Castles and Estates of Ballymoney

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Motte and bailey castles were built by Anglo-Norman settlers in the period after they invaded Ulster in 1177.  Many of them survive throughout the east of Ireland. While Earls lived in large stone castles, such as at Carrickfergus, their chief tenants, the Barons, lived in these smaller fortified dwellings.

The ‘motte’ was a large mound of earth with a flat platform on which a wooden tower was erected. A wooden palisade protected the forum. The ‘bailey’, or courtyard, was an embanked enclosure at the foot of the mound where most of the inhabitants would live.

The bailey would probably have contained buildings, e.g. a hall, large chamber, and barns. Few Irish mottes were built with a bailey, unlike those found in England or Europe. Those with baileys tend to be situated in regions where the inhabitants were at risk from attack and thought they may have had a military function.

In the Ballymoney area, examples of a typical motte can be found at Carrowcrin, near Loughguile, and Drumart, near Ballymoney. Knockahollet, also near Loughguile, is a well-preserved motte with a bailey.

Leslie Hill

Leslie Hill House Near Ballymoney

Leslie Hill has remained in the Leslie family since it was built in 1756 and is one of the grandest buildings in Northern Ireland.

The front of the house overlooks a park and lake excavated in the 19th century. The house originally had two wings. These were demolished in 1955, although one has been rebuilt. The estate buildings include the Bell Barn, famously described by Arthur Young in 1776 during his ‘Tour of Ireland.

Successive generations of the Leslie family have served in public office, including high sheriffs, bishops, a Lord Lieutenant, privy Councillor and a Senator.

Leslie Hill now has a popular open farm, which attracts thousands of tourists and school children.


Saturday 11th April-13th April 11am-5.30pm

July and August:

Monday-Friday 11am-5.30pm

Saturday and Sunday 1 pm-5.30 pm

Benvarden House

Benvardin House Near Ballymoney

Benvarden House is an attractive house with an intriguing history, beautifully situated on the River Bush.

The land was initially leased to Daniel Macnaghten by Lord Antrim in 1636. His descendant, John Macnaghten, was hanged in 1761 for shooting wealthy heiress Mary Anne Knox of Prehen while trying to abduct her. At his execution, the rope broke and in a vain attempt to avoid being forever remembered as ‘Half-hanged Macnaghten’, he climbed the scaffold for a second attempt. Despite his efforts, the nickname stuck.

In 1797, Benvarden was bought by Hugh Montgomery, who was one of the founding partners of the Northern Bank. He extended the house considerably, adding twelve bed chambers and a ballroom.

Benvarden is probably best remembered for its lion park, which enthralled many visitors from the 1970s to 1996.

The estate is well-known for its extensive beautiful gardens, which were cultivated in the early 19th century and continue to be maintained with dedication by the present owners.


June – August 12 noon – 5 pm

Closed Mondays, except Bank Holidays.


OHarabrook House Near Ballmoney

O’Harabrook is a long, low house of two storeys, built in the late 18th century. It is named after the O’Hara family, who first built it.

It is thought that O’Harabrook may once have been a coaching inn because of the many small rooms it contains. In 1889, The O’Hara Family sold the estate for £6,300 to Captain J.S Cramsie, whose ancestors had settled in Ballymoney around 1709. The Cramsie family continue to live there.

In the estate is the graveyard of the Ballynacree Quaker settlement known as ‘The Lambs’ Fold’.

The estate is Now a Bed & Breakfast so not open to the public.

Lissanoure Castle

Lissanoure Castle

Sir Philip Savage built the first castle at Lissanoure in the reign of King John (1199-1216 AD).

The Macartney family purchased the estate in 1733, and it was the birthplace of George Macartney, who became the first British Ambassador to China in 1782. The Macartney family rebuilt and extended the castle using a mixture of gothic and classical architectural styles. Very little of this remains as the castle was destroyed in 1847 by a massive explosion. Caskets of gun powder, stored since the 1798 United Irish Rebellion, were accidentally ignited, and the building was left in ruins. Tragically, Mrs Macartney was instantly killed.

The Government used the estate to billet American troops during World War II, and a prisoner of war camp was built to detain German U-boat crews on their surrender in 1945.

The estate contains the ruined church of St. Mary by the Lake, the graveyard of which includes the Macartney tombs. The offices, and farm buildings dating from the 1780s, have been restored for private functions.

The grounds of Lissanoure Castle are strictly private and are not open to the public.

Fleming Hall, Anticur Dunloy

Fleming Hall is an attractive early Georgian house situated on a hillside. The Fleming family first came to the area in the 17th century when Colonel Christopher Fleming settled there. He was a Jacobite who fought for King James II in the Battles of Aughrim and the Boyne. Following the defeat of James II, Fleming had to forfeit his peerage, and he was forced into exile.

Fleming’s great nephew, also Christopher, obtained a lease for Fleming Hall in 1747. The property later passed to Sarah Fleming, who in 1789 became the second wife of James Leslie, of Leslie Hill. In the 19th century, the house was bought by the Wallace family, who retained much of the original character.

Fleming Hall is a private residence and is not open to the public.

Gracehill House, Stranocum

James Stuart built Gracehill House in c.1775 and named it after his wife, Grace Lynd. The house was initially surrounded by a large estate recently developed into a golf course and popular restaurant. The former entrance to the estate is now a public road lined with beech trees and is a popular tourist attraction known as ‘the Dark Hedges’.

The estate has a royal heritage dating back to the early 17th century. James VI & I granted the land to a cousin who drowned on his way to Ireland before he could take possession of his new home. The estate then passed to his grandson, William Stuart, and remained in the Stuart family for many.

Stranocum Hall, Stranocum

The Stranocum estate was initially owned by the Hutchinson family, who came from Scotland in the 17th century. It is built in the classic Georgian style and has recently been carefully restored as a private residence.

The Hutchinson family were actively crushing the United Irish Rebellion of 1798. Ironically, while the Hutchinsons were chasing rebels throughout the North Antrim countryside, a gang arrived at the house and stole valuables, firearms, wine and food.

During World War II, the building and outhouses were converted to accommodate child evacuees who fled from the British colony in Malta.

Close to the house are two Early Medieval ringforts and a souterrain.