Nestled atop a dramatic cliff on County Antrim’s stunning coastline, the ruins of Dunluce Castle are calling! The ruins of this formidable castle is a highlight along the Causeway Coastal Route, and offers a window into the region’s history. The castle’s story is intertwined with a mix of reality and mythology, and its striking appearance has captured the hearts of millions worldwide, even featuring in the series Game of Thrones.
History of Dunluce Castle
The castle’s origins date back to the 13th century when it was built by Richard Óg de Burgh, the 2nd Earl of Ulster. Later, it became the stronghold of the McQuillan Clan in the early 1500s, before finally falling into the hands of the MacDonnell Clan. Sorley Boy MacDonnell, a notable figure in Irish history, seized the castle and made it the seat of the Earls of Antrim. This magnificent fortress stood the test of time, witnessing numerous battles and changes in ownership, until it eventually fell into ruin after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Today you can visit the remnants of this once-mighty fortress, including the large drum towers, gatehouses, and other structures that showcase the Scottish architectural influence. The castle’s rugged beauty and spectacular sea views make it an unforgettable experience.
Dunluce Castle in Popular Culture
Over the years, Dunluce Castle has captured the imagination of many artists, writers, and filmmakers. Its mysterious charm served as an inspiration for C.S. Lewis’ Cair Paravel in the Chronicles of Narnia. The castle also found its way into the world of rock music, as it graced the cover of Led Zeppelin’s iconic 1973 album, Houses of the Holy. More recently, the castle has become synonymous with one HBO series in particular.
Dunluce Castle on Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones enthusiasts have found a special connection to Dunluce Castle, as its mesmerizing ruins were used extensively in the hit HBO series. The castle’s dramatic location on a sheer cliff, battered by wild seas, made it an ideal setting for the Pyke stronghold, the seat of the House of Greyjoy – rulers of the Iron Islands.
The crumbling towers of Dunluce Castle, perched on stone stacks and linked by swaying rope bridges, bear a striking resemblance to the formidable Iron Islands fortress portrayed in the series. This breathtaking setting provided the perfect backdrop for the tumultuous lives of Theon and Yara Greyjoy, two of the show’s central characters.
Since the series’ debut, Dunluce Castle has become a popular destination for Game of Thrones fans, with tens of thousands visiting each year. Many embark on dedicated tours that explore key filming locations throughout Northern Ireland, allowing them to immerse themselves in the world of Westeros.
Located just a 12-minute drive from both the Giant’s Causeway and Dunseverick Castle, Dunluce Castle is easily accessible along the Causeway Coastal Route. There is limited parking available right outside the castle, but if you can’t find a spot, the nearby Magheracross Car Park is an alternative option. From there, a short walk will lead you back to the castle, but please exercise caution along the busy road.
Opening Hours and Entrance Fee
Regular opening hours are:
- February to November: Daily 9.30am to 5pm.
- December & January: Daily 9.30am to 4pm.
|Adult 18+ years
|£6.00 per ticket
|Child 5 – 17 years
|£4.00 per ticket
|Child Under 5
|£4.50 per ticket
|£18.00 per ticket
The Banshee of Dunluce
Another captivating legend associated with Dunluce Castle is the story of the Banshee. The tale begins with Maeve Roe, the only daughter of Lord MacQuillan. According to the legend, MacQuillan wanted his daughter to marry a man named Richard Oge. However, Maeve had already fallen in love with another man, Reginald O’Cahan.
In an attempt to control his daughter’s destiny, MacQuillan locked Maeve in one of the castle’s turrets. One fateful night, Reginald came to rescue his beloved. The two fled the fortress and set sail for Portrush in a small boat. Tragically, a storm capsized the boat, and neither of them survived. Maeve’s body was never found.
On dark and stormy nights, people have reported hearing eerie, high-pitched wails and screams emanating from the castle’s Northeast Tower – the very place where Maeve was imprisoned by her father. This haunting phenomenon has given birth to the legend of the Dunluce Castle Banshee, a chilling reminder of the castle’s storied past.