Thursday, 19 April 2018


Such is the appeal of the now-ruined Dunluce Castle that it, and its magnificent surroundings, have been the inspiration for both poetry and music.  The 4-part poem published in 1814 by Edward Quillinan sets the scene at length, describing the castle itself, the roar of the Atlantic “in wildest fury frantic” and the dramatic coastline around it.  A tone poem called Dunluce was written in 1921 by Irish composer Norman Hay, while a more recent musical work called Dunluce Castle was performed by the Irish Rovers in the 1990s.  The castle made an appearance on the sleeves of two albums: Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy in 1973 and American musician Jandek’s Glasgow Friday in 2008.  The castle is believed to have been the inspiration for Cair Paravel in Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.  Finally, not surprisingly, the castle was one of the many Northern Irish locations used in Game of Thrones as the castle of Pyke, seat of House Greyjoy.

Dunluce Castle was the first stop on our wonderful drive along the Causeway Coast a few years ago, and it set the scene magnificently for the rest of it.  The castle was built by the MacQuillan family around the year 1500, but 50 years later it was seized by the MacDonnell clan.  There was once a small town called Dunluce, founded by the Earls of Antrim in the 17th century.  The town was abandoned long ago, but visitors can view the remains uncovered by an archaeological dig.  The castle’s precarious position perched over the foaming sea was allegedly the cause of a catastrophe in 1639, when the castle’s kitchen fell into the sea along with the unfortunate kitchen staff while the 2nd Earl of Antrim and his wife were waiting for their dinner.  However, the veracity of this story is in some doubt, since the kitchen is still in situ among the present-day ruins.  What is for sure is that in the 18th century the north wall of the residence building did fall into the sea.  The remaining walls are still standing. 

File:Awesome Dunluce Castle.jpg
Photo by Osioni, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 5 April 2018


Looking at Portballintrae on the map, the eye is drawn to a small but perfectly formed horseshoe-shaped bay.  At one end of this is a small harbour, formerly the haunt of the local fishermen, but nowadays used mostly by leisure craft, and at the eastern end is Salmon Rock Beach which, while popular with families, is risky for swimmers.  The Bush River wends its way down to the coast to the northeast of the village, enclosing the Bushfoot Golf Course.  Back in 2007 it was reported that Donald Trump was considering the village as the site of a £1 billion golf complex, but it never came to pass. 

On the outskirts of the village are two strange mounds of earth forming concentric rings.  Known as the Lissanduff Earthworks, it is not clear what their original purpose might have been.  Some archaeologists, however, think they may have been linked to ancient worship rituals.  Fast forwarding to the 16th century, in 1588 a Spanish galleass called the Girona, part of the Spanish Armada, sank off Lacada Point, further back along the coast from Portballintrae.  In the 1960s a treasure trove from the ship was recovered by a team of Belgian divers, and was hauled ashore at Portballintrae.  It was the greatest find ever recovered from a Spanish Armada vessel and the gold jewellery from the hoard is displayed in the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

File:The bay of Port Ballintrae. - - 435121.jpg
Photo by Des Colhoun, via Wikimedia Commons