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Glenarm Castle


Glenarm Castle overlooks an extensive demesne following the Glenarm River to the sea, providing a picturesque site. The present house was remodelled in the early-19th century, incorporating earlier versions of the mid-18th century and the early-17th century. The river valley was established as a deer park in the 17th century and developed as a landscape park from 1775. Nearer the house, features include lawns, parkland with mature trees, a lime tunnel, a beech walk and an arboretum. An early-19th-century gatehouse stands at the entrance to the demesne. There is a walled kitchen garden.

The grounds are entered through the Barbican gate, the centrepiece of a run of early-19th-century 'fortifications' above the Glenarm River. The gatehouse is in use as holiday accommodation.

The house, essentially in its early-19th-century Jacobethan state with some modifications following the fire of 1929, is set among lawns, walks and flowerbeds, with the south front overlooking parkland falling away to the sea.

The kitchen garden has been redesigned in recent years as an ornamental garden with water features and a mount. It is regularly open to the public, with a tea room.

The wooded glen continues through picturesque scenery five miles to the sea. The glen and the sea views are integral to the romantic character of the demesne.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details


Three miles south-east of Carnlough off the A2 in Glenarm village.


The recorded history of the estate begins with the 13th-century castle built for the Bisset family. This was demolished in 1597, and a new house was built from 1603 for Randal McDonnell, first Earl of Antrim. This was enlarged in 1636, but burnt by a Scottish army in 1642 and left as a shell. Despite this, the family continued to visit the demesne for hunting, and in the 1660s a wing was added to the ruin for the family's use during their visits. At this time two deer parks were established, the Grand Deer Park and the Small Deer Park.

In 1682 a stone bridge was built to carry the public road over the Glenarm River. In the 1740s a racecourse with stables, a hexagonal gazebo and a shell grotto were added to the grounds along with extensive tree planting.

In the 1750s the family returned to Glenarm and the house was rebuilt. It stood in a network of courts and gardens, with a circular lawn in front of the house with a statue of Hercules at its centre. A walled kitchen garden stood to the north of the house, with a glasshouse in the centre.

From 1775 the sixth Earl devloped the demesne to the south of the house as a landscape park and added the Rustic Cottage.

In 1823-24 and 1831-32 the house was remodelled in the Jacobethan style to the design of William Vitruvius Morrison. Several ornamental buildings were added to the grounds at this time, including Morrison's Barbican gate lodge and the Deer Park Cottage. A new walled kitchen garden was also added at this time.

In the mid-19th century the site of the old kitchen garden was changed into an ornamental area of walks and flowerbeds.

The house was burnt in 1929 and rebuilt with alterations. In the early-21st century the kitchen garden was redesigned as an ornamental garden and opened to the public.


18th Century

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Inventory

  • Reference: An 033


  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The kitchen garden has been remodelled in the early-21st century as an ornamental layout.
  • Earliest Date:
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  • Glasshouse
  • Bothy
  • Garden House
  • Ornamental Bridge
  • Gate Lodge
  • Description: The Barbican gate was built as the centrepiece of a run of mock fortifications above the Glenarm River. It stands at the end of a bridge, and features a 'portcullis' gate, arrowslits and an asymmetrically-placed turret.
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  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The present house dates from the first half of the 19th century, replacing a medieval castle and a succession of houses on the same site, much of whose fabric has been reused. The exterior is in the Jacobethan style, with a forest of turrets and pinnacles to form a romantic skyline. The interiors were reconstructed after the fire of 1929.
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  • Tunnel
  • Description: A lime tunnel.
  • Walk
  • Description: Beech walk.
  • Tree Feature
  • Description: Arboretum.
Key Information


Landscape Park



Principal Building



18th Century



Open to the public