Mermaid’s Cave, The Dark Depths below Dunluce castle

Dunluce Castle lies at the end of the White Rocks cliffs to the east of Portrush. It is one of the finest medieval castles in Ireland and is certainly worth seeing. However, in its dark depths lies a cave of enormous proportions that is every bit as grand as the castle sitting above it. This magnificent cave was the third tackled during the course of this ongoing project to photograph the secret sea caverns of County Antrim. The project has uncovered some fascinating old stories and this cave again threw up some classic material.

Mermaids CaveBeneath the immense fortress is a cavern of proportionate vastness; its vault is more than sixty feet high, and its length exceeds three hundred feet. The sea enters it with a roaring sound. Above is the dread tower, where the Banshee of the Macquillains, the ancient lords of Dunluce, appears. I passed under its walls; there is the turret of Mava. I was desired to remark how carefully it was swept.”Who undertakes that office?” I asked. ” No living being,” was the answer. ” Every night this prison-like chamber is cleaned like a ball-room, and yet no one enters it.” ” Who then keeps it in order?” “Mava, the sweeper of Dunluce, and the Banshee of the Macquillains.”

The Three Kingdoms: England, Scotland, Ireland – Charles Victor P. Arlincourt, Published 1844.

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Photo copyright Andy McInroy, reproduced by permission

Entrance to the mermaids cave is down an eroding ramp which gives it a superb subterranean feel. You can almost feel the weight of the mighty castle straining above.

On my visit to this cavern I was accompanied by a photographer friend of mine, Sean Arrow. This gave me a good opportunity to include myself in the shot and give the cave a sense of scale. After setting up the camera on the tripod and programing the 5 exposures needed, I was able to descend to the waters edge while Sean released the shutter. Again, a series of exposures was chosen to overcome the huge contrast range in the cave and its mouth. The final image was created using a High Dynamic Range (HDR) blend of the 5 exposures.

So there I stand, dwarfed by the enormity of the cavern and the thousands (perhaps millions) of tonnes of rock overhead. Natures very own cathedral under the castle.

by Andy McInroy. See his Antrim Cave project at www.andymcinroy.com