Dunluce Castle , County Antrim

The 16th century Dunluce Castle is perched on a fine headline , high above a cave , it looks as if it only needs a roof to be perfectly habitable once again. Its history is inextricably linked to that of its original owner , Sorley Boy MacDonnell , whose clan , the so-called “Lords of the Isles” , ruled North Eastern Ulster from this base.

English incursions into the area culminated in 1584 with Sir John Perrott laying siege to Dunluce , forcing Sorley Boy (“Yellowed Charles” in Irish) to leave the castle. But as soon as Perrott departed , leaving a garrison in charge.

Sorley Boy hauled his men up the cliff in baskets and recaptured the castle , later repairing the damage with the proceeds of the salvaged wreckage of the Girona and arming the fort with three of its cannons.

Having made his point , Sorley Boy agreed a peace with the English , and his son , Randal , was created Viscount Dunluce and Earl of Antrim by James I. In 1639 , Dunluce Castle paid the penalty for its precarious , if impregnable , position when the kitchen fell off the cliff during a storm , complete with cooks and dinner.  Shortly afterwards , the MacDonnells’ moved to more comfortable lodgings at Glenarm , and Dunluce was left empty.

However , it remains an extraordinary place. The MacDonnells’ Scottish connections – Sorley Boy’s son continued to own land in Kintyre – are evident in the gatehouse’s turrets and crow-step gables and the tapering chimneys of the 17th century Great Hall. There’s a strange touch of luxury in the loggia that , oddly , faces away from the sun. A spectacular scramble , particularly in wild weather , takes you down to the cave below the castle that pierces right through the promontory , with an opening directly under the gatehouse.

Dunluce Castle is a must see attraction on your tours of Ireland.