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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Castle, boundary walls, piers, and circular flanker towers.

Date of Construction:
1600 - 1649

Address :
Ballygally Castle, 274 Coast Road Ballygalley Larne Co Antrim BT40 2QZ


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
12/02/1976 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
D3725 0782

Owner Category


Exterior Description And Setting

A 17th century tower house in Scottish style standing in a now incomplete bawn on a coastal site, with later additions, comprising modern hotel accommodation, attached to one side. It consists of a high tower house of four storeys, laid out on an L-shaped plan, the main rectangle having a square projection which contains the stair and entrance. The walls, which are about 5 ft thick, are built of stone with a rendered finish, a wet dash containing crushed stones, with some dry dashed portions, with some original stonework revealed where the render has come off, while the roofs are of slate, with conical-roofed bartizan turrets to three corners of the top floor, projecting on moulded corbelling of fine quality. There is a variety of windows ranging from narrow slits of defensive origin to larger rectangular windows. The original entrance doorway is now enclosed within an outer porch which is roofed with green slates distinguishing it from the original tower. Attached to the outer porch is a modern three-storey hotel wing distinguishable by its white painted walls, initially designed in a style alluding to the Scottish origin of the tower house, but later taking on a more variegated form and losing its earlier coherence. The original entrance, now contained within a modern porch, faces south-west. The new front entrance, entering the modern porch directly from outside, faces north-west, so that the north-west elevation could be considered to be the entrance front. Entrance front, facing north-west, comprises a tall narrow central entrance bay to the modern porch, with a tall four-storey gabled projection to the left of it, the stair tower to the original castle, and a three-storey gabled projection to the right, part of the modern hotel. Entrance bay one window wide, one to each floor above new main entrance. Rectangular door, ledged timber, with a moulded surround painted white, surmounted by a modern sign inscribed ‘Dungeon Bar’. Windows above, rectangular timber fixed lights, painted black, with small panes. Walling rendered with dry dash of crushed stones; roof slated with green slates (look like Westmorland) in regular courses. Behind entrance bay is the steep pitched roof of the main block of the original tower house, of Bangor blue slates in regular courses extending between two gables with chimneys. Modern gabled projection to right has white painted rendered walls, wet dash, with green slated roof as previous; with a gabled dormer to the side wall; two rectangular windows of similar character to previous, with a projecting bay at the base with an angled slate-hung parapet and a small rectangular window. Projecting stair tower to left of entrance bay is gabled to each end on the top storey, front and rear, the apex of each gable surmounted by what looks like a short plain chimney, without pots, rendered as rest of wall. Roof of Bangor blue slates in regular courses between gable copings of shaped stone blocks resting at base on shaped kneelers. Pitch of front gable broken at left-hand side where there is a circular bartizan turret on the corner, carried on corbel courses, rendered as rest of tower and conically roofed with Bangor blue slates in regular courses, capped with lead. Small rectangular timber fixed light window of four panes to ground floor in plain undressed recess without cill, with a diminutive deep-set fixed light window immediately above it in a similar style of opening and two others at intervals above. A similar window to ground floor appears in the front gable and another in the landward face of top storey of stair tower, with a smaller blocked up rectangular opening alongside. Extending to the left at the base of the stair tower is a short screen wall linking with the boundary wall to the main road; contains a Gothic arched doorway probably of 1930s construction. Seaward side elevation, facing north-east and overlooking main road, comprises gable of the main block of the tower house to the left, with the stair tower to the right. Apex of main gable surmounted by a large chimney with projecting block cornice; two pots. Pitch of gable broken at left-hand side where there is a circular bartizan turret similar to previous but moulded corbel courses unrendered, and conical roof surmounted by a ball-like finial. Small rectangular timber window to right-hand corner of attic; two larger, four-pane, to third floor; larger rectangular timber window, small paned, 3 over 9, top-hung vent over fixed light, set in raised white-painted surround to second floor with a diminutive slit window alongside it; and a larger rectangular window, 3 over 9 detailed as previous, to first floor, with a diminutive slit window to its right. The stair tower contains three diminutive slit windows. Rear elevation, facing south-east and overlooking garden: four-storey, two windows wide, with a circular bartizan turret to the corners at third floor level; much of the wall covered with creeper. Steep pitched roof slated in regular courses, extends between two gables with chimneys, its eaves line broken by two gabled dormers, one with an ogee curved pediment, the other with a triangular pediment. Pediments ornamented with relief carvings much weathered, now painted, and crowned by finials which are also eroded and painted. Rectangular timber window, with top-hung vents and fixed lights, 2 over 2, deep set in chamfered opening to each dormer. Cast iron gutter and downpipe. Two large rectangular windows to each floor, irregularly spaced, with raised white-painted surrounds: small paned with top-hung vents and fixed lights, 3 over 9, to second floor, replacements for earlier 4 over 4 sashes; 12-pane fixed lights to first floor, replacements for earlier sashes; top-hung, and fixed light, 6 over 6 to ground floor right-hand side and vertically hung timber sliding sash, 1 over 6, with horns, to left-hand side. Ground level of garden in front of rear elevation raised, level with bottom of ground floor windows. Landward side elevation, facing south-west comprises gable of main block of the tower house, much covered with creeper. Gable similar to that on other side of the building facing the sea, with a chimney to the apex and a bartizan turret to right-hand corner, and a number of rectangular timber windows of similar type as elsewhere. They are two small windows to attic storey; two slightly larger to the third floor; one similar to the second floor, a later 20th century insertion, and one very small window to the ground floor to the left of the steps up to the first floor doorway. The rectangular timber small-paned and panelled door is set in a chamfered raised surround which is painted white, a later 20th century remodelling of a doorway of at least 19th century date. Returning forward from the left-hand corner of gable is the three-storey gable of the 20th century hotel wing, with white painted walls. SETTING: The building stands within the village, at the landward side of the Coast Road, on a corner site. Its garden is partly bounded by a stone wall and partly by a stream, with a tarmac area to the main road front of the hotel. It overlooks a car park on the other side of the main coastal road and commands unobstructed views over the sea. BOUNDARY WALLS, PIERS, GARDEN WALLS, AND FLANKER TOWERS: Large sections of the original 17th century bawn wall still survive, distinguishable by their use of boulder masonry, but there have been later additions, insertions and demolitions. Most of the extent of the original bawn can be discerned but the internal levels may have been altered in the course of garden landscaping. Boundary walls and other features are as follows, from right to left from entrance front, looking from outside: extending from left-hand corner of original building, a short screen wall of rubble roughly smeared with cement, containing a Gothic arched doorway of blackstone voussoirs with some brickwork to jambs, and containing a ledged timber door; abuts the boundary wall to the Coast Road. Boundary wall to Coast Road is of basalt rubble, erected in this form in the 20th century, with a square dressed stone pier with ball finial, of 18th century appearance, at the right-hand end, relocated from previous position near left-hand end on the corner with Cairncastle Road, a position now occupied by a circular garden house (which could be referred to as the front flanker turret for ease of identification). Front flanker turret, of 20th century date, is built of blackstone rubble with a conical roof of green slates capped with lead and surmounted by a turned finial; overhanging eaves. Two windows to outer face, both Gothic arched lancets with blackstone voussoirs; timber Gothic arched fixed lights with small panes. Entrance is from garden side only: ledged timber door, painted black, in Gothic arched opening with blackstone voussoirs; above doorway, to each side, just under eaves, two pigeonholes with projecting cills formed by quarry tiles. Returning to left from front flanker turret is the boundary wall to Cairncastle Road: similar wall as previous with a pair of square dressed stone piers with ball finials, similar to previous, mounted with modern timber gates; large sign affixed to wall inscribed ‘Ballygalley Castle Hotel’. Wall extends to left to another circular garden house (which could be referred to as the rear flanker turret for ease of identification). Rear flanker turret built of rubble, probably largely of 19th century date, but rises from a base of boulder masonry of probably original 17th century foundation. It may be supposed that the original flanker turret of the 17th century was here rebuilt as a 19th century garden house. Conical roof of Bangor blue slates capped with lead surmounted by a turned finial; overhanging eaves, in poor condition. Two Gothic arched lancet windows to outer face, with blackstone voussoirs, timber fixed lights with small panes, in derelict condition; doorway at lower level, Gothic arched with blackstone voussoirs, closed up with modern concrete blockwork. Entrance is from garden side only: ledged timber door in a Gothic arched opening, as previous, at high level tucked up under eaves and reached by five stone steps. Boundary wall continues to left of circular turret, viewed from outer face, but built of boulder masonry and presumably part of original 17th century bawn wall: breached by a roughly formed gateway which contains a pair of modern vertically slatted timber gates. Within garden, abutting rear flanker turret just to right of doorway, at right angles to boundary with Cairncastle Road, is a garden wall of basalt rubble, overgrown with creeper, which contains a Gothic arched opening with blackstone voussoirs near the turret, and beyond a break continues on and includes another similar archway to the north-west. OTHER FEATURES IN THE GARDEN: There are other runs of rubble walling, at least some of which are of 17th century date, as at the south-west and north-west boundaries to the stream but they have suffered significant demolition in places, some of it in 1990 to allow access to the river bank. There is also a free-standing Gothic archway with blackstone voussoirs and raking supports of rubble masonry, presumably the remnant of a more extensive wall, standing to the rear of the hotel wing.


Not Known

Historical Information

Built in 1625 by a scotsman, traditionally believed to have been James Shaw of Greenock who had some years previously obtained a lease of a considerable estate under Randal, 1st Earl of Antrim. It remained in the ownership of the Shaw family until 1820 when it was sold to James Agnew of Kilwaughter. In the 1830s it was modernised and became a coastguard station, from which time the larger windows in the tower may be presumed to date. Previous changes, in the 18th century, had included the enclosing of the original front door in a porch, and adding a north wing, subsequently rebuilt twice, in c. 1901 and in 1938. Occupied in the later 19th century by the Rev. Classon Porter and family, and then taken over by the Moore family who owned it at the time it was scheduled as an ancient monument and placed under Ministry of Finance surveillance in 1932. Converted to a hotel, apparently by Lord Antrim, in 1938. Datable to that 1938 conversion are the long three storey hotel wing with dormers; the ceiling plasterwork of the first floor parlour known as the ‘1625 room’; the present porch enclosing the original front door; and the creation of the front flanker turret. Sold to Cyril Lord in the early 1950s, who added a garden lounge to the hotel wing in 1956. Now owned and run by the Hastings Hotel Group. The castle is an ancient monument, no. ANT35:15, but was descheduled in 1976 and listed instead. References - Secondary 1. Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland: Parishes of County Antrim III, Volume 10 (Belfast, 1991), pp 6 and 11. 2. Rev. Classon Porter, Ballygally Castle, in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol VII, No 2, April 1901, pp 65-77. 3. A Preliminary Survey of the Ancient Monuments of Northern Ireland (HMSO, Belfast, 1940), pp 29-30. 4. Belfast Newsletter, 9th May 1956. 5. H. Dixon, An Introduction to Ulster Architecture (UAHS., Belfast, 1975), p 22. 6. C.E.B. Brett, Buildings of County Antrim (Belfast, 1996), p 23. 7. IHR 6855.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style D. Plan Form E. Spatial Organisation H-. Alterations detracting from building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting

Historic Interest

V. Authorship W. Northern Ireland/International Interest Z. Rarity


As well as being our only complete example of a Scottish style tower house, and a very rare instance of 17th century building which remains in active use in Northern Ireland, Ballygally Castle is one of Northern Ireland’s best known landmarks, and the most notable architectural feature on the famous Antrim Coast Road.

General Comments

Date of Survey

15 June 1997