History and Heritage

Glenarm Castle

Photograph of the Barbican Gate at Glenarm Castle

Glenarm Castle has been the family home of the Earls of Antrim for over 400 years. The Castle is occasionally open to the public. We also welcome Group Visits to the Castle at other times subject to availability.

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, and by 1260 there was a castle, which stood at the centre of the present village, with a kitchen garden, an orchard and a mill, as well as woods and meadows. The old village courthouse still incorporates some of its walls, indeed an immured skeleton was discovered there in the 1970s.

In 1929 the main body of the house was badly damaged by a fire that was started, it is said, by the housekeeper keeping a fire constantly going in her bedroom to warm a featherless parrot. This accident led to much unimaginative rebuilding. The gothic windows were replaced with rectangular ones and the baroque hall lost its plasterwork.

This goaded Angela Sykes, the next countess and a professional sculptor, to give the hall new vigour. During the uneasy year of peace before World War Two, and under the aegis of her husband and the author Robert Byron, she started sculpting the gods of the nine planets to act as new caryatids. However Robert Byron was killed in the war and Lady Antrim found she could not finish the work he had inspired. Instead she painted other rooms with interpretations of family and classical mythologies. Another fire in 1965 led to the demolition of the servants' wing, with the exception of the Kitchen, the only room in continuous use since the seventeenth century.

Glenarm Castle is the home of Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and their family. The present castle has been in the McDonnell family since it was first built in 1636. The McDonnells have been in Glenarm for nearly 600 years and the Estate has been in the family for 400 years. In the house you will see superb examples of Irish furniture as well as portraits of family members from the early 17th Century through to the present day. Before taking up full time residence at Glenarm the family lived most notably at Dunluce Castle.

You can read more about the history of the Castle on the Glenarm Castle website.

Opening Times:

The Walled Garden and Tea Room are open from 17 March to mid-October.

Mon – Sat: 10am – 5pm 
Sun: 11am – 5pm

Garden Admission:

Adult: £5 
Youth (12-16): £2.50 
Children: FREE 
Member: FREE

Opening last year, we are now offering an exciting new Castle Trail which will allow visitor to see more of the Estate and in particular the Castle. Due to a working estate, consisting of many events, weddings, corporate events & general estate activity, the Castle Trail is not always available.

Castle Trail Admission

Adult: £7.50 (includes access to Walled Garden) 
Youth (12-16): £2.50 
Member (Adult/Family): FREE 
Children: FREE

Please contact the Walled Garden on T: 028 288 41 984 before setting off on your journey.

Castle Trail is only available with Garden Admission.


2 Castle Lane
Co. Antrim
BT44 0BQ