Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Glenarm Castle, Co. Antrim

Glenarm is situated on the stunningly picturesque Antrim Coast. Famed for its rugged beauty and coastline the county of Antrim is located on the island's far northeastern reaches. On a clear day the coast of Scotland is visible. And it is to the Scotland that this part of the country owes much of its history and heritage, Antrim having been heavily populated with Scots settlers from the late sixteenth century onwards. However, the connection with Scotland had long predated this migration; since the thirteenth century Glenarm had been home to the MacEoin Bissets, a land owning family whom had come to Ulster from Scotland. In the sixteenth century it came into the hands of another Scots family, the McDonnells. In 1636 the McDonnells rebuilt an already existing medieval castle. Unfortunately for them though the renovated castle was sacked in 1642 by an invading Scots force. The family then returned to Dunluce Castle, dubbed Ulster's 'lost town', where they remained until the mid-eighteenth century, returning eventually to Glenarm. 

In 1750 the family resettled at Glenarm, Dunluce having been effectively abandoned. The shell of the standing ruin at Glenarm was used as the base for a new Palladian mansion. Like many other existing houses in Ireland, Glenarm was affected by the growth of the Romantic movement, with substantial changes being made to its appearance in the early nineteenth century. While some houses were remodeled as neo-Gothic style castles, a few took on the appearance of Jacobean mansions. This was the case at Glenarm, where the house was given flanking towers, crenelations, and a Jacobean style porch.

Above is an image of the gatelodge, or barbican as it was commonly known. The lodge was built as part of the renovations of the early nineteenth century, erected in 1826 by the countess of Antrim. The McDonnells were granted the title 'earl of Antrim' in 1620 by James I. Although receiving favour, the family were looked upon with some suspicion, especially in the tumultuous seventeenth century, as they had had remained Catholic, resisting efforts to conform to Protestantism. The title is still in use to this day, Alexander McDonnell being the fourteenth earl of Antrim. The castle is now a major centre for tourism and culture, with many events promoting cultural ties with Scotland.

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