The often-missed Glenarm Castle is one of the most popular man-made attractions of the 9 Glens of Antrim.
Still home to the McDonnell family, Earls of Antrim, the castle grounds are open to visitors who fancy soaking up some history and exploring the beautiful gardens.
Visitors to Glenarm Castle can head off on a tour, tackle the woodland walk and, from 2022, visit the Antrim McDonnell Heritage Centre.
There’s also some great food to be had, too! Below, you’ll find everything you need to know, from opening hours and ticket prices to where to visit nearby.
Some quick need-to-knows about Glenarm Castle and Gardens in Antrim
Although a visit to Glenarm Castle Gardens is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Located on the coastal in the town of Glenarm, Located on the coastal in the town of Glenarm, the castle is a 30-minute drive from Ballymena, a 20-minute drive from Larne and a 35-minute drive from Carrickfergus.
Tickets for the guided tour of the castle and gardens are £15 per adult, £10 for an OAP, £7.50 per child (4 – 17) and free for children under 4. If you’re just after a bit of a ramble around the Walled Garden, then ticket prices are £6 per adult, £2.50 for children 4-17 (prices may change).
3. Opening hours
The castle and its gardens are open every day from 9am until 5pm. However, the Glenarm Castle Tea Rooms, The Milk Parlour and some of the retail shops have different opening times, so make sure to check in advance.
4. Home to lots to see and do
While the obvious appeal is the beautiful historic home of the McDonnell family and the Walled Garden, there is plenty of things to see and do at the estate. From enjoying an afternoon tea to spending the night in a romantic glamping pod, you can find the perfect weekend trip at the estate. More info below.
Glenarm Castle history
The McDonnell family arrived in Glenarm from Scotland in the 14th century when John Mor MacDonnell married the heiress to the Glens of Antrim, Marjory Bisset.
The castle was built in its present spot by Randal McDonnell the 1st Earl of Antrim in 1636. Not long after, it was burnt by the Scots and left in ruin for 90 years.
Rebuilding the castle
After their house in Ballymagarry was burnt down in 1750, the McDonnell family decided to rebuild the Glenarm Castle and return to the estate.
The design of the building was changed over the years from a grand country house to a gothic-style castle. Another fire destroyed part of the main block in 1929 and reconstruction began in the 1930s.
What it’s like today
The only part of the castle that has managed to survive since the 18th century is the old kitchen, which is still in use today.
While the castle and gardens remain the private residence of the family, it is open to visitors throughout the year with a variety of museums and dining experiences having been added to the estate.
Things to do at Glenarm Castle Gardens
One of the beauties of a visit here is that there’s plenty to see and do, which make it a great spot to spend an afternoon.
Below, you’ll find everything from the tour and the gardens to the Woodland Walk and much, much more.
1. Explore the gardens
The Walled Garden is a standout feature of the Glenarm Castle estate. The perfectly kept gardens are incredibly colourful with something to admire throughout the seasons.
The blossoms of springtime are a favourite amongst visitors, or you can enjoy peonies and roses in May and June.
You’re free to roam around the gardens with an entry ticket to the garden only or as part of the guided castle tour. There is also an annual Tulip Festival in May with plenty of entertainment to enjoy for the whole family.
2. Head off on the Woodland Walk
If you want to continue stretching your legs beyond the gardens, the new Woodland Walk is the perfect addition to your visit. The beautiful trail winds its way around the estate with a bird’s eye view over the Walled Garden.
As you walk you might be able to spot red squirrels, robins, rabbits and other birds. It’s also a nice way to view some more flowers including camellias, rhododendrons, wild garlic flowers and plenty of acre trees.
3. Take a tour of the castle
A visit to this historic estate is not complete without a proper tour of the castle. The impressive home was built in 1636 by Randal McDonnell and is still the private home of the family today.
Tours run on selected dates throughout the year where you can learn more about the history of the place and wander through the drawing room, dining room, the Blue Room and the hall with a knowledgeable guide. You must book in advance.
4. Visit the Antrim McDonnell Heritage Centre (opening 2022)
If you’re a bit of a history buff, then you’ll be excited to learn that there is going to be a new Antrim McDonnell Heritage Centre opening next year.
The museum will explain the significant part that the McDonnell family has played in the history of Glenarm with a dedicated display and information on the long running heritage of the estate.
5. Step back in time at the Coach House Museum
Another new addition to the estate is the Coach House Museum. Opening next year, this informative centre will give an insight into what it was like to live way back in the 1600s. It will take you through the evolving local life from then until now.
One of the highlights of a visit to the Coach House Museum will be the display of Lord Antrim’s vintage cars. So, if you’re a bit of a motor vehicle enthusiast this will be a must.
6. A post-walk feed at the Glenarm Castle Tea Rooms
Once you’ve rambled your way around the gardens, it’s a perfect place to head for afternoon tea. The well-known Glenarm Castle Tea Rooms in the old Mushroom House is open every day to visitors for breakfast, lunch and tea.
Otherwise, you can try two of the new additions to the dining scene at the castle, including the Milk Parlour with delicious gelato and the Potting Shed for some coffee.
Glamping at Glenarm Castle
If you enjoy the castle enough and don’t want to leave, they have some pretty incredible glamping options worth making a weekend of it. Their four-star luxurious ocean view pods have been awarded as one of the best places to stay in Ireland.
Just a two-minute walk from the castle estate, you can enjoy many of the dining and activities available at the castle and gardens and yet retreat to a romantic stay with sea views in the evening.
The pods are far from a rough camping experience, with complete comfort and plenty of facilities. They can sleep up to four people with a double bed and bunk beds, en-suite shower room, charging plugs and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Things to do near Glenarm Castle
One of the beauties of the castle is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best things to do in Antrim, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Glenarm Castle Gardens (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. The Causeway Coastal Route
The Causeway Coastal Route is one of the highlights of County Antrim. The stunning coastal drive takes in incredible views and plenty of charming towns in all nine Glens of Antrim.
Glenarm is one of the popular stops on the road trip, with the castle and gardens are nice day spent in this pretty coastal town.
2. Glenariff Forest Park (30-minute drive)
Just 30 minutes’ drive to the north west of Glenarm, the Glenariff Forest Park is a perfect place to continue stretching your legs in a park area. The forest has beautiful woodland, lakes and a picnic area, with a variety of different walking trails to explore with the whole family.
3. Glens of Antrim
The Nine Glens of Antrim make up one of the most beautiful parts of the county. The valleys stretch from the Antrim Plateau to the coast north of Belfast City in Northern Ireland.
Glenarm is just one of the Glens, but it is easy to explore more of the incredible landscapes of the other valleys on the Causeway Coastal Route around the coastal town.
FAQs about Glenarm Castle
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether the Glenarm Castle Tea Rooms are worth a visit to when the castle opens.
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.
Is Glenarm Castle worth visiting?
Yes! There’s plenty to see and do here, from the castle tour and the tea rooms to the gardens, the walks and more.
Is Glenarm Castle free?
No. You need to pay for the tour of the castle and the gardens (£15 per adult and less for OAPs and children). A tour of the walled garden is £6 per adult (info above).
Who owns Glenarm Castle?
The castle is owned by Randal McDonnell (the 10th Earl of Antrim).
Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.