In 1588, the crew of the Girona, a ship of the line from the Spanish Armada, mistook the feature The Chimney, part of the outcrop at The Giant’s Causeway, for Dunluce Castle, where they thought they might get help from the owners, the MacDonnells. In their attempts to anchor, the ship was wrecked at Port-na-Spanaigh.    

This little story tells you a lot about the situation of this castle and the state of relations between the MacDonnells and Elizabeth I, whom the Armada was trying to overthrow.

Dunluce Castle dates from around 1500 when it was established by the MacQuillans on a rocky outcrop, jutting out into the stormy, grey North Atlantic Ocean. Around 50 years later, the MacQuillans were ousted by the MacDonnells, a family descended from the Scottish Clan MacDonald, who quickly became the dominant family of the area and who were in conflict with the surrounding families on a constant basis.

Their conflicts soon came to the attention of the English Crown, who were concerned about their growing power in the area. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I sent Sir John Perrot, Lord Deputy of Ireland, to deal with the MacQuillans. Sir John successfully besieged the castle, but Elizabeth handed the castle back to “Sorley Boy” MacQuillan two years later, when he swore an oath of allegiance to her. “Sorley Boy”, meaning ‘Yellow Charles’ in Irish, repaired the castle with money obtained from selling some of the artefacts obtained from the wreck of the Girona. He also installed three cannons from the ship at the castle.

From my next book about Travels in Northern Ireland and Scotland