Dunluce Castle dates back to 1513 and was constructed by the MacQuillan family and it stayed in their family for fifty five years. It is a medieval and 17th century castle that is now in ruins but, lays claim to a long and tumultuous history. It is situated one hundred feet above the ocean, on a pantile of basalt rock and separated from the coast by a twenty-foot chasm, reached by a stone bridge. Its location on the impressive coastal cliffs in north County Antrim, served as an important spot for defence but, is also a spectacularly beautiful setting. Below the castle is the stunning Mermaid’s Cave an enormous cavern.
Much of the castle was enlarged and improved during the 15th and 16th centuries, mainly to its fortifications and residential quarters. After the mid 1700’s the castle fell into ruins. A medieval hall was located within the castle. This historic castle has been the site of numerous battles, over a one hundred year period it was besieged numerous times. It is also a castle filled with romance and tragedy. It also has many stories associated with it, there is a story dating to 1639 that recounts a dinner party taking place here, when during a storm part of the castle walls fell away taking the kitchen and all of the cooks with it down to the raging waters below. Another story relates to Maeve Roe who was imprisoned by her father in the north-eastern tower for refusing to marry her suitor, she later escaped with her true love and fled to Mermaids Cave where they escaped by boat, but they were dashed against the cliffs. Maeve’s ghost is said to still sweep her prison tower.
During the 17th century Dunluce was the seat of the earls of County Antrim and saw the formation of a small town in 1608. After many battles the town was burned and destroyed and left abandoned eventually being buried under a green field, until found by archaeologists. Visitors can discover the findings of archaeological digs including, the cobbled streets and a Scottish merchants house, where the walls survive to waist height with an internal privy and fireplace. There is also a blacksmith’s forge, a courthouse and a dungeon. In the long-abandoned town of Dunluce there is plenty of evidence of wealth and luxury, including coins from the period of Elizabeth I and Charles I, bone combs, dress fastenings, thimbles, gaming pieces, a wine glass stem, a bronze turning pin used to tune harps was also unearthed.
There is an audio visual self-guided tour of the castle, along with a treasure hunt that encourages young visitors to explore the castle. Although in ruins you still get a feel of the scale of the castle and imagine what life was like here, the drawings of various rooms help with seeing what life was like at this time and the information on the history is very informative. It provides the excellent photo opportunities over the coastline, simply stunning. You might even see dolphins swimming past and on a clear day you can see across the sea to Islay, in Scotland.