Glenarm, Co Antrim
The Barbican, positioned beyond an old stone bridge over the Glenarm River, is a charming building with gothic windows and a stone turret staircase.
Built in 1825 from local basalt, this medieval miniature castle is a perfect romantic hideaway in one of Ulster's oldest villages.
A contribution towards light and heat is applied to all bookings. As a not for profit organisation, this fee makes a significant contribution to energy costs. It is our aim to reduce our energy consumption at all self catering properties and encourage guests to reuse, reduce, recycle.
Please Note: The second floor of the property is accessed by a spiral staircase.
The story behind the building of this remarkable early nineteenth century gateway is a highly romantic one. Randal William McDonnell, the sixth earl of Antrim, died in 1791, leaving no sons, so his estates and titles were divided between his three daughters, with the proviso that these would all ultimately pass to their senior male offspring. One daughter died young of TB, and Anne Catherine, the eldest, was styled Countess of Antrim in her own right. She had the family seat at Glenarm, as well as a fine house in London, while Charlotte, her surviving younger sister, had a less certain future.
In 1799 both girls married. Anne Catherine’s husband was a wealthy Englishman called Sir Harry Vane Tempest, but their only child was a girl, so the eldest son of Anne Catherine’s younger sister, Charlotte, stood to inherit the whole property. Inevitably this was the cause of much friction. Sir Harry died in 1813, and four years later, in 1817 Anne Catherine fell in love with a man called Edmund Phelps. She married him within a month of their first meeting, which caused much amazement, as he was ten years her junior, and of humble origins. Edmund’s mother kept a hat shop in Plymouth, his father was the local auctioneer, and he had previously been another peer’s private secretary. He prudently changed his name from Phelps to McDonnell when he married Anne Catherine.
In fact Edmund was a remarkably positive influence. He made Anne Catherine sell her London house and live at Glenarm, so as to look after her estate properly, and in 1823 he commissioned a well-known Dublin architect called William Morrison to improve the property. Anne Catherine’s first husband, Sir Harry, had already tried to turn the Palladian mansion into a castle by giving it Gothic windows and removing its colonnades, but Morrison’s plans were more ambitious. He added towers to each corner of the house, as well as a substantial Elizabethan-looking wing, designed appropriate new facades, and turned the entrance gate into a medieval masterpiece.
The ‘Barbican’, as the entrance gate was named, had previously been a fairly simple one storey Palladian building overlooking the old bridge to the village, with a simple wall on either side running along the edge of the river. Morrison transformed this into a battlemented fortification with towers at regular intervals and the Barbican gateway at its centre. Walkways were made behind the battlements, to create romantic walks for the inhabitants, and local basalt was used throughout, to give the walls and towers an appropriately somber appearance, though red sandstone dressings were used for the finer detailing of the Barbican. Over the gate, looking out over the bridge, an ancient sandstone coat of arms was inserted. This had originally graced the front of the castle when it had been built by the first earl in 1636, while the other side of the barbican was also given a commemorative plaque:
THIS GATEWAY WAS BUILT AND THE CASTLE RESTORED BY EDMUND M’DONNELL, ESQUIRE, AND HIS WIFE ANNE KATHERINE, IN HER OWN RIGHT COUNTESS OF ANTRIM AND VISCOUNTESS DUNLUCE A.D. 1825
Morrison designed the Barbican in 1824, the year before it was built, but his plans for the castle were not completed until the 1840s. There have been substantial alterations to the castle since, including the demolition of most of Morrison’s wing and the alteration of many windows, so it is extremely fortunate that the Barbican and its surrounding battlements, the finest part of this romantic ensemble, remain intact. It is perhaps worth noting that Morrison and the Antrims called the entrance gate ‘The Barbican’ so as to emphasise the Gothic fantasy. A medieval barbican was a very strong part of the outer defences of a city or castle, usually the double tower built above a gate or drawbridge. Edmund Phelps and Anne Catherine had no children, so the estate and titles passed to her sister Charlotte’s sons and their descendants, while Anne Catherine’s daughter, who was a considerable heiress, thanks to her father, married Lord Londonderry.
Nearby: Glenarm (0 kms) Shop (0 kms) Restaurant (18 kms)
GPS: 54.966432 , -5.955260
Can I bring a dog?
No. This property is not suitable for dogs.
Is linen supplied?
Yes – the bed is prepared and ready for your arrival.
Is there an open fire?
No. However there is a wood burning stove in the sitting room.
Can I light a fire?
Yes. You can light the wood burning stove in the sitting room.
Do I need a car to get here?
There is public transport to Glenarm and the property is situated in the village so you can walk to local shops, cafes etc.
How do I get the keys?
When you complete your booking, you will receive an email giving you information about arranging access for your arrival date.
Can I arrive early?
Only by special arrangement with the bookings office and agreement of the local House Manager. A charge is made if you are requesting a morning arrival, as this means we cannot take a booking for the night before your arrival date.
What is the latest departure time?
10.00am. The House Manager will discuss arrangements for your departure on the day you arrive.
How far to the nearest town?
The property is situated in the village of Glenarm.
Is there a caterer who will come in to cook meals?
We do not know of anyone who can go in to cook meals at this property.
Is it suitable for children?
This is a small property that only sleeps 2 people with a stone winding staircase which would not be suitable for young children. However a travel cot can be provided on request for babies.
Is it suitable for older people?
This property does not suit anyone with mobility issues. There is a narrow stone winding staircase up to all the floors.
Does it have facilities for disabled people?
Is it suitable for a wheelchair?
Is there central heating?
There is gas central heating with radiators throughout the house.
Is the cooker electric or gas?
There is an electric cooker
Is there a shower?
How many bathrooms?
Do you supply towels and bed linen?
Yes. The beds will be made up on your arrival and you will be provided with a bath towel and guest towel according to the number of beds in the property.
Can I get to the house by public transport?
Yes. You would get a train or bus to Larne and a local bus to Glenarm.
Where is the nearest train station?
What type of heating is in the house?
Gas central heating.
Can I book for just one night?
What is your minimum booking period?
Our minimum booking period from 1st January 2016 our minimum booking period will be 3 nights. Some Special Dates will have restrictions on number of nights and arrival date.
Is there a garden at the house?
No. However, there is a roof terrace with a table and chairs.
How many cars can I bring to the house?
Is there parking on site?
Yes, there is parking for 1 car to the rear of the property.
Is there outdoor furniture.
Yes, a table and chairs are provided.
Is there a tv?
No, but there is a radio, board games, cards and plenty of books.
Is there a WiFi?
Phone: +44 (028) 2073 1855
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Phone: +44 (028) 2073-3218
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Phone: +44 (028) 217 71180
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September 8, 2016
As part of National Heritage Week, we opened the doors to a selection of our historic properties, offering visitors a special opportunity to explore our unique holiday homes. Generally, it is only the overnight guest who experiences the warmth, beauty and cultural significance of our accommodations. However, on Sunday the 28th August 2016, reservations for […]
June 21, 2016
Many of you might be aware that Tourism Ireland have been running a video campaign relating to the Game of Thrones doors. Here’s the way they have described the initiative: The Dark Hedges is a beautiful avenue of 18th century beech trees that features as The Kingsroad in Game of Thrones®. In January 2016 a storm […]