When someone mentions a castle to me it immediately evokes visions of Castle Grayskull, with he-man outside wielding his mighty sword. Now Sketrick Castle isn't quite as impressive as Skeletor’s residence, forgivable considering that it has been in existence in some shape or form for over 500 years, but there just isn’t that much of it still intact. There’s really just enough to keep the kids entertained, as they scale the craggy ruins and screech echo’s into a barred off chamber, a faded relic of the four story stronghold it was once purported to have once been.
It can be found on Sketrick Island, joined to Whiterock Bay by a causeway allowing passage over Strangford Lough. The location suggests that it was once an important part of the local economy possibly acting as guardian or watchdog for the channel, and it impressively receives a mention in both the ‘Annals of the Four Masters’ and the ‘Annals of Ulster’, spoke of as a structure of some contention where the O’Neill Clan had a bit of a scrap, then gifted the castle to the MacQuillians. The details are of the story are sketchy and the translation is difficult to digest but my interpretation is that the O’Neill Clan had an internal feud and a few people got merked.
With this carnage in mind, if you scan the remains you would imagine that its destruction was as a result of it being on the wrong end of a siege cannon during a lengthy and bloody blockade but alas no. It was disappointingly decimated by a rather wicked storm in 1896. The title picture above shows the north-west corner wall, the only end that still stands to any decent height, so it must have been an imposing sight in its pomp, all four towers allowing for a 360 view for miles around. Now, however, there are a number of 19th or 20th Century buildings in chokingly close proximity, somewhat striping any remaining lustre or mystique from the site, exacerbated by a carpark plonked directly in front of the castle's remnants. One such building was the former house of Hugh Montgomery who lived on the island in the 18-1900’s. His house has been re-branded as the Pub ‘Daft Eddies’, popular with cyclists, dog walkers and the older generation. Not everyone must drink solely in the pub as, in true ‘Norn Iron’ tradition, I found a smashed bottle of Buckfast adorning the grounds. Classy as ever we are.
The entire site takes about ten minutes to look around, or about an hour if you fancy a pint and enjoy the view of the lough. While it wouldn’t be high on my list of recommendation's it is worth a visit as Whiterock has some beautiful scenery, but the Castle itself has the aura of a tired, weary old soul longing for the end, a far cry from a local bastion in may once have been.