* A2 Coast Road Portrush * BT57 8SX * County Antrim, Northern Ireland * Tel: 44-28-7082-3333 *
Dunluce a.k.a. Dun Lios, means “Strong Fort” in Irish. One of Ireland’s infamous settings for fantasy tales, movies, or depictions – Dunluce ruins contrast with awe-inspiring grandeur with the precipitous basaltic rock it stands upon over the Northern Sea. It is separated from the mainland by a deep chasm that is crossed by means of a narrow bridge and beneath the castle is a long cave that served great strategic importance as an escape to the Sea. It is believed that the nomadic boatmen who first inhabited this area in 7,000 B.C.E. must have seen this crag from which the castle now sits and may have ventured into the cavern beneath it back in the day. It is believed that early Christians and Vikings were attracted to this Crag and had an earlier Irish fort placed here before Dunluce was constructed. With the Normans arrival, it is believed, that this Crag was first crowned with a castle. There are legends of inhabitation of this area by giants, ghosts, and banshees as well. Believed to have been used as a fort during Early Christianity in the area by evidence of the souterrain that survives beneath the current ruins. The Castle is mentioned as part of the de Burgo manor of Dunseverick in the early 14th century. Richard de Burgh, the Earl of Ulster, was the first to build this castle on the Crag. It was a common place to fall under siege as many desired it. First in the hands of the MacQuillin family in 1513 when the two large drum towers were believed to have been built. The Castle then became the home of the Clan MacDonnell of Antrim and the Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg from Scotland. Most of the ruin remains that are left standing were built by Sorley Boy McDonnell (1505-1589) and his family, the 1st and 2nd Earls of Antrim – who seized the castle in 1558 after the death of his brother Colla who married the daughter of the McQuillan chief in 1544 even though he had been evicted from the Manor twice before (1565 and 1584). He took back the castle by force with artillery in 1584 and hauled his comrades up the cliff in a basket. He was officially appointed Constable of Dunluce by the Queen in 1586. Damages done by the 1584 siege. In 1588 when the Spanish Armada treasure ship – The Girona – wrecked off the Giant’s Causeway in a storm – the treasures were salvaged by Sorley Boy who utilized the prizes to rebuild and repair the castle. Repairs were so extensive they lasted past Sorley Boy’s death in 1589 with additions such as the turreted gatehouse in Scottish manner, cannon ports in the curtain wall where eventually the Girona’s cannons were placed (from the Spanish Armada ship 1588). Somewhere around the 1560′s the north-facing Italianate loggia behind the south curtain was added. In 1613 Mac Donnell’s granddaughter Rose was born in the Castle. In 1639 a terrible tragedy befell the castle when the lower yard, the kitchen, and most of the staff saw a collapse into the sea. The Castle owner’s wife apparently after that point refused to live in the Castle any longer. The mainland court was believed to be built by Lady Catherine to replace the lower yard after parts of it fell into the sea. After Royalist second Earl was arrested at Dunluce in 1642, the family ceased to reside at Dunluce Castle, after which it fell into decay until 1928 when it was transferred to the State for preservation. Dunluce Castle served as the seat of the Earl of Antrim until the impoverishment of the MacDonnells in 1690 following the Battle of the Boyne. In 1973 the castle appeared on the inner gate fold of the Led Zeppelin album “Houses of the Holy”. It was referenced in the comedy “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” when they travel back into time to meet Socrates. In 2001, the castle appeared in Jackie Chan’s “The Medallion” as the villain’s lair. It is now in care of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and a Monument in State Care.
The Cave beneath has been called the “Mermaid’s Cave” above it is the “wishing well” (down and up the path). Castle is open year round from at least 10 am until 5 pm with later hours in the summer.
The castle is believed to be haunted by many spirits. Some say former servants roam the halls (those who died during a severe winter storm in 1639 when part of the castle fell into the sea), others say that one of the MacQuillan’s daughters can be seen on occasion (she tried to elope to Peter Carey, complete with black coat and purple scarf, when he was hung by Sorley Boy MacDonnell (the local chieftain)), while others report seeing an apparition of an English constable. Inland, below the castle, is the Royal Protrush Golf Club’s main course (known to have hosted the only British Open golf championship (outside of Britain and Scotland)) called “Dunluce links” is said to be frequented by fairway fanatics involving the battles between the Vikings and local Irish tribes during the 12th century. The sandhills on the East Strand Portrush were called the “War Hollow” because it was the location where ambushes of Norsemen returning with plunder after capturing Dunluce Castle took place, and Magus, the King of Norway, was beheaded there and the treasures supposedly still buried down below. (myths as told by http://www.causewaycoastandglens.com/portals/2/itineraries/ccritinerary-myths.pdf)