Castle Ruins in Ulster, Ireland

by Valerie A. Modreski
Dunluce Castle is built on a 100-ft. cliff with a sea cave beneath.

Dunluce Castle is built on a 100-ft. cliff with a sea cave beneath.

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The northern province of Ireland, also known as Ulster, encompasses nine counties. Famous for its castles, Ulster embodies a rich historical value that entices tourists. Many of Ulster's castles have functioned as monasteries, home to monks who took religious vows of seclusion. The structure often was known as an abbey. Other historical functions of Ulster's castles include housing for military garrisons and domestic domiciles for royalty and the wealthy. The ruins left behind are testaments to the region's historical significance.

County Antrim

Many of Ireland's castles were built on the northern-most tip of the country called County Antrim. The Dunaneeny castle ruins stand on the Kinbane summit, which rises 300 feet above sea level. The name, Dunaneeny translates into "the fort of the assembly." The original plot measures 60 yards from east to west and 35 yards north to south. Each side is surrounded by the sea except the entrance on the south. The southern face of the castle was protected by a moat cut through solid rock. The highest remaining structural wall is 12 1/2 feet; all evidence of the castle proper has disappeared. Kilwaughter Castle ruins lie near the town of Kilwaughter, southwest of Larne. Kilwaughter Castle was built as a strategically sound and secure fortress in the 17th century. It is four stories high with turrets on every corner. After the second world war, the castle remained unoccupied and eventually fell to ruin. The structure that remains is an impressive castle, but the floors and roof have collapsed. The interior of the ruins cannot be visited; the castle can only be viewed from a distance.

Other Antrim Castle Ruins

The ruins of Dunluce Castle are located on the north County Antrim coast; they stand 100 ft. above sea level. These ruins are the largest in northern Ireland. The castle can be reached only by a modern bridge, which replaced the original dilapidated structure. The Dunluce Castle ruins include the Manor House, built in the 1630s, complete with a grand hall, two fireplaces and three large windows. The kitchen complex, part of which fell into the sea in 1639, killing many of the castle staff, still stands. A workshop on the ground floor also remains. Shane's Castle, originally called Eden-duff-carrick, was built in 1345. Shane MacBrien O'Neill changed the name in 1722; he was later buried in the adjoining graveyard. The graveyard is a preserved addition to the castle ruins. Parts of the castle were irretrievably destroyed by fire in 1816. Many of the castle structures were left in disrepair, but the esplanade, the cannon and a grand conservatory are left.

County Down

The Greencastle Estate House ruins are located in the northern Irish village of Inoshowen. The Green Castle was built in the 13th century as protection for the southern approach to the Earldom of Ulster. The fortress was stormed 1260 and again in 1375, but the castle remained and held an English garrison until the 1590s. Green Castle was abandoned after the bombing and destruction caused by Parliamentary forces in 1652. The castle ruins are fragmented and overgrown with flora, but the grounds are a State Care Historic Monument.

County Fermanagh

The Monea Castle ruins are the most complete and well-preserved of all the castles of Ulster. Built in 1616, this plantation castle is described as a strong structure of lime and stone, 54 ft. long and 20 ft. wide. The castle walls are 9 ft. in height and measure 300 ft. around. These ruins are located six miles northwest of Enniskillen. Tully Castle lies on scenic Tully Point. Originally built as a home and farmhouse, Tully Castle has been abandoned since 1641. Horrific stories of fire and massacre plague the castle's past, but it remains structurally sound and in good repair. Tully Castle is located in Enniskillen.

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