A local farmer gave the rocky peninsula, on which this ruin stands, to the NATIONAL TRUST in 1962. Solitary and exposed as it is, DUNSEVERICK castle almost undervalues/belies its own importance as one of the extensive series of costal fortifications of the area. The name is said to be derived from the great chieftain - Sohairce - who first fortified it, that may or may not be the case, but what is certain, is that like the names of nearby DUNLUCE and DUNANYIE , the name DUNSEVERICK suggests a much longer history as a fortification for older peoples. Perched on the edge of a promontory it is exactly the type of defensive structure which has been used here since the dawn of civilisation.
Dating to the time of CHRIST or perhaps earlier, DUNSEVERICK terminated one of the five GREAT Road 's from TARA (the seat of the Irish High Kings) in County Meath and the name features heavily in Ancient Irish Tales. Legend being what it is in these parts, you should not be surprised to learn that a local man - CONAL CAERNACH - while serving with the Roman army is believed to have witnessed the crucifixion of Christ. Folklore further associates the castle with SAINT PATRICK and SAINT OLCAN and as the early Church often concentrated on centres of power and wealth these assertions could be well upheld.
The invading Vikings stormed the castle on two occasions, firstly in 870AD and again in 924AD, it survived and became the focal point of the kingdom of the McDonnells of Dalriada, which covered North Antrim and Argyllshire in Scotland . During the late 16 th and early 17 th Centuries the O'Cahan family of Ulster occupied the castle. Around the 1640's possession of the castle was lost and about 1653 it was destroyed by Cromwellian troops.
The ruins, which the visitor of to day can see and explore, are in fact, only of the original gatehouse. As the castle now stands only a few traces of the wall that totally surrounded the promontory remain, but inside the curtain wall there is evidence of at least two buildings. A small residential tower remained at the South East angle of the castle until 1978 when it collapsed due to natural erosion of the rock below. When the castle was in good repair and inhabited the only entrance would have been by way of a natural break in the West side of the Rock leading upwards. This entranceway was overlooked on both sides until the plateau on top was reached, it would have been a formidably defended route indeed and not a welcoming sight to a hostile group.
Permit yourself if you will, to imagine the hostile memories held by this National Trust property or simply allow the overwhelming sense of stillness to sweep over you. Look around and notice the abundant wildlife, from the FULMARS along the cliffs, the SHAGS and EIDER DUCK in Horse Carrick islet below the castle - to the colourful floral carpets on the cliff tops and slopes. From April to wintertime the ground here is an exhibition of nature at its best. Alexanders abound during April with Pignut and Hogweed in May and June, July and August see Wild Carrot and Angelica and Yarrow shares the ground with all of them. Some species remain in bloom right into winter and help to sustain the large insect life, including Orange Soldier Bees, which abound locally. Not only does this surrounding wildlife and flora add significantly to your enjoyment of the DUNSEVERICK area but they were a major factor in the decision to award the National designation of 'Area of Special Scientific Interest' (ASSI) to this whole area in the year 2000.
From the information point here at DUNSEVERICK CASTLE, look East to SHEEP ISLAND, BALINTOY HARBOUR, RATHLIN ISLAND, and on a fine day the headlands and islands off SCOTLAND. - To the West, stunning views of the LONDONDERRY coastline and the INNISOWEN PENNINSULA are simply breathtaking as they roll out before you. Nearby a delightful short walk will take you past interesting rock formations to DUNSEVERICK HARBOUR .. Rock pools here are popular for bathing during spells of fine weather. Crystal clear evidence of why, in 1989, the decision was taken to award this whole area the designation as AONB - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.