By Colin Breen
Four Courts Press, 2012
Publisher’s Description: Dunluce Castle, dramatically positioned on cliffs that plunge straight into the sea, was for centuries at the centre of a maritime lordship encompassing north Ulster and the Western Isles of Scotland. While there is evidence of settlement at this north Antrim location since the early medieval period, the castle itself was not constructed until the end of the fifteenth century. Built by the MacQuillans, it was later occupied by the MacDonnells, who engaged in an extensive programme of rebuilding. This, the first full study of the castle, details its historical context and summarizes the architectural development of the site from the close of the fifteenth century through to its abandonment in the final decades of the seventeenth century. It also outlines the findings of a major programme of archaeological excavation and survey that has uncovered previously unidentified medieval buildings and large sections of a town built around the site from 1608 but destroyed three decades later. This fully illustrated book also provides a history of tourism and conservation at the castle, Northern Ireland’s most visited historic monument.
Excerpt: The original enclosure castle was probably built by the MacQuillans after 1490 and prior to 1513. There are no historical records that suggest an earlier date and the architectural features associated with the earliest levels are strongly suggestive of a construction date sometime in this two-decade period. Architectural analysis and an interpretation of its structural development are complicated by a number of factors. Firstly, the castle was almost continuously occupied over a two hundred year period during which it underwent a number of changes of ownership and significant phases of refurbishment. Secondly, following its abandonment in the 1680s, the castle quickly fell into a state of disrepair. Subsequent conservation efforts were often unsympathetic and were rarely systematically catalogued. As a result, it has often been difficult to separate out recent repair work to the walls and original masonry. Many original features have also been altered, adjusted or even, in some cases, lost or removed further hindering interpretation. Nevertheless, a provisional development sequence is presented in this book.
Book Review by Andrew Hadfield in Times Higher Education: The castle has become one of Northern Ireland’s most recognisable features and is now a major tourist attraction, the ruins on a rocky outcrop appearing in numerous pictures and photographs. There were castles built along and near the north coast of Ireland from Anglo-Norman times, such as Ballylough Castle near Bushmills, most constructed by the MacQuillan family who dominated the area between 1300 and 1555. ~ Click here to read the full review
50 things you probably never knew about Dunluce Castle – by Linda Stewart in the Belfast Telegraph
Excavations at Dunluce Castle – from the University of Ulster
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