This late-medieval and 17th-century castle is dramatically sited, on a headland dropping sheer into the sea on the north Antrim Coast. It creates an exciting image of danger and adventure backed up by its history. It was first documented in McQuillan hands, in 1513, and later became the stronghold of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim and Lords of the Isles. During the McDonnell ownership it was taken by Somhairle Buidhe (Sorley Boy) MacDonnell, whose brother had married the daughter of McQuillan. Besieged and badly damaged by Sir John Perrott, the Lord Deputy, in 1584, it was subsequently recaptured by Sorley Boy who, submitting to Queen Elizabeth in 1586, was made Constable of the Castle. This did not stop him from aiding the few survivors of the Girona, an Armada galleass that sank off nearby Lacada point, and salvaging cannon from the Girona for use at Dunluce.
Sorley Boy undertook new building at Dunluce, particularly the Italian-style loggia, prior to his death in 1589. His sons, James and Randal, added to the fortifications, probably building the Scottish-style gatehouse around 1600. Randal, who became Viscount Dunluce, and 1st Earl of Antrim, founded a town, west of the castle, in 1620 and brought settlers from Scotland to live there.
In 1635 the 2nd Earl, also Randal, married Catherine Manners, widow of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. The Earl built the Manor House, with its bay windows, for her and a new kitchen court on the rock. Despite this, the Duchess never liked Dunluce and when part of the kitchen court fell into the sea, during a storm in 1639, she insisted that the family abandon the castle and build a house inland.
The 17th-century mainland court contains domestic buildings leading downhill to the narrow crossing to the rock, formerly protected by a drawbridge to the Gatehouse. The buildings on the rock are almost all of 16th/early-17th century date. Slight earthworks, visible to the west of the castle, are remains of a formal garden and part of the long-deserted town, whose ruined church stands in the graveyard south of the castle, separated from it by the modern Coast Rd.
Castle or defences
Easter - end September
Mon - Sun 10.00-18.00
October - Easter
Mon - Sun 10.00-16.00
Last admission 30 minutes before closing time.
Children under 4: Free
Group Rate (10 or more people) £1.00 per person
Let's Explore Life In Early Times: KS2 and 3 Booklet
A 24-page booklet describing life in Ireland from the arrival of the first people, through to the changing settlements of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age times.
How to obtain
Available as a free PDF download.
87 Dunluce Road
028 2073 1938
02820 732 850