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Does anyone live in Glenarm Castle?

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The 15th Earl of Antrim, Randal MacDonnell, and his family have made their home at Glenarm Castle in Antrim, Northern Ireland. The castle is a beautiful 16th-century structure surrounded by lush gardens and situated on the breathtaking shores of the Irish Sea.

The Earl and his wife, Lady Aurora MacDonnell, along with their two children, make up the current residents of Glenarm Castle. The castle is open to visitors throughout the year, except on Sundays and Mondays when it is closed for private use. So come on down and see the stunning estate of Glenarm Castle and meet its gracious inhabitants!

Glenarm Castle

History of Glenarm Castle

The McDonnell family have a long and storied history in Glenarm, Northern Ireland. After John Mor MacDonnell married Marjory Bisset, the heiress to the Glens of Antrim, in the late 14th century, their castle was built in 1636 by Randal MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim. Unfortunately, only six years later the castle was burned by a Scots Covenanter army due to their allegiance with the Royalist MacDonnells.

For nearly a century this once magnificent structure lay in ruin until it was reconstructed and restored to its former glory by the 8th Earl of Antrim in 1785, who sought to rebuild this landmark.

The Antrim family were a powerful and wealthy family who lived in County Antrim during this period. They resided primarily in Dunluce Castle and Ballymagarry, but they also built an additional wing at Glenarm that they could stay in when travelling to the southern portion of their estate.

This property covered a whopping 330,000 acres, making the Antrim family one of the most influential and powerful families in County Antrim.

Glenarm Castle Gardens

Ballymagarry was completely destroyed in 1750, and the 5th Earl of Antrim wanted to see it rise from its ashes. He invited engineer Christopher Myers from Cumbria to Glenarm, where he renovated the ruin into a beautiful Palladian country house.

Myers added an elegant driveway with arching lime trees as well as walled garden enclosures. The 6th Earl had planned an even more grandiose expansion of the property, but died without a son in 1791. His daughter Anne Catherine became Countess of Antrim and married Sir Harry Vane-Tempest, who decided to “Gothicise” the building. He took down the colonnades and pavilions, replacing them with Gothic windows.

Sir Harry, the former owner of the estate, passed away in 1813 but four years later Anne Catherine, his widow, found love again and remarried. Edmund Phelps, her new husband was an admirer of William Morrison’s architecture and commissioned him to redecorate the estate with a Tudor Gothic design that Morrison had already implemented in Miltown House.

In addition, the river wall was castellated and a Barbican Gatehouse similar to one he had designed for Borris House was erected.

Barbican Gatelodge, County Antrim

Morrison’s designs were highly successful and soon after the renovations, Kilsheelan Castle became one of the most stunning estates in the region. It still stands today as a testament to William Morrison’s extraordinary architecture.

In 1929, a devastating fire ravaged the main block of the Earl of Antrim’s estate. It is assumed that the blaze was due to the housekeeper’s bedroom fire, which she kept lit in order to keep the 11th Earl’s featherless parrot warm.

The reconstruction efforts that followed were rather unimaginative, resulting in the loss of some interesting features such as the Gothic windows. However, luck changed when Randal, 13th Earl of Antrim married Angela Sykes – a professional sculptor –in 1934. With the help of author Robert Byron, she crafted nine caryatids out of sculptures depicting the planets in the hall.

She then went on to paint the walls and cornices of other rooms in the house with her renditions of family history and classical mythology.

William Morrison’s wing was largely destroyed by another fire in 1967, although the old kitchen survives as the family’s private kitchen, the only room to be in continuous use since the early 18th century.

William Morrison’s wing of the house was ravaged by a devastating fire in 1967, leaving behind only the old kitchen. This kitchen has been held within the Morrison family for centuries, and is still in use today, making it the only room to be continuously utilized since the early 1700s.

It remains a beloved part of the Morrison family history and is symbolic of the family’s resilience and determination in the face of adversity. The Morrisons are proud that this part of their home has remained a constant reminder of their legacy for over 300 years.

The old kitchen serves as a vital connection to the past, and it is full of memories which will be cherished by generations to come.

Glenarm Castle is a breathtakingly beautiful historic family estate tucked away in the rolling hills of Northern Ireland. With a history spanning centuries, the castle has been home to generations of the MacDonnell family, who are proud to continue their age-old tradition of welcoming guests from near and far to visit their home.

Visitors can take part in guided tours of the stunning castle grounds and gardens, as well as explore the many artifacts on display in the Castle Museum. There is something for everyone to enjoy at Glenarm Castle, from discovering its architectural beauty to learning about its rich history.

Group tours can be arranged by appointment, offering a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in this historic estate. Visitors will be treated to a beautiful and informative tour of the castle and grounds, and can take in some of the incredible views along the way.

Ready for your trip to Ireland? Start here.


Last updated May 29, 2023


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