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Welcome to Ballylough Living History, based just outside Bushmills, Co. Antrim

Our History and Mission

Sometime between 10,000 and 7,000 BC, the ice retreated from this island revealing land that we know today as Ireland. The whole island was covered in trees and in essence a squirrel could have travelled from Bushmills to Cork without ever putting a foot on the ground. Elks and bears also roamed the land and at this time people settled around the lake here at Ballylough. There is a Crannog on the lake with some estimating that it was built 7,000 years ago, we hope to excavate this crannog in the future and analyse a core soil sample to date the area and reveal more about its living habitats.

In 2009 a small archaeological dig was carried out by teams from University of Ulster, Coleraine and Queen's University, Belfast. During this, they discovered a Rath and, more incredibly, a lost castle underneath the existing MacQuillan ruins that can be seen on site. It is possible that this castle is one of the Savage castles, built around 1275.

In 1789 the Rev Anthony Traill bought the Ballylough & Ballintoy houses and lands from the Stewart family who had been in situ as land agents for the MacDonnells. Several changes were subsequently made to the estates at this time with Ballintoy being sold as well as most of the land over the ensuing years.

We are on a mission to tell the story of the site and the people who lived and worked here through the centuries and so, have embarked on a journey of research and restoration. It is our hope that over the forthcoming years we shall discover many answers and be able to preserve and protect the buildings, flora and fauna on site.

This is a programme of lifelong projects for which progress is only made when donations, funds or our wonderful volunteers make it possible. We open for European Heritage Open Days (EHOD) each year in September and over the past three years, have run our highly successful Halloween and Christmas events which, with the dedication of a number of workers will see an even bigger and better return later this year!

After the challenging and unsettling year, we have experienced as a result of covid-19, we are looking forward to getting you all back on site to experience the history and beauty of Ballylough in all its glory.

Halloween and Christmas 2021 in progress! Watch this space…