09 Apr Dunseverick Castle, County Antrim
This was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Dal Riada, and is thought to have been one of the three great ‘duns’, or royal forts, visited by St Patrick in the 5th century. It lay at the end of an ancient route from Dundalk in County Louth, and there are extensive Celtic circular earth banks on the headland. Vikings captured Dunseverick in AD 871 and destroyed it in 934. The ruined 16th century tower is all that has survived from the period of struggle between the area’s main warring families – the MacDonnells, O’Neills, O’Cahans and MacQuillans.
‘The fate of the Children of Uisneach’, the oldest of Ireland’s love stories, claims that Dunseverick was the landing spot of Deirdre of the Sorrows. Deirdre, although betrothed to King Conor, eloped with his handsome bodyguard, Naoise, and his two brothers to Scotland. Eventually, persuaded by Fergus, Conor’s Deputy, that it was safe to return, they came back to Dunseverick. But the King took revenge. He slew the brothers and demanded Deirdre for his own. In her anguish, Deirdre killed herself and Fergus, outraged, destroyed the castle.
Dunseverick is a real must see attraction and is worth a stop on your tours of Ireland while visiting the spectacular North Coast.