within a few miles of the town of Portrush. In Gaelic its name is Dun-lios, which is interpreted “the strong fort,” and, indeed, in the days of its prime, this was no misnomer. It is built on an isolated rock, fully a hundred and twenty feet above the level of the waves that foam at its base; and the walls of the old castle rise sheer from the precipitous height, which gives the place a most formidable aspect. In the period of its prime, it must have been impregnable, except to treachery or starvation. The remains indicate a Norman origin, and tradition says that it was one of the castles erected by the brave and adventurous Sir John de Courey, in the twelfth century, to protect his interests in Ulster. It was once connected with the mainland by a sort of draw bridge, but this has disappeared, and communication is now kept up by means of long planks, laid over an old viaduct. The structure on the land side of the awful chasm is believed to be of comparatively modern origin. Dunluce has, of cours, its “Baashee” or wailing ghost, which regularly gives warning of the approaching death of some member of the family that originally occupied the castle. The McQuillans wrested the fortress from the English in the fourteenth century. In the reign of James I. they were cozened out of their possessions by one Chichester, whose descendant bears the title of Marquis of Donegal.Ireland in Pictures: A Grand Collection of Over 400 Magnificent Photographs of the Beauties of the Green Isle Comprising Views of the Most Famous Buildings, Historic Places, Romantic Scenery, Vereable Ruins, Rich Art Treasures, etc, etc. with Historical and Descriptive Sketches by the Hon. John F. Finerty, of Chicago, 1898
In the late 1600s Sorley Boy’s grandson, Randall MacDonnell, 2nd Earl of Antrim abandoned Dunluce Castle and moved to nearby Ballymagarry House.
Dunluce Castle still belongs to the McDonnell family. It is managed by the Northern Irish Environment Agency.
“Dunluce Castle, dramatically positioned on this sheer headland between the Giant’s Causeway and Portrush was built between the 15th and 17th centuries. At this time it was one of the finest castles in the region and served to control the land and sea routes of North Ulster. Inside the castle you will discover centuries of stories and legends that reveal the turbulent history of the MacQuillans, the MacDonnels and Scottish settlers who lived in the ‘lost town of Dunluce’.” Plaque at Dunluce Castle
“Welcome! You are standing in the Outer Ward overlooking the ruins of the magnificent Dunluce Castle. This courtyard was once used to receive visitors and to house guests and castle staff. The buildings to your left provided lodgings for weary travelers; their horses were stabled next door.” Plaque at Dunluce Castle
Look familiar? Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis took the photos for Led Zeppelin’s inside cover art at Dunluce Castle. The cover was shot at Giant’s Causeway.
There is a scratched in mark on a rock that looks like a Viking ship or galley. No one knows the story.
Dunluce Castle is said to be the inspiration for Cair Paravel Prince Caspian, one of CS Lewis Narnia books.
Click any photo to start a slide show.