Kinbane (sometimes called Kenbane) is one of the many Castles of Ireland. Built on a small rock promontory called Kinbane Head extending out into the sea, it is set in a very dramatic location. But like many other castles in Northern Ireland is currently in ruins. It is located about 3 miles (5 km) west of Ballycastle on the North Antrim coastal road, a very popular destination. Its location means that you can easily visit without going out of your way. Precisely for this reason in our four years in Northern Ireland I visited many times while taking visitors towards Giants Causeway which lies only about 6 miles (9km) further on. So if you are doing a tour of the Antrim coast, leave a little earlier in the morning and you will have time for a quick stopover at the castle. To get there follow the B15 coastal road from Ballycastle and look for the sign and the tiny turning to the right towards Kinbane Head.
The castle was built by Colla of the MacDonnell clan, the clan who also built many other castles and buildings in the area. This was the time when the MacDonnell’s were the most powerful clan along the Antrim Coast. It was completed in about 1547 but was destroyed in fighting with the English only eight years later. Colla himself died in the castle or the vicinity in 1558 and is believed to be buried in the Bonamargy Friary, not too far away. There is a story that a group of English soldiers were trapped during a siege of the castle. Fires were lit by the besieged to call for help and locals responded and arrived armed surrounding the besieging soldiers who were massacred in the area in or near a hollow cave under the castle called the “Hollow of the English”.
The castle was rebuilt and remained inhabited until the 1700’s. It was then abandoned and fell into decay. The only thing that stands today is the ruins of a small tower and few remnants of the wall.
Once you are on the B15 road from Ballycastle towards the Giants Causeway and Bushmills look for the sign that points towards Kinbane Head to the right. The road is very narrow and not suitable for coaches. Drive for a few hundred yards and you will come to a large parking area which is most of the times empty. There are toilet and picnic facilities there. The parking area is on a vantage point overlooking the sea and Kinbane Castle and with excellent views across the ocean. On clear days you can see Scotland.
To go to the castle itself you need to take the path close to the toilets and descend for the five minute walk to the castle. Sometimes the path is closed for safety reasons because the path is steep and there are no people on site if there is a fall. If the path is closed, do not go down it. You can still see the castle from the vantage point. There is no entrance fee and no facilities beyond the toilets and picnic tables by the parking area.
While Kinbane Castle is not one of the famous ones, its dramatic location and the fact that it is situated next to a road that you are likely to travel as you tour the North Antrim coast means that it is certainly worth a visit. Even if you cannot or do not have the time to descend to the castle itself, take 20 minutes to stop at the carpark and see the landscape and castle from there.