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Dunseverick Castle: An Often-Missed Ruin On The Causeway Coast

Dunseverick Castle: An Often-Missed Ruin On The Causeway Coast

The mighty Dunseverick Castle is one of the more unique castles in Northern Ireland.

And, thanks to it’s proximity to the Giant’s Causeway (10-minute drive), it’s a convienent addition to the Causeway Coastal Drive.

With a fascinating history, filled with legend, Ireland’s first kings, St. Patrick and a fair bit of folklore, there’s plenty to be discovered at Dunseverick.

Things to know before visiting Dunseverick Castle

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

1. Location

Dunseverick Castle is just outside the village of Dunseverick in Antrim, and is around 10 miles (16 km) from Ballycastle. It’s a 5-minute drive from Whitepark Bay Beach and a 10-minute drive from both the Old Bushmills Distillery and the Giants Causeway

2. Parking

There’s a mid-sized car park just off the main route (the A2), shortly after Whitepark Bay Beach here. From the car park, you’ll find a short path that takes you to the castle.

3. Beware the boggy land

Even though the walk from the car park is short, the ground can be pretty boggy, especially if it’s been raining recently. You’ll benefit from a good pair of walking boots, although an old pair of trainers will suffice.

4. Part of the Causeway Coastal Route

Dunseverick Castle is a stop on the Causeway Coastal Route. If you plan on visiting the castle, it’s worth following a logical itinerary that includes the stops before and after Dunseverick.

The history of Dunseverick Castle

Dunseverick Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Like most castles in Northern Ireland, Dunseverick has a rich history that stretches back for more than 1,500 years.

It started life as a stone fort, strategically placed to defend against attacks from the sea. Here’s what’s known about its history.

The early days

The first recorded mention of Dunseverick Castle was in the ‘Annals of Ireland’ these are the earliest chronicles of Ireland and they were created by monks.

One entry mentions Dun Sobhairce (Dunseverick) as the place inhabited by Sobhairce – one of the first Kings of Ireland – during the 5th century AD.

Later, around the 7th century AD, Dunseverick was the stronghold of the Dál Riada – a Gaelic kingdom that covered part of Scotland and Ireland.

Then, around 1250 – 1350 AD, Dunseverick, like nearby Kinbane Castle, it fell into the grasps of the Earls of Ulster.

St. Patrick

It is believed that St. Patrick, Ireland’s Patron Saint, visited Dunseverick during the 5th Century AD. During this visit, he baptised a local man by the name of Olcán.

Olcán went on to become a Bishop of Ireland and a saint of the Dál Riata.

There is a section on the northern side of Dunseverick, known as ‘St. Patrick’s Well’. that is thought to have once been a holy well.

Fergus the Great

In the 6th Century AD, the castle was the seat of Fergus Mor MacEirc. Known as ‘Fergus the Great’, he was king of Dalriada and the great-uncle of Muirceartaigh MacEirc, High King of Ireland.

During this time, the castle served as the departure point of the legendary coronation stone, the ‘Lia Fail’, which was used to crown all of the Kings of Ireland.

Enter the Vikings

Viking raiders attacked Dunseverick in 870 AD, and by 1,000 AD the castle was in the possession of the O’Cahan family.

They held it for several centuries until in 1642 when Cromwellian General Robert Munro captured and destroyed it.

Today, only the ruins of the ancient gatehouse remain. Everything else has already been taken by the sea, yet it still pulses a mystical atmosphere.

Things to do at Dunseverick

While the castle might be in ruins and you can’t expect a guided tour of the throne rooms and royal chambers, there’s still plenty to keep you occupied at Dunseverick Castle.

Below, you’ll find info on everything from views and Dunseverick Falls to the walk out to the Giants Causeway.

1. Soak up the views

Be it a blazing sunny day or a moody, drizzly winter’s afternoon, Dunseverick Castle offers a unique coastal location.

Like stepping into a fairytale, gazing across the crumbling ruins and out to sea can transport you to another world, when kings would gaze out at their sea-kingdom and invaders would tremble at the behemoth atop the rugged cliffs. 

The surrounding cliffs continue to battle the ocean in vain, with scars of the past and huge chunks of land washed away, creating rugged surroundings.

Look closely and you can spot Rathlin Island, and maybe even the Scottish Isles of Islay and Jura. 

2. Visit Dunseverick Falls

Dunseverick Falls

Photo via Shutterstock

Just a stone’s throw from the castle you’ll come across the stunning Dunseverick Falls. A small river meets the sea by diving off the cliff tops to create a wonderful spectacle.

If you park at the nearby Dunseverick Harbour, there’s a short coastal walk that you can take to reach the waterfall.

Something of a hidden gem, you can enjoy the sounds and sights of land meeting sea at Dunseverick Falls.

3. Walk to the Giant’s Causeway

Dunseverick Castle is very close to the Giants Causeway and there’s a footpath that’ll take you straight there.

The footpath is an almost 5-mile section of the larger Causeway Coast Way and Ulster Way. Here’s some handy info:

  • Walk length: 1 hour and 40 minutes – 2 hours
  • Type: Linear trail
  • Bus: You can walk to the Causeway and get the bus back (see map above)

Things to see nearby

Causeway Coastal Route Drive

One of the beauties of Dunseverick Castle is that it’s a short spin away from some 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 Dunseverick Castle:

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