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Best Castles In Ireland

Best Castles In Ireland

Castles In Ireland: A contender for Ireland’s finest hotel is the 19th-century regal hunting and fishing lodge created by Arthur Guinness (of stout fame) out of a castle first built in 1228 as the seat of the de Burgo family. Guinness’ Victorian-style extensions were added to the original building, which itself had been transformed in 1715 into a French-style chateau; in the late 19th century the extensions were given a neo-Gothic makeover resulting in the building you see today. Despite its many styles, Ashford Castle is a stunner – and that’s before you even step inside to find a five-star luxury hotel with all the trimmings, including a sumptuous spa and its own cinema.

Irish history is full of notable events and turbulent times – from Vikings to the Norman Invasion. The latter defined the following centuries for the Irish people under the English and later, British, rule. Significant evidence of the times gone by can be found throughout the country.

Best Castles In Ireland

Irish castles vary from Medieval to late 19th-century residences, and each is as fascinating as the other. Some have fallen into despair and only remain as ruins, others are open to the public, while some are in private ownership or have been turned into luxury 5-star hotels.

No matter the outcome, each tells its own story and pains a picture from the historic times. These 15 beautiful Irish castles are located all across the country and are well worth a visit.

Castles For Sale In Ireland

Castles To Stay In Ireland

Castles To Stay In Ireland

Proof of the power of a good yarn crowds flocks to this 15th-century castle to kiss the Blarney Stone, which supposedly gives one the gift of gab. The stone itself may be one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, but the remainder of this castle is worth exploring – if only to climb the spiral staircase and walk the battlements of a proper medieval structure. But you can also vanish into its oft-ignored gardens: the gorgeous Fern Garden and Arboretum, the Harry-Potterish Poison Garden, and the landscaped nooks and crannies of the Rock Close.

Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim

Ireland’s most impressive Norman castle is also one of its oldest: established in 1177 by John de Courcy right after he invaded Ulster, it remains the best-preserved medieval structure in Ireland – despite being besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English, and the French. The castle’s central role in Irish history is explained in detail in the museum: the castle overlooks the harbor where William of Orange landed in 1690 on his way to fight the Battle of the Boyne. In 1778, American naval commander John Paul Jones won an hour-long sea battle with a Royal Navy vessel in the waters of the harbor.

Dunluce Castle, County Antrim

Location-wise, Dunluce is breathtaking – a ruined castle perched on a stone crag overlooking the sea. It was built in the early 16th century by the McQuillan family before it was seized in 1550 by the MacDonnell clan, who later took on the title of earls of Antrim. The castle has known its fair share of drama: the military ship Girona was wrecked on the rocks beneath it during the Spanish Armada of 1588, with only nine survivors among its crew of 1300; 51 years later, part of the castle collapsed into the sea along with seven servants.

Enniskillen Castle, County Fermanagh

Sometime in the 1420s, Hugh ‘, the Hospitable’ Maguire established this impressive castle on the banks of Lough Erne. But he didn’t have many opportunities to live up to his nickname, as he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and died upon his return in 1428. Successive heads of the Maguire clan – later titled the lords of Fermanagh – improved on Hugh’s original keep, whose twin-turreted Watergate still looms over passing fleets of cabin cruisers on the lake. The castle is now home to the fascinating Fermanagh County Museum and, on the ground floor, the Lakelands Gallery, where you’ll find a 1000-year-old 35lb block of butter that was preserved in a bog until it was dug up in 1980.

Best Castles In Ireland

You can’t go far in Ireland without catching a glimpse of a castle. With more than 30,000 castles in the country, it’s almost impossible to see them all. We’ve narrowed the list down to the greatest castles in Ireland so you know which ones to stop by and which ones to roll past. And what’s more, if you ever want to do more than just stop by, you could also spend the night in one of Ireland’s Castle Hotels.

1. Blarney Castle

Consistently ranked as one of the best places to visit in Ireland, you absolutely cannot miss Blarney Castle. Dating back to 1446, thousands of tourists make their way here each year to kiss the renowned Blarney Stone. Rumor has it if you climb the 10 stories to the top then hang upside down to kiss the stone you’ll be fortunate enough to get the gift of eloquence. Once you’ve kissed the stone and explored the castle be sure to take some time to admire the 60-acre floral garden.

2. Bunratty Castle

The fourth castle to be built on this site, Bunratty Castle sits on a 970 AD ancient Viking trading camp. The castle was opened to the public in 1960, and a tour around the castle shows off art, furniture, and tapestries from the 15th century. You can also take part in a traditional medieval feast, where you’ll be served all types of deliciousness like turkey legs, potato soup, goblets of mulled mead, and fresh bread by women in medieval gowns. For a true medieval experience, Bunratty is one of the best castles to visit in Ireland.

3. Cahir Castle

Cahir Castles is easily one of the best Irish castles. You can still see the defense structures, keep, and the tower that have remained intact since its construction in 1142; and if you head to the northeast tower you can see the cannonball that’s been stuck in the wall since the Nine Years’ War. While you’re exploring the castle, check out the amazing countryside views from the top of Cahir Tower, and catch a 15-minute film that teaches about the function of Ireland’s fortresses.

4. Ashford Castle

If you’ve always wanted to stay in a castle in Ireland, then Ashford Castle is ready to make your dreams come true. Built-in 1228, this Victorian castle has been expanded upon several times and is now both a five-star luxury hotel and a popular wedding venue. Outside you’ll see the gorgeously manicured lawns while inside you’ll be wowed by the spectacular gold interior. The castle has also hosted its fair share of celebrities from US President Ronald Reagan and John Wayne to England’s King George V and John Lennon. If you too want to live like royalty (at least for a day or two :D) make sure to book a stay at Ashford Castle, one of the best castle hotels in Ireland.

5. Malahide Castle

Once you’ve experienced the best of Dublin, head nine miles north to the 12th-century Malahide Castle. In addition to the castle and gardens, the parklands are full of things to do for the whole family. A tour of the castle will give you glimpses of beautiful rooms like the Oak Room and the Gothic Great Hall as well as a substantial painting collection and gorgeous period furniture. After you’ve toured the castle, take your pick of everything from shopping around the museum shop and retail store to exploring the walled Talbot Botanic Gardens or taking a bicycle tour.

Best Castles To Stay In Ireland

The Rock of Cashel

Home to an extensive collection of medieval architecture and Celtic art, this enormous complex has everything you could want in a castle experience. Along with the 90-foot round tower dating back to 1100, some of the other structures you’ll see are the 12th-century Cormac’s Chapel that’s home to one of the period’s best-preserved Irish frescos and the 13th-century cathedral.

Ross Castle

Said to have a ghost roaming the halls, this 15th-century castle is loaded with historic myths that you’ll be sure to hear about on your guided tour. Ross Castle is also known as one of the last significant strongholds to fall to Cromwell’s forces in the 1650s. Along with touring the castle and wandering around the grounds, you can even take a boat ride around the Lakes of Killarney and to Innisfallen Island.

Kilkenny Castle

Completed in 1213, this Anglo-Norman stone castle has become one of the most famous castles in Ireland. Kilkenny Castle has lasted through many changes and expansions, but it’s a must-see because part of the National Art Gallery is on display here, and its beautiful ornamental gardens.

Donegal Castle

Located on a bend along the River Eske, the castle was built in 1474 by one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland at the time, the O’Donnells. It was once said to be one of the finest Gaelic castles in Ireland, but because of the Nine Years’ War, it was nearly destroyed. Soon after its attempted destruction by the O’Donnells, English Captain Sir Basil Brooke quickly rebuilt the castle in a Jacobean style and today it’s surrounded by a 17th-century boundary wall.

Dublin Castle

Created to be a defensive fortification in 1204, today its a conference center, government complex, and it highlights the best castles of Ireland. When you take a tour, you’ll be guided through the medieval Dublin and Viking excavation site, the former viceregal State Apartments, and the Gothic Chapel Royal famous for its galleries and vaulting. Right near many of Dublin’s best hostels and hotels, it should be a super easy walk to the castle if you’re staying in the city.

How Many Castles Are In Ireland

An unofficial count estimates that Ireland has more than 1,000 castles. Scattered throughout the country, most of the medieval castles were built as defensive homes by the island’s most powerful families. Unfortunately, most of the castles were abandoned and left to lie as ruins. However, many of the fortified palaces have been restored to their former glory and can be explored by visitors. Whether you want to seek out deserted countryside homes, kiss the Blarney stone.

Bunratty Castle: Co. Clare, Ireland

Bunratty Castle is one of the most beloved and well-known castles in Ireland. Though there were earlier settlements on the same spot, the castle as it stands today was built in the 1400s. It is a fortified tower house located in County Clare which was fully restored in 1954. The gray stone castle has been furnished with antiques from the 15th and 16th centuries to show what life would have been like when it was built by the powerful MacNamara family. It is possible to visit the castle and to book tickets for the medieval banquets that are held there almost every day.

The Rock of Cashel: Co. Tipperary, Ireland

There are many myths associated with the large castle known as the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. According to the legend, this is where Aenghus the King of Munster was converted to Christianity by St. Patrick in the 5th century.  The High Kings of Ulster ruled from the castle here ​and later donated the site to the Catholic Church. Most of the buildings in the large castle complex date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. It is possible to walk through the castle and admire the beautiful medieval architecture that makes the Rock of Cashel one of the most visited sites in Ireland.

Dunluce Castle is an abandoned medieval castle set on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea in County Antrim, Northern Ireland that has been featured in the HBO series Game of Thrones. The dramatic setting is surrounded by steep drop-offs on every side and the castle can only be reached after crossing a bridge from the mainland. Dunluce was first built by the MacQuillan in the early 1500s but was taken over by the warrior MacDonnells in the 1550s. The clifftop location was ideal for defenses but proved a bit unstable — and part of the kitchen fell into the ocean during a stormy night in the 1630s. The castle passed hands to the Earls of Antrim but left to fall into disrepair. Today there is a visitor center at the castle to stop into before wandering through the ruined walls which still stand.

Blarney Castle: Co. Cork, Ireland

Blarney Castle is a medieval fortress near Cork, Ireland that is surrounded by a large garden and set next to the River Martin. The castle dates back to the early 1200s, though the stone fortress as it stands today was built by the McCarthy family in the 15th century. It is still possible to visit some of the rooms of the castle and to seek out the main attraction – the Blarney Stone. The stone at the top of the castle is believed to give the gift of the gab to anyone who leans over the sharp drop off to kiss it.

While some of Ireland’s castles lie in ruins, the gorgeous Ashford Castle has been converted into a luxury hotel. The castle was first built in the 1200s, and its fortified walls were expanded over the centuries when it served as the location for fierce battles. After a truce was agreed, the castle eventually became a hunting lodge before being purchased by a member of the Guinness family in 1852. The famous Irish beer family expanded the castle and built new wings, before selling the property in the 1930s. A mix of Victorian and medieval architecture, the beautiful ivy-covered Ashford Castle now has 83 guest rooms and has been featured in film and television.

Castles In Cork Ireland

Rent a bike to cycle from the town of Killarney to the picturesque Ross Castle. The medieval fort was built by the O’Donoghue clan on the edge of Lough Leane in what is now the Killarney National Park. Surrounded by extensive trails and plenty of picnic spots, Ross Castle is a popular stop for a day out. It is possible to take a guided tour of some of the castle, but many visitors also enjoy the view of the stone tower house from the outside while taking a quick walk around the grounds.

Dublin Castle: Co. Dublin, Dublin

Located off Dame Street in the heart of the Irish capital, Dublin Castle has a long political history. The castle served as the location of the United Kingdom government offices for hundreds of years until Ireland gained independence in 1922 and the castle was ceremoniously handed over to Michael Collins, the leader of the Irish Rebellion. There are still important government offices inside the complex, but the castle is also open to the public to visit the State Apartments, Medieval Undercroft, and Chapel Royal seven days a week.

Dunguaire Castle: Co. Galway, Ireland

Dunguaire Castle in County Galway is a fortified tower house dating back to 1520 that is built on the edge of Galway Bay. The castle was built by the Hynes clan and named after their ancestor Guaire Aiden mac Colmáin, a legendary king of Connacht.  After passing through different families over the centuries, the castle was eventually purchased by Oliver St. John Gogarty, a doctor, writer, and senator who often invited famous Irish authors like W.B. Yeats to stay. Today the castle has been restored and it is possible to visit the exhibits as well as to book tickets for the medieval banquets that are held inside the castle halls from April through September.

Cahir Castle: Co. Tipperary, Ireland

Cahir Castle is one of the largest castles in Ireland and almost seems to grow out of the rocky island it is built into in the River Suir. Located in County Tipperary, the castle was built by the O’Brien family in the 13th century. It has survived over the centuries thanks to its defensive design which withstood several sieges and battles though it was ultimately taken over by Cromwell’s army in 1650. Located close to the village of Cahir, the castle offers an audiovisual experience to teach visitors about the long history of the fortress.

Malahide Castle: Co. Dublin, Ireland

Found a 30-minute train ride from Dublin, pretty Malahide Castle is a fully restored medieval castle that was home to generations of the same family for almost 800 years. The castle is surrounded by a large park as well as a botanical garden which includes many rare and tropical plants. It is possible to take a guided tour of Malahide Castle, and its Great Hall can even be rented out for special events.

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