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The History Of Kinbane Castle In Antrim (Plus Visitor Info)

The History Of Kinbane Castle In Antrim (Plus Visitor Info)

The ruins of Kinbane Castle are finely situated on a crumbly headland at the foot of 140 steps.

Located along the Causeway Coastal Route between the towns of Ballycastle and Ballintoy, Kinbane boasts a colourful history.

Below, you can find out about its history (including its ties to Sorley Boy MacDonnell) along with some safety warnings. Cheers!


Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Kinbane Castle

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

1. Location

You’ll find the ruins of Kilbane Castle dramatically located on a craggy headland between Ballycastle (5-minute drive) and Ballintoy (10-minute drive). It’s also a handy 10-minute spin from Carrick-a-rede and 15-minutes from Whitepark Bay Beach.

2. Parking

There’s a decent bit of parking near Kinbane Castle here on Google Maps. The only time you may have hassle parking here is during the summer.


3. Steps (warning!)

To reach Kinbane Castle, you’ll need to make your way down 140 steps. This is a steep aul descent and ascent, so it isn’t suitable for those with limited mobility. Pay particular care after rainfall. We’d also avoid walking up the hill past the castle, as it’s steep and uneven.

The history of Kinbane Castle

Kinbane Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

As is the case with many castles in Northern Ireland, the history of Kinbane Castle is dotted with battles and many change of ownerships.

The story begins in 1547 when Colla MacDonnell, the son of the Lord of Islay and Kintyre, built a castle where the current ruins stand.

The early days

The original Kinbane Castle saw its fair share of action over the years. It was very nearly obliterated during several sieges by the English in the 1550s.

It was rebuilt soon after. Then, in 1558, Colla MacDonnell died suddenly in unknown circumstances at Kinbane.

Information around his passing is scarce, but it appears that it was natural, and not as a result of another siege.


Bulls and bad luck

Colla’s brother, the famous Sorley Boy MacDonnell, arranged with Gillaspick to exchange Kinbane for another property on  Colonsay Island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

However, soon after, in 1571, Gillaspick met his end.

His uncle, Sorley Boy, ordered a celebration to take place in nearby Ballycastle as a way of marking Gillaspick’s entry into manhood. Tragedy struck and Gillaspick was gored by a bull.


Kinbane’s later years

Kinbane Castle was later given to Clan MacAlister, a Scottish Clan, to thank them for their loyalty during numerous conflicts.

The castle remained in the ownership of the MacAlisters until some point during the 1700s.

It was then purchased by the Woodside family from Ballycastle before being left to fall into ruin.

The ‘Hollow of the English’

One of the more interesting features of Kinbane Castle is a hollow section beneath the castle known as the ‘Hollow of the English’.

According to local legend, it earned its name during another siege by English soldiers.

During the siege, the soldiers were surrounded and subsequently killed.


Things to do at Kinbane

It’s likely that Kinbane will only be a short stop as you spin along the Antrim Coast.

With that said, here’s how to make the most out of your time there.

1. Enjoy the views as you descend the steps

So, the steps here (there’s 140 of them!) can be a bit tiring, but there’s plenty to soak up along the way.

When you leave the car park and you start to make your way around the trail alongside the cliffs, you’ll be treated to some glorious coastal views.

If you need a breather, there’s everything from craggy cliff-face to crashing waves on offer.


2. Have a nosey around the castle

Kinbane Castle is now in ruins, but you can still climb up to it and have a nosey around.

Just avoid walking to the top of the headland, as it’s steep and you’ll do yourself serious injury if you loose your footing.

Now, while there are steps up to the castle itself, just be weary of the path that leads up to the bottom of the headland, as it’s uneven and it can get slippy underfoot.

Places to visit nearby

Causeway Coastal Route Drive

One of the beauties of Kinbane is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Antrim.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Kinbane Castle (if you’re feeling hungry, there’s plenty of restaurants in Ballycastle a short spin away).


Frequently asked questions

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what is the Kinbane Castle Game of Thrones link to what things to do in Northern Ireland are located nearby.

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.

How Many Steps Does Kinbane Castle Have?

From the elevated parking area there are 140 steps that lead down to the ruins of the castle.

Is Kinbane worth a visit?

While Kinbane is worth a visit, there are more impressive castles nearby. If you have to choose between Dunluce and Kinbane, opt for Dunluce.

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Joseph McTigue

Wednesday 28th of February 2024

Thank you for posting this, very refreshing read!

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