Dunluce Castle: Medieval Irish Castle on the Antrim Coast

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87 Dunluce Road, Bushmills, County Antrim,
Mr Gerard Ciutmore
T: (028) 2073 1938
F: (028) 2073 2850

Dunluce Castle is dramatically located atop a cliff on the north coast.

Dunluce Castle is one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic historic monuments, perched on the north Antrim coastline on a dramatic rocky promontory.

This strong defensive location has seen occupation for over 1000 years. However it was the powerful MacQuillan family who, around the year 1500, started construction of the castle we see today. The first written record of the castle was in 1513.

In the 1550s the ambitious Scottish MacDonnell clan seized Dunluce from the MacQuillans. After a generation-long struggle amongst the Scots, Irish and English, the MacDonnells finally achieved their ambitions of staking a permanent claim at Dunluce in 1586, under the famous warrior chieftain Sorely Boy MacDonnell. Despite constant unrest, during the later 16th century the castle saw many architectural changes and additions.

Dunluce reached its zenith in the early 17th century, with Randal MacDonnell rising to the title of first earl of Antrim. During this period the buildings of the mainland Outer Ward were erected and Randal established a small town at Dunluce in 1608.

The town was burnt in the aftermath of the 1641 Irish Rebellion and was ultimately abandoned. However recent archaeological investigations are starting to bring Dunluce Town back from the ashes, revealing stunning archaeological remains of cobbled streets and merchants’ houses in the fields around the castle.

The dramatic history of Dunluce is matched by tales of banshees, mermaids and the story of how the castle kitchens fell into the sea one stormy night in 1639. Dunluce is also regarded as the possible inspiration for Cair Paravel in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.

An app for iPhone and android devices has been developed for Dunluce Castle. This is now available, free of charge, from the App Store and Google Play.

Visitors are provided with an audio visual tour which includes animations of the castle’s structures rebuilt before their eyes, creating an engaging and immersive visitor experience. An adult's tour and children’s tour run simultaneously, allowing families to explore the castle together but to engage with it on different levels. A ‘hidden treasure’ element of the children’s tour encourages younger visitors to explore the site to find resin-cast replicas of artefacts discovered at Dunluce.