15 BEST Castles In Ireland 2023 (with Photos)
From the Viking Invasion to the Norman Invasion, Irish history is full of noteworthy incidents and tumultuous periods. For the Irish people living under English and later British rule, the latter defined the following centuries. All across the nation, there is abundant historical documentation.
Irish castles range from late 19th-century mansions to Medieval fortresses, and each is as fascinating as the next. Some are in private ownership or have been transformed into opulent 5-star hotels, while others have fallen into disrepair and are only left as ruins.
Whatever the outcome, each paints a unique picture of the historical era and tells its own story. These 15 stunning Irish castles are dispersed throughout the nation and are well worth a visit.
1. Kilkenny Castle – best castles in Ireland
Kilkenny Castle, one of Ireland’s most stunning castles, is located in the province of Leinster just one hour’s drive from Dublin. The castle’s construction started at the very end of the 12th century and became a symbol of the Norman occupation.
Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (also known as Strongbow), constructed the first castle, which was most likely made of wood. In 1213, a four-tower stone castle with a square shape was completed. Three of the original towers remain in place today.
The majority of the castle’s current structure is from the early to mid-19th century, when it underwent a significant restoration.
The town has expanded around Kilkenny Castle, which is a prominent feature in the area’s landscape. The River Nore flows past the castle, and it is especially lovely when you can see it from a boat.
2. Ashford Castle – best castles in Ireland
Many people have aspirations of one day living in a castle, or if that’s a little too idealistic, at least staying there for a night. The majority of the time, it’s regrettably not feasible. The best you can do is pay a visit, get a peek inside, perhaps go on a guided tour, and merely imagine what it would be like to reside in your own castle. North-western Ireland’s Ashford Castle is unique. One of Ireland’s finest 5-star hotels is located there in addition to being a castle.
The current castle was actually constructed in the 18th century, although a castle from the early 13th century still stands on the site. Ashford Castle was the family home and hunting lodge for the Brown family of the Baron Oranmore and Browne. It was built in the style of a 17th-century French chateau.
The castle’s current architecture blends elements of the medieval and Victorian eras.
The interiors of the hotel rooms and suites are all equally regal and embrace the castle’s illustrious history.
3. Cahir Castle – best castles in Ireland
One of the country’s biggest castles is Cahir Castle, located in the south-east of Ireland. It has enormous walls, a moat, an impressive keep, and a generally imposing and slightly intimidating appearance—everything you would expect from a medieval castle and fortress. That which a fortress in a medieval era was meant to represent
Early in the 12th century, a castle was built. After a three-day siege in 1599, it sustained significant cannon damage. As part of the Irish Confederate Wars, it was once more besieged in the 17th century.
Few castles in the nation have a functioning portcullis, but Cahir Castle is one of them.
4. Blarney Castle – best castles in Ireland
Due to Blarney Stone, also known as The Stone of Eloquence, most people are familiar with Blarney Castle. The stone is said to grant the gift of eloquence to those who kiss it while hanging backward. Visits by tourists total several hundred thousand annually. At the very top of the castle, which is currently in a state of partial ruin, is the stone itself. However, the castle is still a notable example of Irish medieval architecture.
Although there are records of previous fortifications on the same site, the keep was constructed by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty in the middle of the 15th century.
The Irish Confederate Wars affected several castles, including Blarney Castle, which was besieged at the time. The castle has had many different owners throughout the ages, and the Colthurst family is the current occupants.
The castle has an impressive and well-preserved exterior, but only a few of its rooms and battlements are accessible, making it a partial ruin. The castle’s expansive gardens, which include a poison garden with numerous poisonous plants, can be explored by anyone who visits and can be reached by climbing the spiral staircase. These gardens add to the castle’s magical atmosphere.
5. Bunratty Castle – best castles in Ireland
In West Ireland’s County Clare, Bunratty Castle is a stunning and well-preserved square tower. One of the most complete and authentic medieval fortresses in Ireland, Bunratty Castle dates back to 1425. Before the current castle, three other buildings, including an early Viking settlement, were erected on or close to the same site. The MacNamaras were the ones who built Bunratty Castle.
Bunratty Castle, another castle impacted by the Irish Confederate Wars, was strategically crucial because it governed the waterways leading up to Limerick. Following a protracted siege, the Confederates ultimately captured the castle.
The 7th Viscount Gort, who prevented the castle from falling into disrepair in the middle of the 20th century, restored it. Visitors are welcome inside the castle, which has tapestries, furniture, and artwork from the 15th and 16th centuries.
6. Malahide Castle – best castles in Ireland
Malahide Castle, with its oldest portions dating to the 12th century, is located on the outskirts of Dublin and is only 30 minutes by train away. Since it was built, the structure has undergone changes, and King Edward IV ordered expansion work to be done in the 15th century. Up until the middle of the 17th century, the towers were added even later. The Talbots, a prominent and lengthy-established family, built the castle.
The public is welcome in four reception rooms and bedrooms. The interiors are furnished with antiques and paintings that evoke a bygone era.
An exterior wall, a drawbridge, a portcullis, and a barbican once encircled Malahide Castle, which was also surrounded by a moat.
7. The Rock of Cashel – best castles in Ireland
The Rock of Cashel is a castle that, despite being in ruins, leaves a lasting impression when seen in person, despite its ruins. The Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, which is one of the main focal points in the scenery because the castle is perched on a hill overlooking it, is one of the most notable landmarks in the area.
The 28-meter-tall round tower, which is the oldest component of The Rock of Cashel and has a 1100-year-old history, is also its tallest component. When the tower was first constructed, it was done so using the dry-stone method, which uses only stones as a binding material and none of the mortar that is typically used in construction. However, modern construction techniques include some mortar fillings to secure the structure.
The Cormac’s Chapel, with its wide arches and vaulted ceilings, is one of the complex’s most aesthetically pleasing structures.
The entire complex is walled and has a large cemetery surrounding it.
8. Donegal Castle – best castles in Ireland
Donegal Castle has a very distinctive and unmistakable charm, looking less like a typical castle and more like a traditional late-Medieval/Jacobean country home. The castle, which is in the Ulster town of Donegal, was in ruins for almost two centuries before being nearly completely restored about 30 years ago.
An impressive 15th-century rectangular keep serves as the foundation of the castle. Later, a wing in the Jacobean design was added. The River Eske is nearby Donegal Castle, just like many other castles. Built in the seventeenth century, a perimeter wall encircles the castle. The construction of the castle utilized local sandstone and limestone.
9. Lismore Castle – best castles in Ireland
Duke of Devonshire’s residence is Lismore Castle in South Ireland. The castle has been owned by the Cavendish family since the middle of the 18th century. It was once owned by the Earls of Desmond. It is fair to say that the castle is a royal palace. There are numerous towers, turrets, and a sizable interior courtyard in the large building. On top of River Blackwater is Lismore Castle.
Lismore Castle is able to accommodate up to 27 guests, even though it remains a private residence for the majority of the year, unlike many other castles that are accessible to the public via guided tours. The castle offers an unmatched fairytale setting, making it a true dream come true for many.
10. Dublin Castle – best castles in Ireland
A significant portion of the Irish government is now housed in Dublin Castle, which is beautifully situated in the city’s center and stands in stark contrast to modern construction. But it’s always had a part to play in governing structures, whether British or Irish. Following the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, it was ceremonially transferred to the Provisional Government of Ireland.
The current structure dates back to roughly the 18th century, even though there was a castle on the same location during the reign of King John. The castle was constructed for defensive purposes back when Dublin was still a Norman city. But Dublin Castle changed over time to become a place of government.
The castle was converted from a Medieval fortress to a Georgian palace following extensive fire damage in the late 17th century. There is nothing of the medieval structure of the castle above the ground.
11. Dromoland Castle – best castles in Ireland
The West Irish Dromoland Castle now operates as a five-star luxury hotel, just like Ashford Castle. Despite the fact that a tower house had previously stood on the site since the early or middle 16th century, the current structure is from the middle of the 19th century. The architecture of the castle is neo-gothic.
There haven’t been many significant changes made to the baronial-style castle since it was built in the middle of the 19th century. The castle’s western portion has a lake in its direct line of sight, giving the surrounding area a fairytale appearance. Widespread walled gardens are located on the south side. Dromoland Castle, which is encircled by a vast forest, offers visitors a welcome escape from the bustle of daily life in addition to serving as a portal into the majesty of the past.
12. King John’s Castle – best castles in Ireland
Anyone traveling to South-West Ireland must visit Limerick to see King John’s Castle. In addition to being a magnificent example of medieval architecture, this significant location is also one of the best-preserved Norman castles in all of Europe because the towers, walls, and fortifications have withstood the test of time. The castle, which is perched atop King’s Island on the banks of the River Shannon, once occupied a key strategic location and continues to carry that weight today.
At the very beginning of the 13th century, King John issued an order for the construction of the castle. A Viking settlement had existed there since 922 before that.
The castle was constructed in this advantageous location to stifle any potential Norman uprisings to the east and south.
The walls of the castle were harmed during the Siege of Limerick in 1642, and like many other Irish castles, it was impacted by the Irish Confederate Wars.
The castle does not have a square keep, but it does have impressive rounded and barrel towers, as well as four curtain walls.
13. Birr Castle – best castles in Ireland
The 7th Earl of Rosse resides at Birr Castle in County Offaly in central Ireland. Since the Anglo-Norman era, a castle has stood on the property; however, much has changed over the years and little of the original buildings are still in place. The current castle, despite this, is a superb illustration of Irish castles.
Due to its use as the residence of The 7th Earl of Rosse, the castle is only partially open to tourists; however, the gardens and surrounding park are accessible to all.
The original castle was abandoned around the beginning of the 17th century, and the Parsons family was given ownership of it. To make the structure more livable, they added two flanking towers on either side of the Norman gate tower. The castle endured two sieges throughout the Irish Confederate Wars.
14. Ross Castle – best castles in Ireland
In a location where time stands still, Ross Castle is located. Looking at the castle from a distance, one could easily imagine being transported back in time to the Middle Ages while in the South of Ireland’s vast and unspoiled landscape. The 15th-century tower house, which looks out over Lough Leane and Killarney National Park, exudes calm despite its massive appearance.
Following the Second Desmond Rebellion in the late 16th century, Ross Castle was acquired by the MacCarthy Mór from the O’Donoghue clan, which had previously owned it.
The structure of the castle is that of a tower house with square bartizans and substantial walls, as was customary for Medieval strongholds. Lower-level windows are not wide enough to allow uninvited visitors to enter the castle, but they are narrow enough to allow occupants to defend themselves against potential enemies by shooting arrows. Even the spiral staircase was constructed in such a way as to give the castle’s defenders an advantage; anyone climbing the stairs would be at a significant disadvantage due to the placement of their swords on the inner side of the stairs.
15. Doonagore Castle – best castles in Ireland
Even though there isn’t much of the original castle left aside from a round tower house, it is still a unique location to see close to the North Atlantic Ocean’s shores. An old walled enclosure and a round tower house from the sixteenth century are both still standing.
Around the year 1403, a castle was constructed here. The tower house from the sixteenth century was constructed from sandstone, a local stone, as opposed to many others in the area that were constructed from limestone.
When a Spanish Armada ship came ashore nearby the castle in the very late 16th century, it left an unsettling mark on history. At the castle, the survivors were later hanged.
The castle is not accessible to the general public as a result of its private Irish-American owner having owned it since the 1970s.
Topic: 15 BEST Castles In Ireland 2023 (with Photos)
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By: Travel Pixy