Castles in Antrim

Castles in Northern Ireland-Dunluce-Castle

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and its capital city is Belfast – which just happens to be located in Antrim! The Titanic was built in this port city, and it’s a hub of nightlife and history, but that’s just one part of this stunning county. It’s also home to the Causeway Coast, where you’ll find one of the most unique geological features in the United Kingdom – the Giant’s Causeway.

Along the jaw-dropping coastline, you’ll find even more gorgeous landscapes dotted with blue waters and ancient castles. Further inland, you’ll come across the nine wooded Glens of Antrim. In this post, we’ll show you nine of the most fascinating castles in Antrim.

9 castles to visit in Antrim

1. Belfast Castle

Many of Ireland’s castles date back to the medieval ages, but that’s not the case with Belfast Castle. It’s relatively young, having only been opened in 1870. It sits on the slopes of Cave Hill Country Park in the north of the capital city. From its location 400 feet above the sea, it provides excellent views of the city and Belfast Lough.

The architecture is from the High Victorian Era, and its grand façade is decorated with Doric columns. The castle was restored between 1978 and 1988 before being re-opened to the public. As well as being a popular tourist attraction, it hosts functions, weddings, and conferences.

Where: Belfast
When: 19th century
When: 19th century
Style: Scottish Baronial architecture
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:00 – 22:30 from Tuesday to Saturday. 09:00 – 18:00 on Sundays and Mondays.

You might want to check out: The best castles near Belfast

2. Carrickfergus Castle

On the northern shore of the Belfast Lough, you’ll find Carrickfergus Castle, which has almost 900 years of history to be proud of. Once the Anglo-Norman lord John de Courcy built his castle, he ruled over Ulster as a petty king.

In the subsequent centuries, more was added to the castle, and it was updated in the 1600s for artillery. By the end of the 17th century, it had fallen into disrepair and briefly came under the command of French in 1760.

Since then, it has been a prison and an armoury/air raid shelter during World War II. Now, there is a museum in the castle that is open to visitors.

Where: Carrickfergus
When: 12th century
Style: Norman
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 16:30

3. Dunluce Castle

Not only one of the most spectacular castles in Antrim, but in the whole of Ireland, Dunluce Castle is a ruin on the edge of a basalt outcrop that is only accessible via a bridge connected to the mainland.

The first written record of the castle is from 1513. It was seized just four decades later by the ambitious MacDonnell Clan. It was the seat of the Earls of Antrim in the early 17th century, with a town being established here in 1608.

One of the more dramatic true stories surrounding the castle is that one night in 1639, the castle kitchens fell into the sea in a storm. Only two of the round tours and a section of the mainland facing wall are in-tact; nevertheless, Dunluce Castle is an extremely evocative and impressive sight.

Where: Bushmills
When: 16th century
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 17:00 daily.

4. Dunseverick Castle

Now, Dunseverick Castle is little more than a pile of stones, but historically, this is one of the most important castles in Ireland. It’s also one of the oldest. This ancient site is at the end of one of the Royal Roads from Tara, and its earliest mention was in the 5th century AD.

Saint Patrick himself was said to have visited. It was the seat of Fergus the Great the century after. There are records that say it was raided a number of times by the Vikings in the late 800s – far before all of the castles on this list were even thought of.

Nowadays, all that is left is the gate lodge, as coastal erosion has meant much of the castle has fallen into the sea.

Where: Dunseverick
When: 5th century
Open for Visit: Yes. Open 24 hours.

5. Glenarm Castle

Northern Irish Castles-Glenarm-Castle

Known as one of the most beautiful castles in Ireland, and the home of one of the first walled gardens in the country, Glenarm Castle is the ancestral home of the Earls of Antrim.

While the current castle dates back to the 17th century, there has been some form of a castle on the site since the 13th century; it’s one of Ireland’s oldest estates.

The estate once included Dunluce Castle on the coast, which we wrote about earlier. Nowadays, the estate is a popular wedding venue, and visitors can enjoy the walled garden in this large deer park.

Where: Ballymena
When: 17th century
Open for Visit: Tea Room 09:00 – 17:00. Byre shop 10:00 – 17:00. Fudge Factory 11:00 – 16:00 from Friday to Sunday. Guided tours of the castle occasionally available.

6. Kinbane Castle

Another of the most beautiful seaside castles in Antrim, Kinbane is on a long headland that projects into the sea. Like Dunseverick Castle, there is little remaining, and part of the fun of visiting this castle is actually getting there.

There is a narrow and steep path along the headland from the townland of Cregganboy. Should you be able to brave the journey to the castle, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Rathlin Island and Dunagregor Iron Age fort.

Where: Cregganboy
When: 16th century
Open for Visit: Yes. Open 24 hours

7. Kilwaughter Castle

Northern Irish Castles-Kilwaughter-Castle

Like Belfast Castle, this four-storey tower house is in the Scottish Baronial style. However, it pre-dates Belfast by around 65 years. It was originally constructed in the 17th century, but its major extension was designed by the same architect responsible for the development of London’s Regent Street and turning Buckingham House into the palace where the British Royal Family live today. Kilwaughter Castle is not open to the public, but it does hold open days.

Where: Larne
When: 19th century
Style: Scottish Baronial
Open for Visit: No. Private property but accessible to the public on open days. See the website for more information
Website: https://www.kilwaughtercastle.com/

8. Olderfleet Castle

Another castle in Larne, Olderfleet Castle is open to guests 24 hours as it’s a ruin on the lough. There are mixed stories about when it was built; some stay it was by a Scottish family in the 13th century, while others attribute it to Vikings some 300 years before.

Olderfleet is thought to be the ruins of Curran Castle, with the tower house you can see being added to the original building in the 15th century. Olderfleet Castle is open year-round and there is no cost to visit.

Where: Larne
When: 13th century
Style: Tower house
Open for Visit: Yes. Open 24 hours

9. Shane’s Castle

Castles in Northern Ireland-Shane's-Castle

Originally known as Edenduffcarrick, Shane’s Castle is a ruin on the northeast shores of Lough Neagh and said to be the ancestral home of the Clanaboy O’Neills. It stands in a working estate that is also a deer park and farmland.

The castle’s name was changed to Shane’s Castle by Shane McBrien O’Neill in 1722. You may recognise it from the TV series Game of Thrones, as filming has taken place there many times.

Where: Randalstown
When: 14th century
Style:
Open for Visit: Open by appointment during the summer

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