19 May Bushmills Distillery & Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
Leaving the Causeway, turn inland to Bushmills, noted for the “Old Bushmills” Whiskey Distillery. This had a license to distil whiskey dated 1608, although it was distilled for some centuries earlier. The town also has a salmon research station. From here the B17 leads directly southwest to Coleraine.
The A2 shortly regains the coast before passing Dunluce Castle. With its picturesque towers and gables its stands spectacularly on a projecting rock separated from the mainland by a deep chasm, spanned by a bridge which replaces a drawbridge. Probably begun c1300 by Richard De Burgh, Earl of Ulster, it was reconstructed c1590 by James MacDonnell. It consists of a barbican, two main towers, and the remains of the great hall. The buildings on the mainland where erected after 1639, when part of the kitchen and 8 servants subside into a cave below during a storm.
Dunluce was taken by the MacDonnells (a sept of the McDonalds of the isles) in the 16th century and Sorely Boy MacDonnell was a prominent figure in the struggle against Shane O’Neil and the English. Sir John Perrot entered the place after a 9-month siege in 1584 but Sorely Boy recaptured it and made peace with the English, although his son James assisted Cuellar and other Spaniards to escape to Scotland in 1588, avoiding death at the hands of the English and their allies. Randall, James’s brother, was made Viscount Dunluce and Earl of Antrim by James I. The castle fell into decay during the 17th century wars.
To the west are the curious limestone formations known as the White Rocks (with numerous caves accessible by boat in calm weather), and offshore lie a line of reefs known as The Skerries. Beyond is the promontory of Ramore Head on which stands the resort of Portrush. Coleraine lies southwest, but the main road continues to the adjacent resort of Portstewart, extending from the harbour on the east to Backcastle, beyond which the cliffs die away into a sandy beach.
Bushmills Distillery & Dunluce Castle are must see attractions on your tour of Ireland.