Visiting Dunluce Castle: History, Tickets, The Banshee + Game Of Thrones Link

A crumbly castle on the side of a cliff.

dunluce castle antrim
Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll find the iconic ruins of Dunluce Castle perched on jagged cliffs along County Antrim’s magnificent coastline.

One of the more notable stops on the Causeway Coastal Route, Dunluce Castle was first built by the MacQuillan family around 1500.

Although the castle attracted visitors for many years, it was after its appearance in a blockbuster HBO series that it achieved world-wide attention.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from its history and the entrance fee to the Dunluce Castle Game of Thrones link. Dive on in.

Some quick need-to-knows before you visit Dunluce Castle in Ireland

dunluce castle entrance fee
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Although a visit to Dunluce Castle in Ireland is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find Dunluce Castle at the Portrush end of the Causeway Coastal Route, a 12-minute drive from both the Giant’s Causeway and Dunseverick Castle and a handy 6-minute drive from the Old Bushmills Distillery.

2. Parking (potential nightmare)

There’s a tiny bit of parking (and I mean tiny!) right outside the castle. If you can’t get a spot here, try nearby Magheracross Car Park. If you park at Magheracross, you’ll need to walk back down a busy road to the castle, so PLEASE be careful.

3. Entrance fee

It’s near impossible to find the Dunluce Castle entrance fee online, for some bizzare reason. From what I can tell (this could be wrong!) adult tickets cost between £5.50 and £6. 

4. Opening hours

The castle is opening to visitors from 09:30 – 17:00, March to October, and from 09:30 to 16:00, November to February. If visiting during the winter months, try to do finish up the tour before sunset and then get to the viewing point mentioned below to watch the sun drop around the ruins.

5. See it from afar

There are a couple of great vantage points to see the castle from afar, if you don’t fancy doing the tour. There’s a nice pathway leading to this point where you’ll get a good view of it. Just don’t be tempted to climb into the field.

Dunluce Castle history

Like many Irish castles, Dunluce Castle history is an interesting one, and it’s rife with myth and legend, which can often make it tricky to decipher between fact and fiction.

However, we’ll start with the facts first and then dive into the well-known story of the night the kitchen supposedly collapsed into the sea.

The early days

The first castle at Dunluce was built by the 2nd Earl of Ulster, Richard Óg de Burgh, in the 13th century. The castle then passed into the hands of the McQuillan Clan around 1513.

They held onto Dunluce Castle until they were defeated in two bloody battles by the infamous MacDonnell Clan, towards the latter end of the 16th century. It was siezed, many years later, by Sorley Boy MacDonnel.

Ships, cannons and eventual ruin

He kept the castle and added features that are more commonly seen in Scottish castles. Not long after, a ship from the Spanish Armada hit the rocks nearby

The ships cannons were taken from the wreck and inserted into the castles gatehouses. The castle went on to become the seat of the Early of Antrim. It wasn’t until 1690, after the Battle of the Boyne, that the MacDonnells riches dwindled and the castle fell to ruins.

Dunluce Castle Game of Thrones link

game of thrones dunluce castle
Map via Discover NI

Many different locations across Ireland were used during the filming of the HBO Game of Thrones series.

Dunluce Castle, a place that really does look like something from a land that time forgot, was chosen to represent House of Greyjoy, the ruler of the Iron Islands in the show.

Now, for any Game of Thrones fans planning a visit to Dunluce Castle, keep in mind that it won’t look exactly as it did during the series. You can thank digital reconstruction for that.

Myth, legend and the banshee of Dunluce

dunluce castle history
Photos via Shutterstock

As is the case with many castles in Northern Ireland, Dunluce Castle has a fair bit of myth and legend tied to it.

The two best know stories are the one about the banshee and the other about a stormy night on the Antrim Coast.

The collapsed kitchen

According to legend, on a particularly stormy night in 1639, part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the icy waters below.

Legend tells that when the kitchen dropped into the sea, only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sat in the only corner of the kitchen that remained intact.

This story is in fact a myth. There are several paintings from the late 18th and early 19th centuries that show that the end of the castle was still intact at that point.

The banshee

The tale begins with Maeve Roe, the only daughter of Lord MacQuillan. According to legend, MacQuillan wanted his daughter to become engaged to a man name Richard Oge.

However, she had already fallen for someone else – Reginald O’Cahan. So, her lovely aul lad decided to lock her up in one of the castles turrets as punishment.

One night, Reginald O’Cahan visited the castle to rescue Maeve. The pair fled the fortress and made their way to a small boat. Their destination: Portrush.

Alas, the stormy conditions caused the both to capsize and neither survived. Maeve’s body was never recovered. On dark stormy nights, people have reported hearing high pitched wails and screams coming from the Northeast Tower – the one that Maeve was kept in by her father.

Thus, the tale of the Dunluce Castle Banshee was born.

Things to do nearby after the Dunluce Castle tour

One of the beauties of Dunluce Castle is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Antrim.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the castle (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Portrush (10-minute drive)

portrush strand
Photo by Monicami (Shutterstock)

If you fancy exploring more of the coast, you’ll find one of Ireland’s best beaches in nearby Portrush (Whiterocks Beach). There’s also plenty of great restaurants in Portrush if you fancy a feed. There’s a handful of things to do in Portrush, too!

2. Bushmills (6-minutes drive)

bushmills distillery tour
Photo via Bushmills

The Old Bushmills Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery on earth, and the tour here is worth doing even if you don’t drink whiskey. When you finish up, you’re also a handy 15-minute spin from the Dark Hedges.

3. Antrim Coast attractions (10-minutes +)

Dunseverick castle
Photo left: 4kclips. Photo right: Karel Cerny (Shutterstock)

There’s heaps of attractions on the Antrim Coast a short spin away from Dunluce Castle. Here are our favourites:

FAQs about Dunluce Castle in Ireland

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from do you need to book Dunluce Castle to what’s the Dunluce Castle game of thrones link.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Can you go inside Dunluce Castle?

You can! You need to pay the Dunluce Castle entrance fee (around 6 pounds), which you can buy at the door. Read our note above about parking issues.

Do you have to pay to see Dunluce Castle?

No. You can see it from afar (see the Google Map link above) for free! However, if you want to go inside you’ll need to pay.

Do you need to book Dunluce Castle?

No. There’s no online booking system, at the time of typing, for Dunluce Castle. However, note that it gets busy during the summer season.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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