Glenarm is the nearest large village north from Broughshane on the Antrim Coast. It has a couple of pubs, a Goldsmiths and marina.
There has been a castle at Glenarm since the days of John Bisset, who was expelled from Scotland in 1242 for murdering a rival during a tournament. He promised to do penance by going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but instead he acquired lands between Larne and Ballycastle from Hugh de Lacy, the Earl of Ulster. Bisset made Glenarm his capital.
In the 16th Century when Sorley Boy McDonnell came over from Scotland to consolidate McDonnell territories in both Ireland and Scotland, his main base became Dunluce Castle. Dunluce Castle is one of the most iconic monuments in Northern Ireland situated as it is rather precariously on the craggy and treacherous Antrim coast and it provides a very important chapter in the history of the McDonnells of Antrim and North East Ulster.
It was Sorley Boy’s grandson, the 2nd Earl of Antrim, and his wife who finally decided to abandon Dunluce. In 1639 as they were waiting for dinner one evening the kitchen, along with kitchen staff, fell into the sea. This is thought to have been the final straw. Although the 1st Earl of Antrim had already built a fine house at Glenarm, this was burnt down in the 1640s by a Scots Covenanter army, so even though they still visited a wing of the house, the Antrim family based itself at a house near Dunluce called Ballymagarry until Glenarm Castle was rebuilt by the 5th Earl in 1756.
Dunluce Castle still belongs to the McDonnell family, however, it is currently managed under a deed of guardianship by the Northern Irish Environment Agency.
The present castle was built by ‘Randle McDonnel knight Earl of Antrim around 1636. It was the same square building we see today, but no architectural details remain apart from a coat of arms now incorporated in The Barbican gateway. It was probably a plain Irish Jacobean building with simple mullioned windows and a few embellishments.
The castle is now the home of Randal, Viscount Dunluce, son of the 14th Earl of Antrim, with his wife Aurora, their son Alexander and daughter Helena.