Ballycastle >History

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Dún Briste

Dún Briste The Sea Stack known as 'Dún Briste' (The Broken Fort) can be seen at Downpatrick Head, 3 miles north of Ballycastle. It was separated from the mainland in 1393 as a result of high seas and the people were taken off using ships ropes. It is 63 metres by 23 metres, 45 metres high and 228 metres from the shore.

According to one legend, a pagan chieftain, named Crom Dubh, lived there. He refused to listen to St. Patrick who tried to convert him to Christianity. St. Patrick hit the ground with his crozier and the stack was separated from the mainland, leaving Crom Dubh to die there.

On July 31st 1980, Dr. Seamus Caulfield, his father Patrick Caulfield and Martin Downes, Professor of Biology at Maynooth College, landed by helicopter on Dún Briste and spent two hours there examining the remains of the building and plant life. They discovered the remains of a stone building across the centre measuring 30ft by 13ft inside and built up along the south of a long continuous wall. The remains of another building 20ft by 10ft were on the western side. An interesting feature found there was a low opening about 2ft square, exactly like the sheep runs which can be found in many places which allow sheep to pass from one field to another.

Downpatrick Head

Downpatrick Head 3 miles north of Ballycastle village is a striking headland standing 126ft above the sea. From here, there are fantastic views of the Atlantic, the Staggs of Broadhaven to the west, and high cliffs along the shore. The small stone building at the top of Downpatrick Head was used as a lookout post during the Second World War. It is now used to view the many species of birds on 'Dún Briste'.

The ruins of a church, a holy well, and a stone cross mark the site of an earlier church founded by St. Patrick. Pilgrims visited Downpatrick Head on the last Sunday of July - 'Garland Sunday'. Mass is now celebrated on Downpatrick Head on this day. The old statue of St. Patrick was erected here in 1912 and this was replaced by a new statue in the early 1980's.

Here also, you see the spectacular blow-hole known as 'Poll na Seantainne' with subterranean channel to the sea, where 25 men lost their lives in the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion. They are said to have taken refuge on the ledge at the bottom, and the tide came in before the ladder could be replaced.

One of the sites on the Tír Sáile Sculpture Trail, called 'Battling Forces', is located here.