The picturesque village of Glenarm takes its name from the Glen, the meaning of which translates from Gaelic into ‘Valley of the Army’. If you are travelling along the Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast, Glenarm is the first glen you will come to and one of the famous nine Glens of Antrim. It would be very easy to drive through this fascinating village following the coast road and miss the wonderful architecture and delights which lies just off the main route.
Archeological evidence tell us that people were living along the shoreline and manufacturing flint tools here from 3000BC which corresponds to other settlements around the coast, the village itself though dates to the 17th century, growingf and prospering around the castle, trading harbour and the limework industries.
Glenarm Castle and Demense provides a central focus of interest to the area and has been one of the ancestrial home of the McDonnell clan for over 400 years. It has been the family seat of the clan since 1750, prior to this it was at Dunluce Castle. The castle has a superb walled garden and tea room which is open to the general public during the summer months, well worth a visit, you can also book in advance a guided tour of the castle which is recommended if you enjoy history and art.
The foundation of the present castle dates back to 1636 and was built by Sir Randall McDonnell the Earl of Antrim, it was rebuilt in 1750s and again in 1825 when the Barbican, outer walls and Castle Street were constructed. The castle was gutted by fire in 1929 and rebuilt in keeping with its character, a further fire in 1967 also required restoration of part of the castle.
We know that the first castle in Glenarm was let to Bissett family in the 13th century, they had come over from Scotland to take up lands along the Antrim coast. Through the marriage of Margery Bissett in 1399 to John Mor McDonnell of Kintyre, the ownership and power base along the North Antrim coast gradually shifted to the McDonnell's who at one time controlled five castle between here and Dunluce.