Dunluce Castle

Aerial view of Dunluce Castle perched above the ocean on the Causeway Coast

Aerial view of Dunluce Castle and the spectacular Causeway Coast • Antrim

The History of Dunluce Castle

Interior of Dunluce Castle showing fireplace on the ground floor and the sky through the ruins.

Interior of Dunluce Castle • Antrim

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The castle we see today is one of the most dramatic ruins in Ireland. How it went from being the great stronghold for the Earls of Antrim to ruin is told through a popular folktale. The story goes that in 1639 the MacDonnells were hosting a dinner party in Dunluce Castle. There was a terrible storm that night, and the strong winds and crashing sea below caused a chunk of the cliff to give way. This piece of cliff was supporting the kitchen of the castle and guests saw the tables, silverware, the dinner and even nine members of kitchen staff fall into the stormy waters below. A single kitchen boy managed to survive by clinging to the crumbling wall of the castle and was pulled to safety. After this the Lady of Dunluce wished to leave for good and the family moved to Ballymagarry Castle.

Though it makes for a great story, it appears unlikely to be true as the original castle kitchens are still intact to this day. What might have pushed the family to move to Ballygarry is the attack on the town of Dunluce by Irish rebels in 1642 and the castle’s seizure and despoilment by the Scottish General Munro later that same year. Though the settlers tried to rebuild Dunluce town, it never fully recovered and was abandoned by 1680. With the castle and town of destroyed, Dunluce was abandoned until 1928 when it came into state guardianship.

In 2014, excavations began at Dunluce Castle and the town. Archaeologists have found animal bone, coins, glass beads, pottery, clay pipes, a merchants seal and evidence for a variety of metal work. You can read the full story in the publication Dunluce Castle: History and Archaeology by Colin Breen, and published by Four Courts Press.

Upper left: aerial view of the castle • Lower left: the castle viewed from the road • Right: Róisín Burke explores Dunluce

Top: aerial view of the castle • Middle: Róisín Burke explores Dunluce • Bottom: the castle viewed from the road