The Castle on the coast
One of Northern Ireland’s most iconic historic monuments has been steeped in Irish history and heritage for over 500 years.
One of Northern Ireland’s most iconic historic monuments, Dunluce Castle has been steeped in Irish history and heritage for over 500 years. The dramatic history of the castle is only matched by the stories that have arose from around the area, and it is also regarded as a possible inspiration within C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
Located between The Giant’s Causeway and the coastal town of Portrush, Dunluce Castle offers an engaging and immersive experience, allowing visitors to explore the castle, and provides both an adult and children’s tour. The castle has also been used recently as a filming location for the television series Game of Thrones.
During dangerous times, our ancestors used parts of the north coast for emergency refuge. A rocky outcrop can be defended by walling off the land side, creating an instant fort that cannot be attacked from three sides. All along the coastline, the remains of such ancient fortifications can be still be seen if you look for the clues.
The outcrop at Dunluce is unusual, in that it was occupied well into recent times, only falling into disuse after 1690. The dramatic ruined castle that seems to grow out of the very cliff is a mixture of buildings from different periods. Down through the centuries, it was owned by different clans and families – the de Burghs, the McQuillans, the MacDonnells and the McDonalds – as their fortunes rose and fell with the tides of history. The tides of the sea brought other dramas: in October 1588, a Spanish Armada ship called La Girona was wrecked below Dunluce, with 1,291 drowned and only 9 survivors. And according to local legend, the castle`s kitchens once collapsed into the sea!
The Earl Bishop rode past the castle frequently, on his way to and from the Giant`s Causeway. It may even have inspired his great building project further west, the mansion at Downhill, which like Dunluce, sits on a wild maritime headland.
However, there is much more to Dunluce than just the castle ruins – an entire town lies along the cliff around the castle entrance. ‘The lost town of Dunluce’ was destroyed during an uprising in 1641, but its remains are still there under the grassy fields, and there is a plan to eventually uncover large parts of it.
Interesting Places Nearby
Whilst these locations are not specifically linked to the Earl Bishop, they are close to Dunluce Castle and you might also find them interesting.
The cliffs below Dunluce are of dark lava, but as you follow the coastline due west, they become a pale, off-white colour. These are the remains of an ancient sea bed that was covered by the lava in more recent geological times.
From Whiterocks Beach, caves beneath the chalky cliffs can be accessed by canoe, or even by coasteering, when the sea is calm. Whiterocks eventually becomes the East Strand, which stretches all the way into the popular seaside town of Portrush
Ballintoy is a small village about 7 miles due east of the Causeway, along the A2 coastal route.
A steep, twisty side-road leads down to Ballintoy Harbour, once used for fishing and also to process chalk dug from the nearby cliffs into lime – a large, disused kiln still dominates the area now used as a car park. Close by is LArrybane and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Game of Thrones fans might recognise Port Ballintoy as Lordsport, from the second season of the show.
The unusual Bendhu House is a listed building on the road to the harbour and was built by the artist Newton Penprase