Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Travel Tails


Bushmills then Castle Bound

Sweetpea and I hadn’t taken any kind of distillery or brewery tour, while touring about Ireland, and Bushmills seemed the perfect place to start. Not only was it very cool, it was really informative as well. We learned so much on our tour. Our guide, Mister Turtle was a great teacher. The man knew his stuff. We saw the whole process, including bottling. We learned that some whiskey was aged in different barrels that may have held wine, rum or port. These old barrels added hints of flavour to the different whiskeys. At the end of the tour, we got to turn our tour tabs in for a choice of whiskey. It was a very educational experience.

From there, we decided it was time to take in Dunluce Castle. Close enough to walk to, we decided to catch a ride this time, as we’d been walking and climbing from first thing in the morning. If other castles were any indication of what we would find, we’d be doing a whole lot of walking. Along with the walking, we’d likely do a good deal of climbing stairs, ancient, well-worn slabs of rock that had been shaped into stairs, hundreds of years ago. I’m fascinated by ruins of any kind. There’s so much history woven into their fabric, and there are always stories. Stories that get the imagination working, some are tragic, some are impressive, and some are awe-inspiring. No matter what, they’re amazing. It boggles the mind to imagine how they were built, how such massive stones were moved, and all of it without the aid of modern machinery. Not only that, but there wasn’t any such thing as workplace health and safety either.

Dunluce Castle was no different. Many castles in Ireland were once owned by the well-heeled, barons, Lords, Ladies and the like. Some were built by Kings and royalty, yet many weren’t. Dunluce Castle was one of these. It’s an impressive structure. Built in the twelve hundreds by Richard Og de Burg, later became the seat of the McQuillans until they were displaced by the MacDonnell clan in the fifteen hundreds until it fell into disrepair shortly after the Battle of the Boyne in sixteen-ninety. That disrepair was caused by a rather tragic history. Perched on what is essentially a pinnacle of rock, it’s accessed by a wooden bridge that spans what would be a rather significant fall onto sharp, hard rock below. There was no need for a moat, the terrain was barrier enough. The location was always of interest to those who wished a strategic are, and the castle was built where an ancient fort used by the Irish and Vikings, once stood. There was quite the walled in area, where there were homes and buildings that comprised the running of a castle and community were located. In times of strife and danger, the people could cross the wooden bridge to the protection of the castle. The bridge would be sacrificed and that would be that. How do the people of the castle leave after the bridge is gone, or if a siege lasts to the point where starvation you may ask? Well, there’s always a way out, usually a tunnel under the castle, but this one had the most impressive means of escape. There was a rather precarious climb down a cliff behind the castle, through a bit of a cave, and it ended up at the ocean shore far below. Did sweetpea feel the need to go down there? Of course she did. I, a person who is known to be a bit of a klutz, even at the best of times, wisely stayed further up the cliff where the footing was a bit safer, for me anyway. A person like the girlchild, who has done a bit of wall-climbing, had no problem at all. I probably would’ve followed her if I was younger, or less aware of how easily I misstep, but I’m aware of my limitations. I push those limitations enough as it is. I have to admit though; I was a bit envious of her monkey-like ability.

There was a model of the castle and grounds that helped to imagine the hustle and bustle of life back then, yet it wasn’t really necessary. It didn’t take much imagination to visualize what it looked like. Though a ruin, it’s still incredibly impressive. It’s easy to picture it with the hustle and bustle of life. Blacksmiths creating everything a castle needs as well as shoeing horses. Horses and wagons coming and going, riders arriving, horses in the stables, in general, it was like a village, within the shelter of those ancient walls. For those that lived in the castle, the views were absolutely stupendous, truly amazing in every way. I don’t know that the everyday worker would’ve had time to appreciate it, but it truly is an amazing spot to have a castle. The sight of it from the ocean must’ve been equally impressive.

Now, here’s the tragic part of the castle, and the reason it fell into ruin. Three hundred years ago, in the midst of a storm, the Lord and Lady of the castle were having a bit of a party, when a section of the pinnacle of rock the huge structure sat upon, broke away and fell into the ocean far below. The whole kitchen and all those within it except one kitchen boy, were lost on that angry night. After that horrible event, the Lady of the castle refused to go there ever again. Traumatized, she wanted nothing to do with it. I can’t say I blame her. Besides the fact that there was a possibility of another section of rock breaking away and most assuredly taking more castle with it, one can well imagine the freakishly loud noise that would’ve accompanied it. there was the storm to account for. Thunder booming, lightning flashing across the sky, the ocean waves crashing against the rocky shore far below the castle, flickering light from candles and torches would’ve added to the scene. Rock breaking away, wouldn’t do so without sound. There would’ve been a huge amount of cracking sounds, screams of those in the kitchen, as the floor beneath their feet began to move, then fell away, taking them to their death. It would’ve been the stuff of nightmares, and completely traumatizing. I doubt it was something anyone could forget. I know, I certainly wouldn’t be able to. My understanding is that more cliff did break away many years later, taking what was left of the kitchen area with it. So, it took a very long time, but she was right, the castle wasn’t completely safe.

Leave a Reply

About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
All rights reserved. No part of this website or book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic or mechanical – without the prior written permission of the author.


 Oakbank, MB