For more than 750 years there has been a castle at Glenarm and it remains today one of the few stately homes still used by a titled family. The Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce live at Glenarm Castle, but open up the house and gardens to the general public to enjoy the history of one of Ireland’s oldest families. The castle and walled garden have charmed countless visitors and have even become a venue for pop concerts. Glenarm is only a few miles from Ballymena and there are plenty of welcoming hotels, guesthouses, and family-run bed and breakfasts in the area to pick from.
The Long History of Glenarm Castle
Scottish noble John Bisset acquired the lands around Glenarm in 1242 after he was thrown out of Scotland for killing one of his rivals during a tournament. He built the first Glenarm Castle and part of its walls can still be seen at Glenarm village, in the old courthouse. The Bissets warred with the MacDonnell family, who eventually captured the castle and seized their lands. In 1626, Randle MacDonnell, the Earl of Antrim, decided to build a more magnificent home – the Glenarm Castle that has survived to the modern day.
The castle building is open to the public at set times of year, roughly once a month during the summer, although it is possible to arrange group visits. Inside, there are some excellent examples of Irish furniture dating back to the 17th Century and portraits of MacDonnells through the ages. Four-poster beds, classical columns and magnificent frescoed ceilings can all be seen inside.
The Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle
If you can’t make a guided tour of the castle or one of the open days, then Glenarm Castle’s walled garden is an easier option. The garden is open from Easter to the end of September and is one of the finest of its type in Northern Ireland. The garden was designed to be the castle’s kitchen garden, packed with fruit and vegetables, but now it has a cornucopia of flowers and plants in hundreds of varieties.
There are several key features. The Mount is a 15ft high grass dome from which you can enjoy views of the castle and the North Sea. The Yew Circle is a classical circular hedge around the herb garden that dates back to the 1820s. You’ll also see a delightful apple orchard, a greenhouse built nearly 200 years ago and a fountain and cascade.
Staying Close to Glenarm Castle
The delightful walled garden and impressive 17th century castle make Glenarm an excellent destination for anyone visiting County Antrim and Ballymena. There are lots of other attractions nearby, and of course lots of great hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts. Expedia can help you choose the right one for you, with plenty of information here to make your selection. A visit to Glenarm Castle is sure to reward any visitor.