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An Ancient Royal Site – Dunseverick Castle

Situated in the heart of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, near the tiny village of Dunseverick is the gorgeous Dunseverick Castle. Not far from the Giant’s Causeway, this ruin was once a splendid castle that rose high above the Causeway coastline. The castle and earthworks are Scheduled Historic Monuments in the townland of Feigh, in the Moyle District Council area.

The history of Dunseverick Castle

This marvelous ruin is perched atop the rugged Causeway coastline. It sits on the ancient royal site of the Dál Riada, a Gaelic kingdom from at least the 5th century AD. It is said that this impressive coastal promontory was blessed by none other than Saint Patrick.

This beautiful castle dates back long ago and while its history is short, it is certainly endearing.

The early history

In the early 5th century AD, Saint Patrick is said to have visited Dunseverick Castle where he baptized a local known as Olcán, who later became a well-known Bishop of Ireland.

A ruined Dunseverick Castle on the coast line
Dunseverick Castle is now in a ruined state. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Fergus Mor MacEirc

Dunseverick Castle was the seat of Fergus Mor MacEirc, also known as Fergus the Great during the late part of the 6th century AD. Fergus was the mighty King of Dalriada as well as the great-uncle of the High King of Ireland, Muirceartaigh (Murtagh) MacEirc.

The very original stone fort that occupied the site was attacked by Viking raiders in 870 AD. However, the extent of the damage is unknown.

Captured and destroyed

In the 1650’s the castle was captured and destroyed by Cromwellian troops. However, there are also records stating that it was destroyed by a Scottish army under the command of General Robert Munro who was sent with his troops to Ireland in 1642. Today, only the ruins of the gate lodge remain on the site.

Until 1978, there was a small residential tower on sight until it surrendered to the rough sea below.

The current day

Dunseverick Castle was an ancient site in Ireland. In fact, one of the five great royal highways, or slighe of ancient Ireland, Slige Midluachra, had its terminal point at Dunseverick Castle. It ran from the castle to Emain Macha and further to Tara and the fording point on the Liffey at what is now Dublin.

In 1962, Dunseverick Castle and the peninsula were given to the National Trust by a local farmer known as Jack McCurdy. Nowadays, it is a simple ruin sitting above the ocean on the coastline. 

Dunseverick Castle
A close up of what remains of the castle. Source: Geograph.

Dunseverick Castle Timeline

  • 5th century AD- Saint Patrick visits Dunseverick Castle where he baptizes a local known as Olcán, who becomes a well-known Bishop of Ireland
  • 6th century AD- Dunseverick Castle is the seat of Fergus Mor MacEirc, also known as Fergus the Great
  • 850 AD- The very original stone fort that occupies the site is attacked by Viking raiders and the extent of the damage is unknown
  • 1642- Dunseverick Castle is destroyed by a Scottish army under the command of General Robert Munro who is sent with his troops to Ireland
  • 1650s-The castle is captured and destroyed by Cromwellian troops
  • 1962- Dunseverick Castle and the peninsula are given to the National Trust by a local farmer known as Jack McCurdy
  • 1978- The small residential tower on sight surrenders to the rough sea below

Dunseverick Castle facts

  • The very original stone fort that occupied the site was attacked by Viking raiders
  • The castle sits right on the Causeway coastline and boasts a dramatic view
  • The castle sits on the royal site of the Dál Riada, a Gaelic kingdom from at least the 5th century AD
  • Dunseverick Castle and earthworks are Scheduled Historic Monuments in the townland of Feigh, in Moyle District Council area
  • One of the five great royal highways, or slighe of ancient Ireland, Slige Midluachra, had its terminal point at Dunseverick Castle
  • The castle was captured and destroyed by Cromwellian troops. However, there are also records stating that it was destroyed by a Scottish army under the command of General Robert Munro who was sent with his troops to Ireland

Who owns Dunseverick Castle?

In 1962, Dunseverick Castle and the peninsula were given to the National Trust by a local farmer known as Jack McCurdy. However, it is controlled by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Tourism

Though the castle is in extreme ruin now, you can still visit and enjoy one of the Dunseverick Castle walks around the ancient site. Beware though, there is very little of the actual castle left aside from the gate lodge. You can wander on the site as you please, though caution should be exercised as it is not only close to a cliff, but the structure itself is fragile.

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

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