Exploring Ireland’s Majesty: Our Favorite Irish Castles

Exploring Ireland's Majesty: Our Favorite Irish Castles


From majestic ruins to extensively restored masterpieces, Ireland's beautiful and historic castles attract thousands of visitors each year.  Here are just a few examples of our favorite Irish castles.

Blarney Castle

Favorite Irish Castles Blarney

Courtesy Blarney Castle and Gardens

Located near Cork, Blarney Castle is a medieval fortress located near the town of Blarney. The castle was built in the 15th century by the MacCarthy dynasty and was later confiscated by the English crown in the 17th century. Today, it is one of Ireland's most popular tourist destinations and is famous for the Blarney Stone, a stone set in the wall of the castle's battlements that visitors can kiss in the hopes of receiving the "gift of the gab" or the ability to speak persuasively. In addition to the Blarney Stone, the castle is also home to beautiful gardens, including the Poison Garden, which features a collection of poisonous plants. Visitors can explore the castle's various rooms and learn about its rich history, including its role in the Irish Wars of Independence.

Blarney Castle is open to visitors year-round, although hours of operation may vary depending on the season. Visitors should also be prepared to climb stairs and navigate narrow passageways when exploring the castle.

Dublin Castle

Dublin in a Day Dublin Castle

Courtesy Fionn McCann

Situated in the heart of Dublin, Dublin Castle is a historic fortress originally built in the 13th century on the site of a Viking settlement. It served as a symbol of English power in Ireland for over 700 years. Today, it is one of the city's top tourist attractions and an important government building.

The castle has been the site of many important events in Irish history, including the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, which led to the establishment of the Irish Free State. Visitors can take guided tours of the castle, which includes visits to the State Apartments, the Chapel Royal, and the medieval undercroft.The State Apartments are a series of lavish rooms that were used for state occasions and receptions, including the inauguration of Irish presidents. The Chapel Royal is a beautiful 19th-century Gothic Revival church that is still used for worship today. The medieval undercroft, which dates back to the 12th century, is one of the oldest surviving structures in the castle and is now used for exhibitions.

Dublin Castle also houses a variety of government offices, including the Office of the President of Ireland, the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), and the Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament).

Kilkenny Castle

Favorite Irish Castles Kilkenny

Courtesy Allen Kiely

Located in the city of Kilkenny in southeast Ireland, Kilkenny Castle was built in the 12th century as a defensive structure for the Anglo-Norman settlers who had established a presence in the area. Over the centuries, it was expanded and renovated many times, and it is now one of the most important architectural landmarks in Ireland.

Today, Kilkenny Castle is open to the public and offers visitors the chance to explore its many rooms and learn about its rich history. Guided tours are available, and visitors can see the Long Gallery, which is lined with beautiful tapestries, and the Drawing Room, which features elaborate plasterwork and a large marble fireplace. The castle also houses a museum that contains artifacts related to the castle's history, including paintings, sculptures, and furniture.

The castle is set in a beautiful park that includes extensive gardens, woodlands, and a lake. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the grounds and enjoy the many features of the park, including the rose garden, the ornamental lake, and the outdoor sculptures.

Kylemore Abbey

Best of Ireland

Courtesy Chaosheng Zhang

Although technically a neo-gothic mansion, Kylemore Abbey in County Galway is often referred to as a castle due to its grandeur and history. Originally built in the late 19th century as a private estate, it was later sold to the Irish Benedictine nuns who established a convent and school on the site.

The abbey is situated on the shores of Lake Pollacappul and is surrounded by the beautiful Connemara mountains. Visitors to the abbey can take guided tours of the building and its many rooms, including the Gothic Church, which was built by the original owners of the estate, and the neo-Gothic Mausoleum, which is the final resting place of Mitchell and Margaret Henry, the estate's former owners.

The abbey's walled Victorian Gardens are also open to the public and feature a wide variety of plants and flowers, including rare species from around the world. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the gardens and enjoy the many features, including the restored garden buildings, the formal flower beds, and the charming woodland walks.

Ashford Castle

Favorite Irish Castles

Courtesy Aervisions

Ashford Castle is a luxurious hotel and historic castle located in County Mayo, Ireland. The castle was originally built in the 13th century as a defensive structure for the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family. Over the centuries, it was expanded and renovated many times, and it is now one of the most exclusive and lavish hotels in Ireland.

Today, Ashford Castle offers guests the opportunity to stay in one of its many luxurious rooms and suites, which feature antique furnishings, ornate decorations, and modern amenities. Guests can also enjoy a wide range of activities on the castle grounds, including golfing, horseback riding, fishing, and falconry. A stay at Ashford Castle is definitely worth the splurge!

The castle's restaurants offer a range of dining options, from traditional Irish cuisine to international dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients. There are also several bars on site where guests can enjoy a drink and relax.

In addition to its accommodations and amenities, Ashford Castle is known for its rich history and cultural heritage. Visitors can take guided tours of the castle and learn about its many famous residents, including the Guinness family and John Wayne, who stayed at the castle while filming "The Quiet Man." The castle is also home to a collection of historic artifacts, including suits of armor, antique furniture, and priceless works of art.

Bunratty Castle

Favorite Irish Castles Bunratty

Photographer: Chris Hill

Built in the 15th century, Bunratty Castle served as the home of the O'Brien family, who were the rulers of the region at the time. The castle is now a popular tourist attraction and cultural center that offers visitors the chance to step back in time and experience medieval Ireland.

Visitors to Bunratty Castle can take guided tours of the castle's many rooms and learn about its history, including its role in the 1641 Rebellion and the Irish War of Independence. The castle is furnished with period pieces and features many interesting architectural details, including a drawbridge, a banqueting hall, and a dungeon.

In addition to the castle itself, the Bunratty Folk Park is located on the grounds and offers visitors a glimpse into traditional Irish life. The park features a recreated village with authentic thatched cottages, a working farm, and a collection of historic artifacts, including traditional crafts and tools.

Bunratty Castle is also known for its medieval banquets, which offer visitors the chance to enjoy a traditional Irish feast in the castle's great hall. The banquet features live music, entertainment, and a lively atmosphere that transports guests back in time.

Cahir Castle

Favorite Irish Castles Cahir

Courtesy Failte Ireland

Probably one of the best preserved, 13th century castles in Ireland, Cahir castle was built as a defensive structure for the Butler family, who were the rulers of the area. The castle has been through many changes over the centuries, including significant renovations in the 15th and 19th centuries. Today, Cahir Castle is open to the public and offers visitors the opportunity to explore its many rooms and features. Guided tours are available, and visitors can see the castle's keep, which is one of the largest in Ireland, and the Great Hall, which features a large fireplace and beautiful stonework.

The castle also houses a museum that contains artifacts related to the castle's history, including weapons, armor, and furniture. Visitors can learn about the castle's many famous residents, including the Butler family and the Earls of Glengall.

Cahir Castle is set in a beautiful location on the River Suir, and the surrounding town of Cahir offers visitors many other attractions and amenities. There are several restaurants and cafes in the town, as well as a range of shops and galleries.

Dunluce Castle

Favorite Irish Castles Dunluce

© Chris Hill Photographic 2011 +44(0) 2890 245038

A ruined medieval castle located on the north coast of County Antrim in Northern Ireland Dunluce Castle was built in the 13th century by the MacQuillan family and was later occupied by the MacDonnell clan in the 16th century.  The castle is situated on a rocky promontory overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and its location makes it a stunning sight. The castle is now in ruins, but visitors can still explore its many rooms and features, including the impressive gatehouse, the kitchen, the dungeons, and the remains of the great hall.

Dunluce Castle has a rich history and has been the site of many battles and sieges over the centuries. Visitors can learn about the castle's history through guided tours and exhibits, which cover the castle's many residents and the events that took place there. In addition to its historical significance, Dunluce Castle is also known for its stunning natural beauty. The castle is located on the Causeway Coastal Route, which is one of the most scenic drives in Northern Ireland. Visitors can also take a short walk to the nearby Giant's Causeway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular attractions in the region.

Athlone Castle

Favorite Irish Castles Athlete

Courtesy Joanna Grobosz

A medieval castle located in the town of Athlone, Athlone Castle was built in the 12th century as a defensive structure to protect the ford across the River Shannon, which was an important crossing point between east and west Ireland.  The castle has played an important role in Irish history and has been through many changes over the centuries. It was occupied by various rulers, including the Normans, the English, and the Irish, and was the site of many battles and sieges.

Today, Athlone Castle is open to the public and offers visitors the opportunity to explore its many rooms and features. The castle has been beautifully restored and now houses a modern museum that covers the castle's history, as well as the history and culture of the region. Visitors can see the castle's many exhibits, including interactive displays, artifacts, and multimedia presentations that bring the castle's history to life. The museum also includes a rooftop viewing area that offers stunning views of the River Shannon and the surrounding countryside.

In addition to the castle itself, the town of Athlone offers visitors many other attractions and amenities. There are several restaurants and cafes in the town, as well as a range of shops and galleries, including the Luan gallery.  Be sure to visit nearby Seans Bar, the oldest bar in Ireland when in Athlone.

Trim Castle

Favorite Irish Castles Trim

A well-preserved medieval castle, Trim Castle was built in the 12th century by Hugh de Lacy, who was the Lord of Meath at the time. The castle is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland and has played an important role in Irish history. It was the site of many battles and sieges over the centuries, and was also used as a filming location for the movie "Braveheart".

Today, Trim Castle is open to the public and offers visitors the opportunity to explore its many rooms and features. Guided tours are available, and visitors can see the castle's keep, which is one of the tallest in Ireland, and the Great Hall, which features beautiful stonework and a large fireplace. In addition to the castle itself, the town of Trim offers visitors many other attractions and amenities. There are several restaurants and cafes in the town, as well as a range of shops and galleries.

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A passionate traveler and storyteller, Ted is blessed with dual Irish/American citizenship, which allows him to bridge two cultures and share the magic of his ancestral homeland. He's an avid blogger, always eager to share his discoveries and inspire others to embark on their own adventures. Whether you're a solo traveler, a couple seeking romance, or a family looking for fun, Ted's bespoke itineraries are tailored to create memories that last a lifetime.

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Copyright: Tourism Ireland

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