If you’re looking for a hidden gem on the Northern Irish coastline, then Kinbane Castle is a must-see destination. Located just a short distance from Ballycastle, Kinbane Castle is a ruined fortress perched on a narrow limestone point running out into the sea. The castle’s name, Kinbane, translates to White Head, which is a nod to the white limestone on which it stands.
The History of Kinbane Castle
Kinbane Castle was built in 1547 by Colla MacDonnell, the younger brother of Sorley Boy MacDonnell, during the height of the MacDonnell supremacy along the coast. The castle was sieged and damaged by English troops in 1551, and was partly destroyed by cannon fire in 1555. There is a large sea cave in the rock underneath the castle named ‘Hollow of the English’ where, during the 1500s, a group of English soldiers laying siege to the castle were trapped and massacred.
After having been rebuilt, Kinbane Castle was again occupied by the MacDonnell’s, and after Colla MacDonnell died in 1558, the castle was inherited by one of his sons, Gillaspic. Sorley Boy took over Kinbane when he exchanged another property with Gillaspic. The castle was then presented to the MacAlister family by Sorley Boy as a reward for their loyalty to the MacDonnell clan.
It is said that Kinbane Castle was inhabited until the 1700s and the last person to inhabit the castle was a Mrs MacAlister. At a later date Kinbane castle and the fishery there were purchased by the Woodside family of Carnsampson.
To get to Kinbane Castle, head towards Ballycastle, then take the road to the east of the town towards Carrick-a-Rede. Look out for the signpost pointing towards Kinbane Castle, and follow the narrow road down to the car park. From there, a narrow and stepped path leads down to the castle ruins, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear and take care on the descent.
Once you’ve made it down to the ruins, take a moment to catch your breath and take in the stunning scenery. The castle may now be little more than a single ruined tower, but the panoramic views of the coastline and cliffs make the trek well worth it. Be sure to stop halfway down to take in the breathtaking scenery, which is host to the perfect photo opportunity.
After exploring the castle ruins, take a walk out as far as you want past the castle for more spectacular views. There is no fence, so be careful at the edge. On any given day, you can see Rathlin Island clearly in sight, making for a truly unforgettable experience.