Occupying a prominent coastal position overlooking the Irish Sea, Dunskey Castle has been the site of a fortification since at least the fourteenth century. Destroyed by Sir Alexander McCulloch in 1489, it was rebuilt in the form of a L-plan tower house and was later substantially extended. The fortification was the home of the Adair family for three hundred years.
Occupying a sheer-sided cliff-top promontory that juts out into the Irish Sea, the first known fortification on the site of Dunskey Castle existed by the fourteenth century. Little is known about the nature of this structure although a defensive ditch cut into the rock which partly severed the promontory from the mainland may have been part of this castle. The builder of this fortification is unknown but it was probably the Adair family who owned the land from no later than 1326. The family retained Dunskey for three hundred years although it briefly came under the control of the powerful Kennedy family in 1455 when it was held by Gilbert Kennedy during the minority of Rolland Adair. Dunskey Castle was attacked in 1489 by Sir Alexander McCulloch of Myrtoun and burnt.
Dunskey Castle was substantially rebuilt in the early sixteenth century by Ninian Adair who had previously constructed the Castle of St John in Stranraer. The new castle took the form of a three-storey L-plan tower house. A barmkin (curtain wall) ran around the perimeter of the promontory enclosing all the ancillary buildings and included a watch tower.
The castle was purchased by Hugh Montgomery, Viscount Montgomery in 1620 who added a new wing connected to the north of the existing tower. His grandson, also called Hugh, supported the Royalist cause during the Wars of Three Kingdoms and predominantly fought in Ireland where the majority of his estates were located. He remained a committed Royalist throughout the wars but ultimately surrendered to Oliver Cromwell after which his property was confiscated and he was sent into exile. Although allowed to return in 1652, his estates were withheld and instead he was given a small allowance. Throughout this period Dunskey Castle had been in the hands of James Blair, to whom Hugh had leased the castle in 1648. Hugh's financial troubles afforded the Blair family the opportunity to take full ownership of the castle but they also acquired numerous other estates at this time and Dunskey became superfluous. It was abandoned soon after and its coastal location meant the castle quickly deteriorated. By 1684 it was reported as ruinous.
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Dunskey Castle consists of the ruins of an early sixteenth century tower house. The remains are unstable and there is no public access although the exterior can be viewed from the coastal path. Strong footwear is recommended.
Irish Sea. Dunskey Castle occupies a cliff-top location overlooking the Irish Sea.
Dunskey Castle Layout. The original sixteenth century L-plan Tower House, seen to the left in the picture above, was augmented by a long gallery around 1620. The promontory behind the castle would have hosted the ancillary buildings.
Gallery. The long gallery was built by Hugh Montgomery around 1620. This was the last major addition to the castle before it was abandoned later in the seventeenth century.
Dunskey Castle is found to the south-east of Portpatrick. The best option is to use the public car park off South Crescent Road and then walk along the coastal path towards the castle.
Car Parking Option
South Crescent Road, DG9 8JR