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Dunluce Castle

Visited August 2023

Location Bushmills, Ireland
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes
Facilities Gift Shop, Toilets


Situated on the edge of a sea cliff, and in two parts linked together with a small wooden bridge, this castle is a dramatic and interesting place to visit.






The castle may look familiar as it was used as a location for 'The Game of Thrones'. This probably won't mean much to kids though, yet it is an interesting castle for them to explore, due to the exciting location next to the cliff, and the sheer exhilaration of being next to the sea. 


It was built in the 13th century by the Richard Og be Burgh, who was the second Lord Ulster. It then came into the hands of the McQuillan family, who were responsible for building the two large drum towers. 

Later it came into the possession, probably by force, of the MacDonell family of Antrim.They were from a branch of the Clan MacDonald from Scotland. The most famous family member was Sorley Boy Macdonnell, who evaded capture by the english several times by holding out in the castle and then fleeing across the sea before the castle surrendered. 


In 1588 a Spanish ship  'Girona' was wrecked off the coast of the castle. The cannons from the ship were installed into the gatehouse of the castle, and the money raised from selling the rest of the cargo was used to renovate the castle, including the building of a house inside the castle walls. The windows and a series of columns can still be seen today, and demonstrate that this was a high status and comfortable residence, built by an influential family. Randall Mcdonnell built the manor house, and the family remained there until after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which ruined the family.However their descendants still live in the area to this day.





When you visit the castle you may be told that the reason the castle was abandoned was because one night during a storm the castle's kitchen was washed into the sea, but this is probably just a yarn as the remains of the kitchen, including a bread oven are still in the manor house on the site. It does make a good tale though!







Talking of good tales, the castle is only a few minutes away from Giant's Causeway, a  world famous UNESCO site. The stone stacks were reputed to have been put in place by a giant called Finn McCool who wanted to fight his rival scottish giant Benandonner. But the Scottish giant travelled along the causeway to face his rival but became scared and ran back to Scotland pulling the pathway up as he fled to prevent Finn coming after him. 


It is of course just a story, often told to the tourists, but the kids love it and there are many references made to Finn McCool, especially in the Giant's Causeway gift shop, where there is also a large selfie picture of the giant (but to our minds he looks more like a Disney version of an Irish giant, but each to their own!)


We would recommend a trip to the Giant's Causeway at the same time as the castle, as it is am awesome site, but gets very busy , seemingly all year round. It can get very slippery in the rain (which is a frequent occurrence) so be careful, especially with young kids. The National Trust have a visitors centre there with a cafe, shop and toilets and you can get on a guided tour if you wish, but you have to pay admission charges to use the centre, so if you don't have NT membership it may be an expensive option. There are other options for food/ toilet breaks at the site so it is not necessary to go into the NT visitors centre unless you want to.





More info:  Dunluce Castle

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