After getting helplessly lost while leaving Sligo, my mother and I were quite eager to get back to sight seeing. Thankfully, our bed and breakfast in Portrush wasn’t too far away from our first site of the day, Dunluce Castle. After a mere 15 minute drive down a road hugging Antrim’s beautiful coastline, we reached the castle before the large tour groups had begun to arrive.
Perched on one of Antrim’s cliffs, the castle has a very iconic look and has been called one of Ireland’s most romantic castles. Parts of the castle were first built in the 1200s, but most of what remains today is much more recent – major additions were made through the 1600s. But by the mid 1600s, the castle was abandoned by its last resident, the second Earl of Antrim, Randall McDonnell. Story has it that in 1639, part of the kitchen fell into the sea during a storm, taking part of the kitchen staff along with it and prompting the Earl and his family to move first to Ballymagarry, then to Glenarm Castle when it was rebuilt in 1756.
Our time at Dunluce stood out most for its beautiful views of the ocean and Antrim coastline. Since we arrived at the very start of the tourist season, the visitor’s center hadn’t gotten any postcards or brochures in yet, leaving us with little to go on aside from signs posted around the site. I had downloaded a companion app for the site, but we found it more enjoyable just to take in the rugged beauty of the place and wander where we will rather than follow a structured tour path.
With a clear sky above and cool breezes coming in off the ocean, it was the perfect way to start another long day. And though it was one of the busier sites we went to, it was easy to lose ourselves in both the moment and memories of our previous trip. We’d seen a different part of Antrim then, with no idea how close we’d been to the castle – merely 15 minutes away, at the Giant’s Causeway.
Both sites are truly fantastic, and I highly recommend seeing them at the same time, if you can. Along with the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Dark Hedges farther inland, they make a fairly nice cluster of sites that give a good sense of Antrim’s beauty. But as a word of warning, plan on dedicating a full day to see them all – it’s a long drive back to the Republic. My mother and I learned that the hard way.
Dunluce Castle is open daily from 10:00am onward, with closing hours varying from season to season. Admission is £5 for adults and £3 for seniors and children. The site also has a small tea room with bathrooms and souvenirs different than what you can find in the true visitor’s center.
Additional Links & Resources:
The Golden Book: Ireland, pages 107, 109