Featured image for Antrim Castle

A Historical Gem – Antrim Castle

Antrim Castle, also referred to as Massereene Castle was a beautiful, three-storey castle based in Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It sits on the dramatic banks of the Sixmilewater River and was erected in stages throughout its development. Though very little of it now remains, it was once a spectacular and picturesque castle.

The history of Antrim Castle

There is very little left of Antrim castle after being ravaged by fire and demolished. This castle was truly a historical gem that sadly met its deadly fate. However, it lived a lovely life before it ended up being demolished.

The early history

Originally built in 1613 by English settler, Hugh Clotworthy, Antrim Castle was a grand building that would soon become a historical gem. In 1662, the castle was enlarged by Hugh’s son, John Clotworthy, 1st Viscount Massereene. The estate and title came to the latter family through his daughter and heiress, Mary, and her marriage to Sir John Skeffington, 4th Baronet (by special remainder he would become the 2nd Viscount Massereene.

Italianate tower at Antrim Castle
All that remains of castle is the tower. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A considerable loss

Sometime during the 1680s, the castle was raided by Richard Hamilton, the Jacobite General, and his men who went forth and looted Viscount Massereene’s silver plate as well as other silverware and furniture. The loot was valued at £3000. This was a considerable loss at the time.

Antrim Castle’s final goodbye

For a long time, the castle was used for political conferences. In 1806, Right Hon. John Foster was the last Speaker of the Irish House and is reported to have spoken in the Oak Room of the castle at a meeting. Antrim Castle was then rebuilt in 1813.

During a grand ball in 1922, the castle caught fire and was almost completely destroyed. Much of the evidence points to arson by the IRA. However, the official verdict was never conclusive. In turn, no insurance claim was ever paid out.

The castle remained a ruin until it was demolished in 1970.

Avenue, Castle Gardens, Antrim
The beautiful gardens. Source: Geograph.

The current day

There is only one slightly raised grassed platform, a freestanding Italian stair tower, a gatehouse, and a few ruined walls left. As it goes, there will likely be very little left in a few years’ time.

Nowadays, the garden is the most popular tourist attraction nearby.

You may enjoy reading about other Irish castles such as Clifden Castle.

Antrim Castle Timeline

  • 1613- English settler, Hugh Clotworthy, builds Antrim Castle
  • 1662- The castle is enlarged by Hugh’s son, John Clotworthy, 1st Viscount Massereene
  • The 1680s- The castle is raided by Richard Hamilton, the Jacobite General, and his men who went forth and looted Viscount Massereene’s silver plate as well as other silverware and furniture
  • 1806- Right Hon. John Foster is the last Speaker of the Irish House and is reported to have spoken in the Oak Room of the castle at a meeting
  • 1813- Antrim Castle is rebuilt
  • 1922- During a grand ball the castle catches fire and is almost completely destroyed
  • 1970- The castle is demolished

Antrim Castle facts

  • Antrim Castle was rebuilt in 1813 as a three-storey Georgian-Gothic castellated mansion
  • The Antrim Castle Gardens were the subject of a £6m restoration project
  • The stable block was later converted for use as a family residence and renamed Clotworthy House
  • The entrance gateway to the demesne has octagonal turrets
  • All that remains of the castle is one slightly raised grassed platform, a freestanding Italian stair tower, a gatehouse, and a few ruined walls

Books on Antrim Castle

  • Antrim Castle Gardens by Kenneth Mundell (2016)

Who owns Antrim Castle?

Now that the castle no longer exists after demolition, it doesn’t have an owner. However, the grounds and Antrim Castle Gardens are owned by the Antrim Borough Council.

Tourism

The castle was demolished in 1970, so while you cannot actually venture inside or visit the castle, you can still see some of the remnants. There are also areas mapped out so that you can gain an understanding of where the castle was. Luckily, the beautiful 400-year-old Antrim Castle Gardens are able to be explored.


You can also enjoy the unique visitor experience over at Clotworthy House, which is buried in the 60-acre gardens. Don’t forget to visit the Antrim Castle cafe with its delicious menu. Your visit also won’t be complete without a stop in the visitor shop, stocking a wide range of gifts and memorabilia.

Nearby, you can visit Giant’s Causeway, Rathlin Island, Dunluce Castle, and the Old Bushmills Distillery.

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