After wearing ourselves out wandering around Giant’s Causeway, our guide Dave and driver Fred took us on one last adventure before we headed to our stop for the night in Derry. Our second stop of Day 2 just happened to be what I’d been waiting to see the most on this vacation – a castle!
Dunluce Castle is not just any castle. It is hauntingly beautiful, with what remains of its towers and structure on the edge of a cliff! It’s exactly what you expect from a trip to Ireland!
At first sight, my heart soared and I almost forgot about my leg pain, windswept hair and windswept face! The ruins are in the most beautiful setting: green grass, rolling waves below, rain swept sky above – what more could you ask for in a castle setting?!
We didn’t get much background on Dunluce Castle because our stop wasn’t for very long. The castle is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim. It is not a very far drive from Giant’s Causeway and is an easy stop if you want to do both sites on the same day! If you are travelling alone and without a guide, it is possible to actually go inside the castle ruins. It costs £5.00 for an adult and you get to go inside and explore what is left of the rooms! I was sad we didn’t have time to go in, but again, this is another reason for us to return to Ireland!
Dunluce Castle has a very long and tumultuous history, much like Ireland itself. I won’t go into very much detail because of the many layers behind its ownership but I will say: like with any Irish story, there, of course, is an element of myth and folklore!
It is said the castle was originally built in the 1500’s by the Irish noble Richard Óg de Burgh, with a written record in 1513. The earliest features of the castle were two drum towers, which were up to 9 meters high. In the 1550’s, the castle was taken over by the MacDonnell clan who:
“set about stamping their mark on the castle under the leadership of the famous warrior chieftain Sorely Boy MacDonnell during an era of violence, intrigue and rebellion.“
In the 17th century, the castle became the seat for the Earls of Antrim, which led to the establishment of a small town in 1608.
There are many tales and legends of ghostly beings that have made this castle home. One such story is that of the Banshee that haunts Dunluce Castle. She is Maeve Roe, thought to be the only daughter of Lord MacQuillan. Legend goes that Maeve refused to marry the man her father had found for her and was instead in love with another, Reginald O’Cahan. Her father then locked her up in one of the castle turrets and every night she looked out from her prison to the sea in hopes that Reginald would come for her.
On a stormy night, he did come:
“With the wind whistling through the battlements and beating against the thick stone walls the couple secretly fled the fortress. Into the cold night air they descended to a large cave that opened in the rocks below Dunluce. Their spirits high the two lovers set out in a small boat to cross the turbulent seas towards the seaside settlement of Portrush (Irish-Port Rois).“
Sadly, they didn’t survive the storm and sank to the bottom of the sea. Maeve’s spirit is said to never have left the castle. She supposedly haunts what is known as the MacQuillan tower. Travelers often hear her shrieks and those who have heard the tale before, know that it is Maeve’s:
“soul forever looking out across the sea from her prison tower, searching for a rescue that will never come.”
Sad story indeed! There are many of the like that go along with the castle, including one regarding the kitchens, but I’ll let you all learn about that on your own. 😉
The cave in Maeve’s tragic tale may be this one we saw here, as we explored the ruins around Dunluce Castle:
We didn’t go down, and it didn’t look very safe, but there were people who went and it sure looked like an adventure and a splendid view from below!
The castle served as the seat of the Earls of Antrim until about 1690 when the MacDonnell’s were left impoverished. Since then it has began to deteriorate. It’s interesting how what is now just a rock facade can have so much history and folklore behind it!
The architecture is amazing and even this original archway is a perfect frame to the sea beyond:
For anybody who is a Chronicles of Narnia fan, it is said that Dunluce Castle was the inspiration for Cair Paravel! It has also been used in several music videos and CD covers over the years. And more recently, it stands in as the House of Greyjoy in a little TV show called Game of Thrones. Its amazing setting is obviously the reason for its popularity!!!
Sadly, our time at Dunluce Castle had come to an end and we started walking back up the steps to our bus, but not before snapping a couple more shots of the beautiful landscape.
Being a romantic on the inside, my imagination continued to go wild with all the possible stories that may have happened at Dunluce Castle! I’m so glad we made the stop as this was one of my favourite locations in all of Ireland.
Now we started to make our way to the town of Derry! Stay tuned for more about its turbulent past and hopeful future!
From Vancouver with Love,
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