Dwight Peck's personal Web site

The north of Ireland, April 2007

Winter 2006-2007 spent waiting around for winter


Ireland (and Northern Ireland) in the springtime

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Castles of Northern Ireland, and northern Ireland

We're on our road from Rathlin Island, westward via Ballycastle and the Giants' Causeway, past Portrush, and here's Dunluce Castle, perched out over the sea here since time immemorial (i.e., the 13th century).

This is a lovely maquette of what the place looked like before it fell down. Sorley Boy McDonnell based himself here in the second half of the 16th century, until Sir John Perrot, Queen Elizabeth's latest in a line of Lord Deputies of Ireland, wrecked it in 1584.

Kristin wandering about the guest quarters that grew up on the mainland side, when the overcrowding in the castle out on the headland just became intolerable. The Earl's garden is near here, and the original bowling greens.

Fireplaces for everybody.

Dunluce Castle itself. Kristin, at the bridge below, stands at the end of the "funnel" -- in case of attack from the landward side, the defenders could crowd a significant bunch of cows into this corral, and the invading cavalry could either pick their way amongst the cows as they tried to charge the gates, or they could kill all the cows and try to clamber over the top of them.

Kristin at the bridge to Dunluce Castle, re-enacting the mood of Catherine Manners, daughter of the 6th Earl of Rutland, who had married the royal favorite the Duke of Buckingham in 1620 only to be widowed when he was assassinated in 1628. In 1635 she got herself married to Sorley Boy's son Randal McDonnell, by then the Earl of Antrim, and carted off here to the Back-of-Beyond, and that's when the commodious central manor house got built.

Lady Catherine hated the sound of the sea, it's said. Can you imagine her discomfort? Evidently she lived here for several years, with the continuous sound of the sea. That's the late 16th century gatehouse ahead, built in the Scottish manner by Sorley Boy's son Randal after the English knocked down the first one.

Some of Lady Catherine's doubts about the place were confirmed when the kitchen wing at the far end of the castle fell into the sea in 1639, along with seven cooks. She immediately had another house built on the mainland and got herself off the rock.

The Parliamentary Army took the castle in 1642, during the Civil War, and ransacked it, but aged Earl Randal was soon back again, and had lots of widowed fun here till he died in 1682, but after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 the McDonnells hit bottom and the castle was abandoned.

Kristin, adorning one of the two towers

The winding stair (supposedly they always wind up in this direction so that retreating right-handed swordsmen have room to swing their swords in).

The kitchen wing of the castle

The coast westward

The coast eastward, out the former window

Westward, from out the window

An apparition from the twenty-first century. Well, from the mid-twentieth.

The narrator memorizing the ancient floor plan of "the loggia", evidently copied from a Stirling Castle copy of an Italian palazzo.

Kristin leaving through the Gateway, as so many have before her.

The two main defensive towers, with the manor house above to the left

From left: the bridge, the gatehouse, the manor house surmounting all, and the two defensive towers.

Dunluce Castle, 13 April 2007

Time for lunch, a nice soup in the carpark. Now we're off to the new Moville ferry to Donegal.

We're in Ireland now, in Donegal, and motoring on the wrong side of the road through Inishowen down towards Buncrana. We've gone the long way round to avoid driving (on the wrong side of the road) through Derry (read Londonderry), only to find that the Buncrana ferry is seasonal. Which shouldn't have been a surprise.

There's the wonderful Peugeot that the nice Avis lady gave us. Well, not gave us. Ransomed us, perhaps, but a very excellent car it was. Now we'll just pass down by Letterkenny, up the Lough Swilly past Ramelton, and we'll be in Rathmullan, and, specifically, the Water's Edge hotely thing.

The Water's Edge Restaurant and Accommodations -- basically, an hotel, I suppose that means -- 10 minutes' walk south of Rathmullan. It's a new building and in some ways looks like you could have found it next to the big mall in Topeka, Kansas, BUT it's lovely inside, and the view is out across Lough Swilly at the Inch on the far side.

Kristin, in front of our room, with Inch Island reflected behind. Kristin is wearing her new water-bottle holster-belt that Joe Pirri gave her as a present, and which therefore we call "Joe".

The bar, the heart of any commercial establishment worth its license. The Water's Edge is one of five Donegal establishments owned by a couple called The Blaney Group. More on that later. Now we need to go hiking again, and get some more castle-hopping in along the way.

This is Doe Castle near Creeslough, Donegal, the 16th century seat of the MacSweeneys, the gallowglass mercenaries from the Scottish Isles and Highlands (the MacQueens of Scotland). It's being restored by local workmen now, so we can't get into it.

Kristin imitating a "gallowglass", and sporting her "Joe" water-bottle holster.

The interior of Castle Doe. ("GVH"? -- sorry, dunno.) Once the homebase for one of the major mercenary families from Scotland.

[I've been informed that "GVH" was carved there by George Vaughan Harte, who bought the castle in 1800.]

Not much unlike the mercenary condottieres of northern Italy (think Sforza, Visconti, Borgia, Gonzaga, Malateste, Medici) who hired their private armies out to warring cities and in many cases ended up owning the cities themselves, the gallowglasses from Scotland came down to work for various warring clans . . . and stayed.

Kristin has family, a sister-in-law, two nephews and a niece, descended from the MacSweeneys, and this is to commemorate our visit to the old family homestead. "Joe" is hanging out in the front there.

Doe Castle, between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy on the way to Horn Head.

The term Gallowglass comes from the Irish Gallóglaigh ("foreign soldiers"), from the Old Irish for "youths", but later meaning "soldier". Not much of a choice of professions for youths in those days: soldier, priest, or minstrel, or back behind the plow with you! Alas, there are many countries in the world today in which the only employment for "youth" is "soldier", too.

Doe Castle, the Sweeney home base on Sheephaven Bay from the mid-13th century. The Italian condottieri, by the way, were the captains of the bands of mercenary soldiers called the condotta, which etymologically means "the contracters". Reminds us of the privatization of the USA's military to Cheney-style gun-for-hire companies like Blackwater, BearingPoint, etc.

Doe Castle

Now, on to Horn Head


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 10 May 2007, revised 29 March 2008, 12 August 2014.


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