Cushendun: a Unique Artistic Heritage

27 July 2021

For anyone travelling by bus northwards along the coast, Cushendun is at the world’s end. Most buses turn at Glenmona and go back whence they came. Travellers moving through the village, though, will notice a landscape of extraordinary beauty and charm: the river Dun flowing imperturbably into a bay embraced by the quiet hillsides of Cushleake and Sleans.

Here nature and art co-exist harmoniously, for the natural hinterland is beautifully offset by architecture modelled by its designer, Clough Williams Ellis, on the Cornish–style houses beloved of Maud McNeill, Penzance-born wife of Lord Cushendun. The McNeills were among the Ascendancy families who owned Cushendun’s five ‘big houses’ of the nineteenth century – Rockport, Glenmona, Glendun Lodge, Cave House and old Cushendun House, only the last of which no longer stands. There are also reminders of a much more remote past: Shane’s Cairn, and the poignant and enigmatic Castle Carra.

Over the years, Cushendun has attracted a remarkably large number of interesting and creative people. It was to Cave House that John Masefield brought his Cushendun-born wife; in Rockport that Moira O’Neill wrote her Songs of the Glens of Antrim and, in 1939, Louis MacNeice the line ‘What a place to talk of War’; in Glendun Lodge that Ada McNeill, original and gifted founder of Feis na nGleann, engaged in impassioned argument with Sir Roger Casement.

Art also has flourished here. Sentinel to the village stands sculptor Deborah Brown’s gift of Johann the Goat, one of three works of sculpture by the river mouth, while the work of Theo Gracey, Maurice Wilks, James Humbert Craig and Charlie McAuley forms a distinctive ‘Cushendun school’.