Monday, December 23, 2013

Dunluce Castle

On our way back to Portrush from Giant's Causeway, we paid a visit to another famous site on the Antrim Coast, Dunluce Castle.

The castle sits on a volcanic stone outcropping protected by high, steep cliffs.  These natural stone faces make the site highly defensible, and as such the site was home to centers of military and political power for centuries.  

Dunluce Castle seen from the mainland
Castle from the Mainland

The ruined walls and floor of Dunluce Castle
Ruined Walls and Floor
The Castle here was constructed (and deconstructed) in stages dating back to the early sixteenth century.  Clan MacDonnall defeated the original Clan McQuillan in the late sixteenth century and took hold of the castle.  Both of these families were of Scots-Irish descent, as were many families in this Northern region.  Scotland is visible from the Castle, and a sea voyage from Dunluce to Scotland would have been faster and easier than an overland journey from Dunluce to the neighboring trading villages.

Intact Floor and Hallway in Dunluce Castle
Intact Floor and Hallway
In the late seventeenth century, the kitchen of the castle collapsed into the sea (!) and the MacDonnell family fell from power.  Since that time, the castle has been deteriorating and the building stones were scavenged by builders for nearby buildings.  Sad, but interesting.  North America has so few durable structures as old as this, mainly because many Native American tribes did not build large stone buildings and settlements.  As Americans, seeing a building as old as this being looted for building materials brings a sad smile.  The British Isles seem to have more durable history than they know what to do with!

View of the Cliffs from Dunluce Castle
View of the Cliffs
Dunluce Castle seen from the East
Dunluce Castle from the East
Smiles aside, the castle is now protected and under the excellent management of Northern Ireland Environment Agency.  The staff and the visitor's center are excellent.  Admission is reasonable and the free audio tour gives a great room-by-room description of the castle and historical context.  The archaeological center displays artifacts from the castle and the recently discovered (and still under excavation) Dunluce Village nearby.

Totally unsolicited travel tips:

  1. This is a castle, but would not be considered an 'indoor' site.  As always in Ireland, be ready for the weather.  The rocks and grass can be slippery on these slopes, so think of this as more of a hike than a tour.  See this site on the same day as the nearby Giant's Causeway, and wear the same clothes and shoes.
  2. Admission prices are modest (check for the current rate and hours) and the maps and audio guides are free and very informative.  The staff are friendly and eager to answer questions about the site and the nearby country.
  3. Allow an hour or two for the site, depending on your pace.  The strict room-by-room audio tour won't take long if you keep moving, but if you are the sort who likes to climb into old fireplaces, look out arrow-slits to fend off imaginary raiders, and climb down the steep trails to the sea cave beneath the castle, leave a little extra time.

1 comment:

  1. That's one old rugged castle which i can't miss to visit! Splendid.


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