On the Portrush to Bushmills road, three miles east of Portrush, Dunluce is one of a series of fortifications built on rocky outcrops extending into the sea and is thought by many to be the most picturesque and romantic of Irish castles. A defended site from at least 500 A.D., the present Castle incorporates two of the original Norman towers dating from 1305. It was the power base of the North Coast for nearly 400 years and alternatively occupied by the warring Clans of Ulster, McQuillens, O'Neills, and McDonnells. It was during McDonnell's rule when preparations were under way for a grand Christmas banquet, that a large part of the castle collapsed into the sea taking with it nine unfortunate servants who happened to be working in the kitchens at the time. A tinker who was sitting on a window escaped their fate and the outline of "Tinker's Window" can be seen to this day.
Dunluce Old Church, now a roofless ruin, but once an important early foundation, is supposedly connected to the castle by an underground passageway. Sailors from the Spanish Armada are buried here. There is a disused holy well across the road to the east.
Nine miles from Portrush and two miles from Bushmills is Northern Ireland's premier tourist attraction. It has for centuries astounded people from all over the world with the splendid sight of its 38,000 stone columns, mostly hexagonal, formed millions of years ago by the cooling of molten lava. Local folklore suggests that it was really the creation of Finn McCool, a legendary Irish Giant - forming a pathway to Scotland to do battle with a Scottish opponent.
A 12-minute audiovisual show explores the local folklore and scientific theory behind its origins and includes spectacular aerial views of the beautiful Causeway Coast & Glens area, with commentary available in 5 European languages. (Auditorium seats 60.)
The Causeway's fame has been increased by the discovery - and recovery - at Port na Spaniagh in 1967 and 1968, of the most valuable treasure ever found in a Spanish Armada wreck. The galleass Girona, the biggest ship in the Armada, was wrecked in that jagged gulf in a storm on the night of October 26th, 1588, with only five survivors out of the 1,300 men aboard her. The Girona carried not only her own treasure but also what the Spaniards had been able to save from two other Armada ships wrecked earlier on the west coast of Ireland.
Portballintrae was the headquarters of Robert Stenuit, the Belgian marine archaeologist who, with a team of divers, located and retrieved the famous Girona treasure. Part of the treasure can be viewed at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.