25 March 2015

£795,000 to spare? Then you could be the king of this Cullybackey castle


Ever wanted your own baronial pad?

Well, this spectacular castle close to Cullybackey has just gone on the market for a cool £795,000.

The fairy-tale castle of Craigdun was once the home of fiery Unionist MP Ronald McNeill, Lord Cushendun, who famously threw a book during a fraught Home Rule debate and struck Winston Churchill squarely in the head.

The famous Orangeman was also the UK’s tallest barrister at the time, clocking up a lanky six foot six inches, was co-editor of Encyclopedia Brittanica and the diplomat who signed Britain up to the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928.

The historic treaty was signed by 62 nations – including Germany, Soviet Union, Japan and Italy – who swore never to declare war on another country again. From then on, nations did cease declaring war, but many took to simply attacking without warning and the treaty was followed by undeclared invasions of China by Japan, Abyssinia by the Italians, Finland by the Russians and Poland by the Germans.

The Co Antrim castle is thought to have been designed by famous architect Charles Lanyon. It was built in the Scottish baronial style during the 1860s by Ronald’s father, ‘Long Eddie’ McNeill, who loomed over his son at six foot seven-and-a-half inches.

The original Craig’s Castle had been built on site in the early 17th century under grant from the crown in the reign of James I, but was knocked down by the McNeills who arrived in the 1670s from Scotland and used the masonry for the current castle.

Ronald McNeill sold the castle in 1912 to the Stott linen family and Doreen Stott donated it to the Northern Ireland National Health Service after her son Peter died of multiple sclerosis.

It was transformed into an MS treatment centre but was taken over in the 1990s by former fish farmer William Baird, who lived there with his wife Romayne before selling it to the current owners.

They restored it into a comfortable family home with formal gardens and their efforts were rewarded when the castle made it to the final of BBC House of the Year in 2011.

Craigdun Castle is built of basalt with a five-storey tower to the front, but runs deep to the rear with the main accommodation in a lengthy wing. It has many typical baronial features, including crow step gables, conical turrets and mock defensive features such as crenellations and arrow slits.

The tower has two rooms at each level and is in need of some restoration. The main floor has an outer hall, main hall, staircase hall, sunroom, drawing room, dining room, kitchen, family room, boot rooms, annex and cellar.

A previous owner claims to have walked through the house, counting the rooms, and given up at 36. Outside is a traditional stone courtyard with outbuildings, and 10.14 acres.

Savills Country is handling the sale of the house.


Craigdun Castle was built in the 1860s by ‘Long Eddie’ McNeill. It is believed to have been designed by Charles Lanyon, who was responsible for many of Northern Ireland’s best-known Victorian buildings including Belfast Castle. The architectural style was fashionable at the time and features crow step gables, conical turrets and mock defensive features such as crenulations and arrow slits. The centrepiece is a five-storey tower with pepper pot bartizans – jutting wing towers that allowed observers to see what was happening at the front gates.

Craigdun Castle, Cullybackey, Ballymena, BT42

View this and more articles on the Belfast Telegraph.

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