Dunluce Castle (from Irish: Dún Libhse) is a now-ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland. It is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim (between Portballintrae and Portrush), and is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. The castle is surrounded by extremely steep drops on either side, which may have been an important factor to the early Christians and Vikings who were drawn to this place where an early Irish fort once stood.
In the 13th century Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, built the first castle at Dunluce.
It is first documented in the hands of the MacQuillin family in 1513. The earliest features of the castle are two large drum towers about 9 metres (30 ft) in diameter on the eastern side, both relics of a stronghold built here by the MacQuillins after they became lords of the district, the chieftain of which was known as Lord of the Route, in the late 13th century.
The MacQuillins were a warlike clan whose family motto was “Death Before Dishonor” (“Bás Roimh Obadh”). They were the Lords of Route from the late 13th C until they were displaced by the Clan MacDonald after losing two major battles against them during the mid and late-16th C. The last MacQuillin Clan Chieftain in Ireland was Rory Óg MacQuillin who was quoted as saying “No captain of the MacQuillin Clan ever died in bed.” In the second decisive battle in 1583 Rory killed the opposing Clan Chieftain in single combat on the first day and was himself killed on the second day in the general battle.
After losing its position as the Lords of Route the MacQuillin Clan was displaced from Dun Luce Castle and declined in importance, eventually becoming very early immigrants to America. The first MacQuillin documented to have arrived in America was Teague MacQuillin who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1632. As the Quillins and Quillians they are centered in Virginia, Georgia, and Texas.
Later Dun Luce Castle became the home of the chief of the Clan MacDonnell of Antrim and the Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg from Scotland. Chief John Mor MacDonald was the second son of Good John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, 6th chief of Clan Donald in Scotland. John Mor MacDonald was born through John of Islay’s second marriage to Princess Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert II of Scotland. In 1584, on the death of James MacDonald the 6th chief of the Clan MacDonald of Antrim and Dunnyveg, the Antrim Glens were seized by Sorley Boy MacDonnell, one of his younger brothers. Sorley Boy took the castle, keeping it for himself and improving it in the Scottish style. Sorley Boy swore allegiance to James IV of Scotland and his son Ranald was made Randal MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim by Queen Elizabeth.
Four years later, the Girona, a galleass from the Spanish Armada was wrecked in a storm on the rocks nearby. The cannon from the ship were installed in the gatehouses and the rest of the cargo sold, the funds being used to restore the castle. MacDonnell’s granddaughter Rose was born in the castle in 1613.
At one point, part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the sea, after which the wife of the owner refused to live in the castle any longer. According to a legend, when the kitchen fell into the sea only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sitting in the corner of the kitchen which did not collapse.
Dunluce Castle served as the seat of the Earl of Antrim until the impoverishment of the MacDonnells in 1690, following the Battle of the Boyne. Since that time, the castle has deteriorated and parts were scavenged to serve as materials for nearby buildings.
In 1973 the castle appeared on the inner gatefold of the multi-million selling Led Zeppelin album Houses of the Holy. It is also featured on the cover of the album Glasgow Friday by American musician Jandek. The castle appeared as Snakehead’s hideout under the name ‘Ravens Keep’ in the 2003 movie, The Medallion, which starred Jackie Chan.