Kinbane Castle is a hidden gem in Northern Ireland. Like many spots in Ireland, this ruined castle is not a huge tourist attraction and is relatively unknown to most tourists passing through Northern Ireland. Many people visit the more well-known sites like Giant’s Causeway or the Dark Hedges, but Kinbane Castle is definitely worth the short detour from the Coastal Causeway Drive. This place is truly magical but also extremely dangerous. History and dramatic landscapes all rolled into one makes Kinbane one of my favorite places in all of Ireland. Here’s my guide to visiting Kinbane Castle in Northern Ireland.
About Kinbane Castle
Kinbane Castle is in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, near Ballycastle and Ballintoy. The castle ruin sits on a narrow, limestone headland that protrudes into the ocean. The setting is truly magical, as the visitor can look back at the cliff face and waterfall, across the headland towards Ballycastle and the Rathlin Island, and view the remains of Kinbane Castle. Kinbane itself means white head and refers to the limestone rock jutting into the ocean.
Very little is left of Kinbane Castle. It was built in 1547 by members of the MacDonnell family. In 1551, the castle was attacked by the English. They struck again in 1555, and the castle was partially destroyed. Below the castle is a small cave or hollow and is known as Lag na Sassenach (Hollow of the English). It was here in the 16th century, legend has it, that English soldiers waited to attack the castle above but trapped by the water, cave and soldiers above, they were surrounded and killed.
Our Visit to Kinbane Castle
I had found Kinbane Castle on someone’s Instagram ages ago and thought it looked something special. Since then, I’ve seen it on very few travel bloggers or itineraries for Northern Ireland or the Coastal Causeway route. I knew it was a place that I wanted to visit and explore.
We arrived at Kinbane sometime in the late afternoon, along with winter. The temperature had dropped significantly in the last 24 hours, and we could see severe weather coming in. Not to be deterred, we arrived at the parking lot and started down the steep cliff-side steps. Knowing that we had to come back up was not a thrilling thought! We crossed over the flattened out land and then climbed up to the ruins of the castle. The landscape is truly spectacular. While there is little left of the castle ruins, the cliffs and rock are magical and haunting. We paused to look at the ruins and then wandered across the rest of the headland. You have to wonder about the lives of the people who lived here. It is such an incredible landscape, I'm not surprised someone would build a castle here - it is prime property! There is also something magical here.
My boyfriend was not impressed by my adventurous spirit. Kinbane Castle is an incredibly dangerous spot. The ground was slippery, wet and muddy, and it was a challenge trying to scale the pathway up to the outcrop without falling in the mud - even walking across the outcrop itself was nerve-wracking. You really cannot wander too close to the edge. With the wind and slippery, uneven ground it is a reality that that you could fall off the edge. In the photo below, you can see where I had just slipped and was trying to get back up. My boyfriend was seriously freaked out, and I was seriously disappointed to not walk further out onto the outcrop - it was just too dangerous with the muddy and slippery rocks and grass, the narrow pathway across the cave underneath, and the wind.
While this place is stunning, there is a definite haunting vibe to it, much like the rest of Ireland. It is a beautiful place and is definitely one that you should not miss when you travel to Northern Ireland. After a little while looking out to the ocean, the wind started to pick up, and we noticed some rain coming in from the ocean. We headed down to the bottom of the stony beach area to walk back up the stairs again, and suddenly we started getting pelted with hail. You really cannot run down or back up the steps, so it was with pain and laughter (only mine, not my boyfriend's) that we climbed back to the safety and warmth of our car. As I was walking up, I spotted a seal in the water below us, and then a rainbow formed out by the ocean. This part of Ireland truly is spectacular. This Emerald Isle has undoubtedly stolen a massive chunk of my heart.
Tips for Visiting Kinbane Castle
- There is plenty of parking and a set of toilets.
- There is no charge for the castle, although it is sometimes closed due to weather conditions.
- Wear sturdy shoes if you plan on climbing down the cliff or going onto the headland.
- Exercise extreme caution here: it is super dangerous, muddy, slippery and windy. I later found out that many people have either lost their lives or taken their lives here. I would be cautious visiting this site as there is no one here on duty or stationed here to help people or remind people to take care. It is not safe for little ones to climb onto the headland. There are no safety railings or fences on the headland itself.
- Do not let your children wander around here!
If you are looking for more things to do in Northern Ireland, check out my guide! Northern Ireland is one of my favorite parts of the whole world, and has stolen my heart in a big way. There are so many beautiful places to explore in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and I cannot wait to go back. Kinbane Castle is definitely one thing you don't want to miss on a trip to Northern Ireland.
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