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The 11 Best Castles to Visit in Ireland

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

joe daniel price/Getty Images

An unofficial count estimates that Ireland has more than 30,000 castle and castle remains. 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, get married in Ireland , or simply sleep in luxury — here are the best castles in Ireland: 

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 the 1960s. 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: Co. Antrim, Northern 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.  

Ashford Castle: Co. Mayo, Ireland

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 the 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. 

Ross Castle: Co. Kerry, Ireland

 TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

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 Aidhne 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

A 30-minute train ride from Dublin transports you to Malahide Castle , 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.

Minard Castle: Co. Kerry, Ireland

No one has lived at Minard Castle since it was attacked by Cromwell’s army in 1650. The military destroyed parts of the tower house but three stories of the original structure are still standing. The pretty location on the edge of a quiet beach filled with boulders makes it worth a short detour down a country road to the abandoned castle in County Kerry. There is no visitors center, but it is possible to climb up the small hill and walk around the historic stone walls that overlook the Irish sea near the town of Dingle.

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The Irish Road Trip

33 Of The Best Castles In Ireland

By Author Keith O'Hara

Posted on Last updated: July 11, 2023

33 Of The Best Castles In Ireland

The topic of ‘the best castles in Ireland’ stirs up a lot of debate online.

I’d argue that there’s  no  best – each offers something a little bit different.

Take, for example, Kilkenny Castle – it’s beautifully maintained and looks like it did hundreds of years ago.

Compare this to the likes of the crumbling Dunluce Castle in Antrim and you’ve two castles that are world apart in both history, location and appearance.

In this guide, I’ll show you what  I  think are the best castles in Ireland to add to your to-see list for 2023.

Table of Contents

The best castles in Ireland

map of famous castles in Ireland

Click here for a high res image (copyright: The Irish Road Trip)

Although there are plenty of things to do in Ireland , many visitors to the island have the various Irish castles at the top of their bucket lists.

Castles in Ireland tend to hold plenty of secrets, stories and tales. You’ll find the most interesting ones below.

1. Glenveagh Castle (Donegal)

Glenveagh Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

There are few castles in Ireland with a location that’s as mighty as Glenveagh Castle in Donegal. Built between 1867 and 1873, Glenveagh Castle is finely placed on the shores of Lough Veagh.

The castle’s location was inspired by the Victorian idyll of a romantic highland retreat and you’ll find it surrounded by mountains in Glenveagh National Park .

The construction of Glenveagh was ordered by a man from Laois named John George Adair.

Adair married his wife, an American by the name of Cornelia, and construction of what is now one of the finest Irish castles began in 1867.

2. Dunlough Castle (Cork)

Dunlough Fort

You’ll find one of the most uniquely located castles in Ireland at a place called Three Castle Head, a stone’s throw from Mizen Head in West Cork.

It’s here that you’ll find the ruins of Dunlough Castle in an area that boasts an almost other-worldly landscape.

It’s believed that the castle here (there’s only one, despite the area’s name) is one of the oldest Norman castles in this corner of Ireland.

Legend tells the tale of a ‘Lady of the Lake’ that haunts the area. The story goes that the ghost is that of a heartbroken bride who leaped off a nearby cliff after discovering that her dad accidentally ‘offed’ her new husband.

3. Dunluce Castle (Antrim)

Dunluce Castle

You’ll find the romantic ruins of Dunluce Castle perched on dramatic cliffs along County Antrim’s craggy coastline, not far from the Giant’s Causeway .

A source of wanderlust for travellers the world over, Irish castles don’t come much more unique than this.

According to legend, on a particularly stormy night in 1639, part of the castle’s kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the icy waters below.

The castle’s striking appearance and quirky legend have seen it receive enormous attention online in recent years. It’s best visited while driving the Antrim Coastal Route .

4. Trim Castle (Meath)

Trim Castle

Trim Castle , in my opinion, is the best castle in Ireland. I live an hour drive from this place and, no matter how many times I visit, the sight of it never fails to amaze.

You’ll find Trim Castle on the shores of the ancient River Boyne, where it has been since 1176. Once the largest of the many Irish castles, Trim occupies a 30,000 m² site in County Meath.

If you’ve ever watched the movie Braveheart with Mel Gibson, you may recognise Trim Castle as one of the castles used in the film. You can take a tour of the castle grounds and of one of the towers, also!

5. Blarney Castle (Cork)

Blarney Castle

Arguably one of the most famous castles in Ireland, Blarney tends to attract tourists from far and wide.

Blarney Castle tends to often be referred to as a ‘tourist trap’, but that couldn’t be further from the case. OK, if you’re only visiting the castle to see the Blarney Stone , then you may be disappointed.

However, Blarney has much more to offer than a stone that gives the gift of the gab. The extensive grounds and the many unique features of Blarney make it a joy to visit.

Those that saunter around Blarney can visit the Witch’s kitchen, the magic steps, one of the only poison gardens in Ireland and plenty more.

6. Clough Oughter Castle (Cavan)

Clough Oughter Castle

Clough Oughter Castle is like something from a fairytale. It’s unique, surrounded by natural beauty and it has an interesting story attached to it.

You’ll find the castle in County Cavan, next to the picturesque Killykeen Forest Park. Over the years, Clough Oughter fell under the control of many different clans. It also fell under the control of the rebels.

In 1641, the castle was seized during the Irish Rebellion and it was turned into an island fortification. Interestingly enough, at one point, it was also used as a prison.

7. Classiebawn Castle (Sligo)

Classiebawn Castle

You’ll find another of our favourite Irish castles in the village of Mullaghmore in County Sligo where it looks like something that’s been plucked straight from a fairytale.

Classiebawn Castle was built by Viscount Palmerston, who was once Prime Minister of the UK. Construction of the castle finished in 1874 and it was built primarily from stone from Donegal.

The castle passed through a number of hands over the years. One of my biggest issues with Classiebawn is that, as it’s on private land, it’s very hard to get a good look at it.

Most of the photos that you see have been taken through a long photo lens.

8. McDermott’s Castle (Roscommon)

McDermott's Castle

Antother of the best castles in Ireland if you’re fond of ones with glorious locations is McDermott’s Castle .

You’ll find the very magical looking McDermott’s Castle in County Roscommon on the waters of Lough Key.

Lough Key is home to over 30 islands but none compare to one known as ‘Castle Island’. It’s on Castle Island that the ruins of McDermott’s Castle can be found.

If you read our guide to McDermott’s Castle , you’ll learn about the tragic incident that took place here many years ago between a young couple along with how you can visit during your trip to Ireland.

9. Doonagore Castle (Clare)

Doonagore Castle

I’ve visited Doolin on many different occasions over the years, but it wasn’t until my most recent visit in late 2019 that I visited Doonagore Castle. The first castle here was built during the 14ht century on the site of a ring fort.

The castle that stands today dates to the mid-16th century and is what’s known as a tower house. Doonagore passed through many hands over the years. In 1588, a ship from the Spanish Armada crashed near the castle.

Although the 170 passengers survived, they were all hanged soon after. Discover more about the incident and the history of the building in our guide to Doonagore Castle .

10. Kinbane Castle (Antrim)

Kinbane Castle

There seem to be endless castles in Northern Ireland sat in ruin at the side of cliffs!

You’ll find Kinbane Castle on a little rocky promontory that juts out into the sea known as Kinbane Head.

It was built around 1547 and, although it’s now in ruins, is well worth a visit if you’re driving along the Causeway Coastal Route.

The ruins are isolated, the castle tends to get only a handful of visitors and the scenery that engulfs you as you walk around the ruins is absolutely breath-taking.

11. Birr Castle (Offaly)

Birr Castle

There has been a fortress on the site of the mighty Birr Castle since 1170. Interestingly enough, the castle is still inhabited by the same family that bought it in 1620.

So, although you can take a tour of Birr, the residential areas of the castle are not open to the public. One of the most unique features of Birr Castle is its giant telescope.

It was built in the 1840s and for many years it was the largest telescope in the world. Between 1845-1914, people from all over the world travelled to Birr Castle to use it.

12. Kilkenny Castle (Kilkenny)

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle is a place that tends to make it onto the itineraries of many of those visiting Ireland, with hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals visiting its grounds each year.

The castle here was built in 1195 in order to ensure the protection of a point of the nearby River Nore that was shallow enough for potential enemies to walk through.

The castle was given to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for the fine sum of £50 and it’s now a major tourist attraction that boasts some finely-manicured grounds that are perfect for a ramble around.

This is widely regarded as one of the best castles in Ireland for good reason.

13. Dublin Castle (Dublin)

Dublin Castle

You’ll find Dublin Castle on Dame Street in Dublin City Centre on the site of a Viking Fortress.

Work on the first castle here kicked off in 1204 while Dublin was under Norman rule following the invasion of 1169.

It was built on what was previously a Viking settlement and construction was completed in 1230.

However, the only section of this original fortress that remains to this day is the Record Tower. Many of the current features were added  during the 19th century.

Related reads: Visiting Dublin? See our guides to the best castles in Dublin (and the finest castles near Dublin )

14. King John’s Castle (Limerick)

King John’s Castle

You’ll find King Johns Castle on King’s Island in the heart of Limerick City where it overlooks the River Shannon.

Similar to Dublin Castle, King John’s is also situated on a site that was home to a Viking settlement.

The construction of the castle was ordered by King John during 1200 and it is now widely regarded as one of Europe’s best-preserved Norman castles.

You’ll catch brilliant views from high up on the actual battlements themselves. Those who make the short climb will be treated to a 360 panorama of the city and the River Shannon.

15. Cahir Castle (Tipperary)

Cahir Castle

The incredible 13th-15th century Cahir Castle, which was once the stronghold of the Butler family, is widely regarded as one of the best-preserved castles in Ireland. It can be found on a rocky island on the River Suir in Tipperary.

The castle was skilfully designed to be a state-of-the-art defensive castle and, over the course of many years, it was rebuilt and extended. It wasn’t until 1599 that the castle reached its current state.

A visit to Cahir Castle will immerse you in the eventful history of the castle, from when it was built from 1142 by Conor O’Brien right the way up to when it was declared a national monument.

16. Belfast Castle (Antrim)

Belfast Castle

The fairytale-like Belfast Castle can be found on the lower slope of Cave Hill country park in Belfast City.

Those that visit Belfast Castle can admire views of the city below while also checking out a variety of plant and wildlife, from long-eared owls and sparrowhawks to Belfast’s rarest plant, the Town Hall Clockto.

Although there have been a number of castles in the city, the current structure on Cave Hill was only constructed in 1862 and it boasts a Scottish Baronial architectural style.

This is arguably one of the best castles in Ireland if you’re looking for a castle that’s still mostly in its original state.

17. Carrickfergus Castle (Antrim)

Carrickfergus Castle

Few Irish castles are as well known as Carrickfergus Castle . You’ll find it in the town of Carrickfergus in Antrim, on the shores of Belfast Lough.

The castle was built in 1177 by John de Courcy and, over the years, it saw plenty of action. In 1210, Carrickfergus was seized by King John. In 1689 it was involved in the week-long ‘Siege of Carrickfergus’.

Later, in 1760, it was looted by the French. Then, in 1797, it was used to contain prisoners of war. Visitors can take a ramble around the castle and explore what was once a medieval stronghold.

18. Bunratty Castle (Clare)

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle is a tourist favourite, thanks to its close proximity to Shannon Airport, which makes it the first stop for many tourists flying into that corner of Ireland.

As you walk around Bunratty Castle and gaze up at its vast walls, it’s hard to not be knocked a little with the knowledge that the ground you’re walking on was once frequented by Vikings in 970.

The current Bunratty Castle was built in 1425 and it’s said to be one of the most complete castles of Ireland that remains standing today.

19. Ross Castle (Kerry)

Ross Castle

Ross Castle in Killarney is up there as one of the best castles Ireland has to offer, thanks to its location in the stunning Killarney National Park .

This 15th century structure can be found perched on the edge of a lake, a stones-throw from Muckross Abbey. It was built by O’Donoghue Mór and, according to legend, his spirit lies in slumber beneath the nearby lake.

It’s said that on the first morning of May every 7 years, his spirit circles the lake on a white horse. You can easily visit Ross Castle while driving the Ring of Kerry .

20. Lismore Castle (Waterford)

Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle in County Waterford is another of the many Irish castles that tends to get overshadowed by the ‘big boys’, like Trim and Kilkenny.

Lismore was constructed in 1185 by Prince John to guard the nearby river crossing and it originally housed Lismore Abbey. The castle is now home to some magnificent gardens that stretch across 7 lush acres.

You can head for a ramble around the extensive gardens while soaking up some spectacular views of the castle and the surrounding countryside at the same time.

Interestingly enough, the castle is available to rent out exclusively… I can’t even begin to imagine how much that’d set you back, but it definitely wouldn’t be cheap!

21. Ashford Castle (Mayo)

Ashford Castle

If you read our guide to the best castle hotels in Ireland , you’ll have seen me bang on about the very swanky 800-year-old Ashford Castle .

Once a privately owned medieval castle, Ashford is now a luxury hotel and is part of the celebrated ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ group.

Now, you don’t have to stay here to visit – you can enter the grounds (for a fee) and head for a ramble.

Previously owned by the Guinness family, Ashford Castle featured heavily as a backdrop in the movie the Quiet Man, starring Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, along with nearby Cong .

22. The Rock of Cashel (Tipperary)

Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary has graced the cover of a million postcards. Often referred to as ‘Saint Patrick’s Rock’, it’s believed that it was here that Ireland’s Patron Saint converted King Aenghus in the 5th century.

The Rock of Cashel, which was once the seat of the High Kings of Munster, can be admired from afar when you’re just entering the town, and you can also explore it on a guided tour.

Although many of the buildings that remain in place today date back to the 12th and 13th century, the history of the site upon which it stands stretches back much further. This is well worth a visit when you’re exploring County Tipperary.

23. Doe Castle (Donegal)

Doe Castle

You’ll find another of the lesser-known castles in Ireland on the edge of Sheephaven Bay in Donegal.

Doe Castle was constructed during the early 15th century by the O’Donnell’s. Not long after, in the 1440s, Doe was ‘acquired’ by the Macsweeney’s and it became their stronghold.

Boasting an impressive location right by the water, Doe Castle is tucked away in a quiet corner of Donegal and it’s one of many Irish castles that gets missed by tourists.

24. Knappogue Castle (Clare)

Knappogue Castle is located just outside of Quin village in the Shannon Region of County Clare, a handy 24km from Shannon Airport.

The castle is a tower house that was built in 1467 and it became the seat of the MacConmara family some time later, in 1571.

If you’re visiting, it’s worth booking into the castle banquet which takes place frequently throughout the year.

25. Malahide Castle (Dublin)

Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle in County Dublin is one of the best castles in Ireland if you go off online reviews.

It’s the castle that I’d visit the most in this guide as it’s a shortish spin from where I live and, like many of the Irish castles in this guide that I’ve visited numerous times, it never fails to impress.

Malahide Castle was built on the orders of the Norman knight, Sir Richard de Talbot, after he was awarded the land in 1174 by King Henry II.

Although I’ve never done the tour, the grounds here are beautifully maintained and a ramble around Malahide Castle and gardens is one of the more popular things to do in Dublin .

26. Leap Castle (Offaly)

Leap Castle

Photos by Gareth McCormack/ via Failte Ireland

Leap Castle is widely regarded as the most haunted castle in Ireland . Legend has it that a lady in red prowls the castle with a silver blade at night.

Another reason the castle is believed to be haunted is due to a discovery made in the early 1900s. A secret dungeon was found behind a wall in the chapel that contained hundreds of human skeletons.

Grim to say the least! Read more about one of the most haunted castles in Ireland in our guide to Leap Castle (not for the faint-hearted!).

27. Minard Castle (Kerry)

minard castle and beach

You’ll find Minard Castle on the scenic Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, a short drive from Dingle Town.

The ruins of Minard Castle sit on a grassy hill that overlook a secluded bay (one of many on the peninsula) and offers gorgeous coastal views.

The castle dates back to the 16th century and it survived a lengthy attack from Cromwell’s forces in 1650.

Although this is one of the smallest castles in Ireland in our guide, it’s always worth a visit as you’ll often have this area all to yourself.

28. Athlone Castle (Westmeath)

Athlone Castle

Top right photo: Ros Kavanagh via Failte Ireland. Others: Shutterstock

Athlone Castle in County Westmeath is located at the heart of Athlone Town, a short walk from Sean’s Bar – the oldest pub in Ireland.

Like many Irish castles, Athlone Castle is perched at the side of a river – in this case, it’s the powerful River Shannon.

Athlone Castle dates back to the 13th century and it played a pivotal role in protecting the busy Athlone River crossing.

29. Adare Castle (Limerick)

Adare Castle

Another of the best castles in Ireland if you like to go off reviews is the impressive ruins of Adare Castle in Limerick.

Located on the edge of Adare Town , Adare Castle was built during the 12th-century on the site of an ancient ring fort.

The castle boasts a strategic position on the River Maigue’s banks and, like numerous Irish castles, it was constructed in the Norman style.

It’s position on the river allowed its rulers to keep control of the traffic that was zipping in and out of the Shannon Estuary.

30. Enniscorthy Castle (Wexford)

Enniscorthy Castle

Photos courtesy Celtic Routes via Failte Ireland

Enniscorthy Castle in County Wexford is another of the more overlooked castles in Ireland.

The first castle to be built on this site was built in 1190 by Philip De Prendergast, a French Norman knight.

Prendergast’s descendants lasted here until 1370 when  Art MacMurrough Kavanagh attacked Enniscorthy Castle and reclaimed what was his ancestral land. 

Fast forward to the 1798 Rebellion and Enniscorthy Castle served as a prison for the United Irishmen.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that Enniscorthy Castle managed to get a bit of peace when it became the residence of the Roche family.

31. Slane Castle (Meath)

Slane Castle

You’ll find Slane Castle in County Meath on a 1,500-acre estate in the heart of the magnificent Boyne Valley, where its been since the 18th century.

Interestingly enough, Slane Castle has been home to the same family since it was built. The Conyngham’s have lived in the castle from when it was first constructed to the present day.

I’ve heard great things about the tour of Slane Castle. Visitors can get an insight into the history of the castle while also hearing about the many concerts that have been held there over the years.

32. Blackrock Castle (Cork)

Blackrock Castle

Blackrock Castle in County Cork is one that tends to get missed by many exploring the county. This impressive structure is a handy 2km from Cork City, where it’s sat right next to the River Lee.

This castle dates to the 16th century and it was originally built to protect upper Cork Harbour and port from intruders.

Fast forward a few hundred years later and the castle is now home to an international award-winning science centre that’s open to the public. There are heaps of permanent and visiting exhibitions that you can have a nosey at here.

33. Donegal Castle (Donegal)

Donegal Castle

And last but by no means least in our guide to the best castles in Ireland is the mighty Donegal Castle .

You’ll find it standing proudly in Donegal Town. This is one of my favourite Irish castles as it’s evidence of what can be achieved with careful restoration.

Donegal Castle was built in 1474 by the  O’Donnell’s . However, over the years it fell to ruin. In fact, it decayed for two centuries until it was restored in the 1990s – it’s now one of the most impressive  castles in Donegal .

What Irish castles have we missed?

I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some famous Irish castles from the guide above.

If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!

FAQs about the castles of Ireland

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are the best castles in Ireland for tours?’ to ‘What Irish castles can you stay in?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

How many castles are there in Ireland?

It’s believed that Ireland is home to over 3,000 castles. Some, like Ashford Castle and the Rock of Cashel, are huge fortresses and tower houses, while others are tiny, like many of the ones you’ll find in our guide to castles in Dublin.

What is the most beautiful castle in Ireland?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, in our opinion, Dunluce Castle, Dunlough Castle and Trim Castle are three of the most beautiful Irish castles.

Which is the oldest castle in Ireland?

Killyleagh Castle in County Down (1180) is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. Castlegarde Castle in Limerick (1190) is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Ireland.

Which is the best castle to visit in Ireland?

Although the topic of the best castles in Ireland is open to debate, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to Trim Castle, Dunluce Castle, Kilkenny Castle and Ross Castle.

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.

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Sunday 22nd of October 2023

Drimnagh castle in Dublin. Restored and the only castle with a water filled moat.

Kilkea castle in Castledermot Co Kildare. Magnificent.

Rosrea Castle. Co Tipperary

Sunday 12th of June 2022

Dunlough (the three castles) on Mizzen Head. The most magnificent setting for a castle, high on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

Wednesday 4th of May 2022

You missed Castle Roche ruins near Dundalk! They are free and it is stunning.

Friday 29th of April 2022

Johnstown castle is worth mentioning!

Irven R Rathburn

Friday 3rd of September 2021


These 11 Irish castles showcase the dramatic beauty of historic Ireland

Oct 1, 2020 • 7 min read

Rock of Cashel on a sunny day.

The Rock of Cashel in Tipperary © Thomas Bresenhuber / Shutterstock

From brooding ruins on windswept hills to restored masterpieces, Ireland’s castles can be looked at, walked through, clambered over, dined in – and even slept in! With around 3000 castles spread across the country, you'll be spoiled for choice if you decide to check out a few. Here are 11 of our favorites.

Editor's note: check local travel restrictions and opening times before booking a trip and always follow government health advice. 

1. Kilkenny Castle

People walking by the left wing of the Kilkenny Castle in Ireland

Kilkenny Castle rises above the River Nore in Kilkenny and is one of Ireland’s most visited heritage sites. Stronghold of the powerful Butler family, it has a history dating back to the 12th century, though much of its present look dates from Victorian times. The first structure on this strategic site was a wooden tower built in 1172 by Richard Fitz Gilbert de Clare, the Anglo-Norman conqueror of Ireland better known as Strongbow.

In 1192, Strongbow's son-in-law, William Marshal, erected a stone castle with four towers, three of which still survive. The castle was bought by the powerful Butler family (later earls and dukes of Ormonde) in 1391, and their descendants continued to live here until 1935. Maintaining the castle became such a financial strain that most of the furnishings were sold at auction. The property was handed over to the city in 1967 for the princely sum of 50 Irish punts.

2. Dublin Castle

The exterior of Dublin Castle in Ireland

Dublin Castle was the stronghold of British power in Ireland for more than 700 years, beginning with the Anglo-Norman fortress commissioned by King John in 1204. The castle was officially handed over to Michael Collins, representing the Irish Free State, in 1922.

Only the Record Tower (1258) survives from the original building, as most of what remains now was built from the 18th century onwards. The castle is now used by the Irish government for meetings and functions, and tours take in the State Apartments and St Patrick's Hall, where Irish presidents are inaugurated and foreign dignitaries toasted. The castle is home to the world-famous Chester Beatty Library.

3. Cahir Castle

The exterior of Cahir Castle in Tipperary, Ireland

Cahir Castle in Tipperary enjoys a riverside site with massive walls, a moat, turrets, towers and keep, mullioned windows, original fireplaces and a dungeon. Founded in 1142 and passed to the Butler family in 1375, it's one of Ireland's largest castles.

In 1599, the Earl of Essex shattered its walls with cannon fire. The castle, originally built to protect a salmon fishery and important river crossing, eventually surrendered to Cromwell in 1650 without a struggle. It is largely intact and still formidable. It was restored in the 1840s and again in the 1960s when it came under state ownership.

4. Dunguaire Castle

The exterior of Dunguaire Castle in Ireland

Dunguaire Castle in Galway is a chess-piece style castle erected around 1520 by the O’Hynes clan. It sits on the fringes of Kinvara on the former site of the 6th century royal palace of Guaire Aidhne, the king of Connaught. The castle passed into the hands of the Martyns of Galway in the early 17th century. Dunguaire was bought and renovated by Oliver St. John Gogarty, the famous surgeon and literary figure, in 1924.

It became the venue for meetings of the literary revivalists such as W.B. Yeats, his patron Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Martin and J.M. Synge. In 1954, the castle was acquired by Christabel, Lady Ampthil, who completed the restoration started by Gogarty after buying it for the equivalent of €500 ($586). She lived there from the 1950s to the 1970s, and the castle is now the property of Shannon Heritage.

5. Rock of Cashel

The exterior of the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary

The Rock of Cashel in Tipperary is an ancient fortified home of kings and one of Ireland's most spectacular historic sites. Sturdy walls circle an enclosure containing a round tower and a 13th century Gothic cathedral. The undoubted highlight is the early-12th-century Cormac's Chapel, an exquisite gem of Romanesque architecture with beautifully carved doorways and the precious remains of colorful wall paintings.

In the 4th century, it was chosen as a base by the Eóghanachta clan from Wales, later known as the MacCarthys, who lost possession to the O'Brien tribe under Brian Ború's leadership. In 1101, King Muircheartach O'Brien presented the Rock to the Church to curry favour with the powerful bishops and to end secular rivalry over possession of the Rock with the Eóghanachta. It's a five-minute stroll from the town centre up to the Rock, from where fantastic view over the Tipperary countryside can be enjoyed.

6. St John's Castle

King John's Castle in Limerick

King John's Castle in Limerick was built on the orders of King John of England between 1200 and 1212. It is considered to be one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Europe. Its massive twin gate towers still stand to their full height, and the armoury and its contents remain as evidence of the castle's turbulent history.

Limerick’s showcase castle is best viewed from the west bank of the River Shannon. The site on which the castle stands has been occupied for over 1000 years, and a number of houses believed to be Viking in origin were unearthed during earlier restorations of the castle. Elements of these dwellings and some artefacts found on site can be seen at King John's Castle visitors' centre.

7. Blarney Castle

A visitor kissing the Blarney Stone in Cork

Blarney Castle in Cork is a 16th-century tower set in gorgeous grounds, popular for its Fern Garden, Arboretum, Poison Garden and Rock Close. While the site dates back to the 10th century, the castle seen today was built by Lady Colthurst in 1874.

Crowds flock to the castle to kiss the Blarney Stone , which is said to be a former altar stone brought back from the Crusades. One of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, it is rumored to grant “the gift of the gab” to those who kiss it. In these virus-conscious times, an eco-friendly, World Health Organization-approved cleanser is used to clean the stone after each kiss.

8. Ross Castle

Ross Castle on a sunny morning in Kerry, Ireland

Ross Castle in Kerry dates to the 15th century, when it was a residence of the O'Donoghue family. It was the last stronghold in Munster to hold out against Cromwell, and was eventually taken by General Ludlow in 1652. It sits on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake and came into the hands of the Brownes who became the Earls of Kenmare. They owned an extensive portion of the lands that are now part of Killarney National Park.

Legend has it that O’Donoghue still exists in a deep slumber under the waters of Lough Leane, and he rises and circles the lake on his white horse on the first morning of May every seven years. Anyone catching sight of him is said to be assured of good fortune for the rest of their lives. The large rock at the entrance to the bay is known as O’Donoghue’s prison.

9. Trim Castle

Trim Castle by the banks of the Rover Boyne

Trim Castle in Trim was Ireland's largest Anglo-Norman fortification, and was founded by Hugh de Lacy in 1173 and destroyed by Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, Ireland's last high king, within a year. The building seen today was begun around 1200 and has hardly been modified since.

By the 16th century, the castle had begun to fall into decline and in 1649, when the town was taken by Cromwellian forces, it was severely damaged. The castle's grassy two-hectare enclosure is dominated by a massive stone keep, mounted on a Norman motte. It briefly returned to its former glory in 1996 as a location for Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, where it was the setting for Edinburgh Castle, York Castle and the Tower of London.

10. Ashford Castle

Medieval Ashford castle in Ireland

Ashford Castle in Mayo was once owned by the Guinness family of stout fame. Located along the Wild Atlantic Way, the castle was built on the perimeter of a monastic site in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman de Burgos family on a 350-acre estate on the shores of Lough Corrib.

It has had various owners over the centuries, including the Bingham, Browne and Guinness families, and various additions have been made to the buildings and grounds. John Ford's famous film, The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was shot on the grounds and in nearby Cong in 1959, and many of the stars stayed at the castle. Now a five-star luxury hotel, it was the setting for golfer Rory McIlroy's marriage to Erica Stoll.

11. Donegal Castle

The exterior of Donegal Castle in Ireland

Donegal Castle guards a picturesque bend of the River Esque in Donegal. It was built by the O'Donnells in 1474, and served as the seat of their formidable power until 1607. The castle was rebuilt in 1623 by Sir Basil Brooke, along with the adjacent three-storey Jacobean house.

The building complex fell into ruin in the 20th century, and was further restored in the 1990s. Highlights include the magnificent upstairs Great Hall with its vast and ornate fireplace, French tapestries and Persian rugs.

This article was first published in April 2010 and was updated October 2020. Additional research by Heather Howard. 

This article was first published April 2010 and updated October 2020

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15 Best Castles in Ireland You Should Visit

Tap into the storied past of the Emerald Isle by exploring the best castles in Ireland on your next visit. This way you could follow in the steps of generations of Irish clans, warriors, and nobility.

On an Irish castle tour, you could learn about the ruins and fortresses shrouded in myths and legends. Walk along lush gardens or take in scenic views from the top of stony towers.

  • Browse castle tour packages in Ireland

There are more than 30,000 castles and ruins left in Ireland today, most dating from the 12th to 16th centuries. Visiting a few (or many) of them will allow you to learn about Irish history right from the source. Your only challenge may be to narrow down your must-see list.

To help you, read this guide to find out the top castles to visit in Ireland. From mysterious cliff-side ruins to the best-preserved fortresses in the country, discover where to stop on your Irish tour.

  • Dublin Castle
  • Malahide Castle
  • Trim Castle
  • Ashford Castle
  • Dunguaire Castle
  • Bunratty Castle
  • King John's Castle
  • Ross Castle
  • Blarney Castle
  • Cahir Castle
  • Rock of Cashel
  • Kilkenny Castle
  • Belfast Castle
  • Dunluce Castle

1. Dublin Castle, County Dublin

Best for: Learning about Irish democracy

Whether you’re in town on a weekend trip or just starting your Ireland self-drive tour , you should spend some time roaming around Dublin . Ireland’s capital is a buzzing, colourful and welcoming place with much to see, including Dublin Castle .

This central building sits just south of the River Liffey, a strategic location for a fortress back in the day. Throughout the ages, it was the location of Celtic and Viking forts before becoming England’s seat of administration for nearly 700 years.

It was handed over to the Irish government once the country became independent. Today it still houses much of the government, but it’s also a popular highlight of the capital city, including the nearby Chapel Royal.

You can roam the grounds for free, but to visit book your tickets in advance. For other historic buildings in the city, stroll through the campus of Trinity College Dublin or visit the famous St Patrick’s Cathedral .

2. Malahide Castle, County Dublin

Best for: Visiting the National Portrait Gallery of Ireland

Located just north of Dublin, you could also visit Malahide Castle on a short city break to the capital. This 800-year-old fashionable residence was home to the Talbot family for generations.

Here you’ll be able to admire the various architectural styles of this fortress, which has been extended and adapted through time. One of the key features includes the Norman tower house that makes up the oldest part of Malahide Castle.

Inside, don’t miss the Oak Room, fully wood-panelled and dating back to the 1600s, and the Great Hall, built in 1495. The Great Hall is said to be the only one of its kind in Ireland that has preserved its medieval features. It also contains a large painting of the Battle of the Boyne, an important clash in Irish history.

Malahide Castle also houses an extensive collection of Irish portrait paintings. These make up the National Portrait Gallery, which is an integral part of the National Gallery of Ireland.

front view of Malahide castle

3. Trim Castle, County Meath

Best for: Stepping into Anglo-Norman history

Head inland from Malahide and Dublin to visit the charming town of Trim. Here you’ll find the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. Legends say it was here that St Patrick first founded a monastery in the 5th century.

Trim Castle was built in the 12th century, but its original wooden structure is all but gone. Today you can explore a large stone fortress from the 13th century that covers more than 3 acres of land. Walk along the fortified walls and discover the impressive central keep.

You may recognise the castle as it was used as a filming location for the movie Braveheart , about Scottish hero William Wallace.

  • Check out  Ireland self-drive tours , guided small group trips and privately guided packages

4. Ashford Castle, County Galway

Best for: Enjoying a luxury getaway

Treat yourself to a stay at a luxury hotel or simply stop by to see it and dine at the impressive Ashford Castle. Located just north of Galway City , this castle boasts 800 years of history as well as being the former home of the Guinness family.

Over the years and centuries, it hosted many notable figures, including kings and presidents. After extensive restoration, Ashford has held on to its status as one of the top hotels in Europe.

5. Dunguaire Castle, County Galway

Best for: Experiencing a true castle banquet

Just south of Galway, you could visit Dunguaire Castle . This beautifully restored fortress sits on a little outcrop along the shores of the Galway Bay.

Dunguaire was first built in the 1500s, but in the first part of the 20th century it was bought and repaired by Oliver St John Gogarty.

Gogarty was a famous literary figure in Ireland and so the castle became a central location and meeting point for the Irish literary revivalists. Writers such as W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and J.M. Synge visited Dunguaire during that time.

The extensive repairs were completed later in the 1950s before the castle became a heritage site. Today, during your visit you can learn about the inhabitants’ lifestyle from the 16th century on and about the castle’s literary ties. You could even enjoy entertainment and traditional food at a castle banquet.

view of dunguaire castle by the water

6. Dun Aengus, Aran Islands

Best for: Witnessing a unique prehistoric fort

Dun Aengus (or “Dún Aonghasa”) is not quite like the other castles on this list. Not simply because of its prehistoric background, but because it’s the only one not located on the mainland. To visit this magnificent and windswept fort, you’ll have to sail to the western Aran Islands .

If you have the time, this is a great day trip to add to your itinerary to soak up the island way of life. You’ll be able to learn about the Gaelic traditions that are alive and well in these parts.

Dun Aengus is located on the largest of the islands, Inishmore. What is left of this prehistoric fort sits along the southern edge of the island, by sheer sea cliffs that overlook the powerful Atlantic Ocean.

view of dun aengus and the sea cliff

When you arrive, you can stop at the visitor centre. From here, you’ll have a 1-kilometre (0.6-miles) walk on an uphill and rocky path before reaching Dun Aengus.

The fort is made up of 3 layers of defence walls as well as “chevaux-de-frise”, bands of jagged stones that act similarly to barbed wire.

Excavations have revealed that the fort is more than 3,000 years old and it was probably refortified around 700-800 AD. There has also been evidence found of prehistoric metalworking, artefacts, dwellings, and burial sites.

Another claim to fame? Dun Aengus has been recognised as one of the finest examples of pre-historic forts in Europe, making it worth the detour.

  • Visit Ireland in June , July or August to see it at the height of summer
  • Or visit Ireland in April , May , September or October to enjoy the quieter shoulder season

7. Bunratty Castle, County Clare

Best for: Walking through the most complete castle in Ireland

On a trip around Ireland, you have to pop by Bunratty Castle . It is recognised as the most complete and authentic castle left in the country today.

Dating back to the 15th century, the fortress was built by Irish nobility. But the site was occupied long before then. History has it that this location has been occupied for at least 1,000 years, starting as a Viking trading post in the year 970. You’ll also see traces of the Norman occupation and conquest here.

It’s the 1960s that saw the restoration of the castle to its former glory. When you visit, you’ll get a great window into Ireland’s past through the ages.

bunratty castle at night

8. King John's Castle, County Limerick

Best for: Diving into Viking and Norman history

Set at the heart of Limerick , on the aptly named King’s Island, you’ll find King John’s Castle. Overlooking the River Shannon, the imposing castle is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks.

Dating back to 1210, you’ll uncover centuries of history during your visit. In fact, the Vikings first came to the area in the early 9th century. It was a few years later that Viking leader Thormodu Helgason established a base where the castle stands today.  

There are also pre-Norman features that were found on-site. Early defence systems, ramparts and ditches date from this time in history.

And why is it called King John’s Castle? Many simply call it Limerick Castle, but it was officially named after King John, Lord of Ireland. He was the brother of Richard the Lionheart, a famous king tied to such legends as Robin Hood . King John used this location for defensive purposes and had the castle built. 

During your visit, you’ll find interactive exhibitions and medieval games in the courtyard. All of this with the purpose to transport you in time to learn about the castle’s history.

Plus, if you're travelling the Wild Atlantic Way , an iconic Irish coastal road route, you can make the castle one of your stops along the way. 

9. Ross Castle, County Kerry

Best for: Exploring the heart of the Killarney National Park

Ross Castle is an excellent spot to visit while you’re in Killarney or travelling along the famous Ring of Kerry . This is another 15th-century fortress with an incredibly picturesque setting along the shores of Lough Leane.

The castle is made up of a tower fortress with round turrets sitting inside a defensive wall.

During your visit you could learn about the myths surrounding it. For years, legends were told that the castle would only be conquered by strange ships coming from the lake. At the time these were only stories because this was unimaginable.

But in 1652, Cromwell’s English forces did attack from the lake, having dragged boats all the way here to fire artillery from the water. The castle fell during this battle. You’ll get to walk through that history and admire scenic views of the lake during your visit.

  • Visit Ireland to  tour the Ring of Kerry
  • Related: Planning a trip to Ireland and Scotland

10. Blarney Castle, County Cork

Best for: Receiving the gift of eloquence (or learning about Irish folklore)

Blarney is one of the most famous castles in Ireland, thanks to the myth surrounding the Blarney Stone. It is located on the outskirts of the city of Cork . Whether you’re in town for a visit or passing by on a road trip, you simply cannot miss  Blarney Castle .

The medieval stronghold that you can see today is from the 1400s, but there are still traces left of the original buildings dating back to before the 1200s. With the woodlands surrounding the castle, you’re in for a scenic visit. Why not stroll through the grounds and try finding the standing stones?

But the true highlight of Blarney is the Stone of Eloquence. Walk to the top of the tower to see it, or kiss it! Legend has it that if you kiss the stone, you will receive the “gift of gab” and never be stumbling for words.

blarney castle towers

11. Cahir Castle, County Tipperary

Best for: Seeing one of the best-preserved castles in Ireland

Come visit Cahir Castle to take in an impressive fortress dating back to the 13th century. When you’re in the town of Cahir, you won’t miss the castle as it stands proudly on a rocky island by the River Suir. In fact, it’s only a stone’s throw from the main street.

The fortification that stands today is still one of the country’s largest and best-preserved castles. That means you’ll get a true look at how strongholds were built back in the day.

Up until the 16th century, it was even believed to be undefeatable due to its strong and effective design. But it fell to the Earl of Essex and then again during the Irish Confederate Wars.

That said, much of the original structure remains, which is what you can visit today. Don’t miss the exhibition and shows that will give you a glimpse at the history of Cahir Castle.

It even highlights the different films in which you might have seen Cahir featured, including Excalibur with Liam Neeson and The Tudors television series. 

  • Learn about history and clans with Irish heritage tours

12. Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

Best for: Learning about historical and religious legends

Located a mere 20-minute drive from Cahir Castle, you could also visit the mysterious Rock of Cashel on your tour of Ireland. This is another medieval site that is steeped in legends and myths.

In fact, the Rock of Cashel is said to have always been an important royal and religious site. It is also known as St Patrick’s Rock and the Cashel of the Kings. Stories from back in the day say that it was here that St Patrick himself converted the King of Munster in the 5th century.

During your visit, you’ll soon see why it was such an important and iconic location. Sitting above a limestone hill, the spectacular group of buildings stands out in the skyline of the town. Walk through the Rock of Cashel and you can admire 12th- and 13th-century buildings, including a round tower, chapel, cathedral and castle.

  • Related: 10 Cool Irish facts

13. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

Best for: Admiring Victorian architecture and style

The city of Kilkenny is a must-see during your Irish adventure. It’s also an easy stopover on your way back to Dublin from the west coast.

While you’re in town you won’t want to miss the impressive Kilkenny Castle. It boasts one of the longest histories of occupation of any castle and building in all of Ireland. Built during the Norman conquest of the Emerald Isle, you’ll soon see it’s been adapted through the ages.

Today, the interiors are largely Victorian, with lavish portrait galleries, libraries, drawing rooms, bedrooms, and stately dining rooms amongst many more.

And that’s not all, step outside to take in the incredible estate. There are more than 51 acres of parkland that were opened to the public when the government took over the maintenance. The castle also has a formal garden reminiscent of any grand estate, with paths, statues and water features.

Kilkenny castle with view of the town and river

Castles in Northern Ireland

Finally, here are a few bonus castles you could also visit if you’re crossing into Northern Ireland. Doing a grand tour of the entire Emerald Island is a great way to get a full experience of Irish culture and history.

Add Northern Ireland to your itinerary and you could visit the capital Belfast , witness the beauty of the Giant’s Causeway , and walk along the Glens of Antrim.

  • Experience  Northern Ireland's Causeway Coastal Route

14. Belfast Castle, County Antrim

Best for: Taking in views of Belfast and its surroundings

While visiting Northern Ireland’s capital, you could go explore the country park where Belfast Castle is located. The imposing castle is one of the most famous landmarks of Belfast as it sits on a hill overlooking the city.

The first castle in Belfast was built in the 12th century, but this one dates back to the 1860s. Today it’s mostly used as an event and wedding venue, but you could lunch or dine at one of the restaurants on-site.

Or visit the Cave Hill Country Park, surrounding the castle, and the Cave Hill Visitor Centre. Here you’ll find enchanting woodlands and gardens full of wildlife. The Belfast Zoo is also located nearby.

15. Dunluce Castle, County Antrim

Best for: Marvelling at Ireland’s northern coast

Last but certainly not least is Dunluce Castle , nestled along the coast near the famous Giant’s Causeway. Thanks to its convenient location, it’s an easy add-on to any day trip you may have to Northern Ireland’s biggest attraction.

people standing on rocks at giant's causeway

Picture atmospheric ruins, sheer sea cliffs, and waves crashing onto the rocks. You’ll get all of this and more when you visit Dunluce Castle. Once an ancient fortress at the heart of clan warfare, you could uncover the mysterious history that ties Scotland and Ireland here.

Dunluce was indeed first built by the MacQuillan family of Scotland in the 1500s. It was soon thereafter seized by the MacDonnell clan before becoming the seat of the earls of Antrim in the 17th century.

  • Dive into more Celtic history and castles on a combined Scotland and Ireland trip
  • Related: Scotland or Ireland – Where should you go?

Planning your Irish castle tour

Wherever your adventure takes you, you’re sure to have plenty of castles to explore in Ireland. To travel at your own pace and have the flexibility to stop when you want and where you want, we recommend a self-drive tour of Ireland .

If you'd rather let someone else take care of the driving then opt for a guided small group trip or a privately guided tour of Ireland . This way, you'll also benefit from your local guide's insider insight. 

When you book with Nordic Visitor, you’ll benefit from the knowledge of our Ireland experts. You can contact us if you already have some ideas in mind, or you can browse our Ireland tours . Here you'll find a selection of itineraries that can be tailored to your taste and preferences.

Your dedicated travel consultant will take care of the details for you, including local transport, quality accommodation, and more. They'll also be able to tailor your trip with extra nights and optional activities. 

Start planning your Irish castle tour by getting in touch with our Ireland experts.

camila blog profile

  Camila grew up between the French Canadian and Chilean cultures, before moving to Scotland in 2012. When she’s not travelling or writing about travels, Camila loves to read, run, and puzzle. Her favourite destinations have been Reykjavík, Copenhagen, Estonia and Cape Town.  

Find Camila on LinkedIn .

Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.


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Home » Europe » 10 STUNNING Castles in Ireland [2023 Edition]

10 STUNNING Castles in Ireland [2023 Edition]

Ireland has well-earned its nickname of the Emerald Isle. The lush, rolling green hills and majestic forests will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a medieval fairytale – all before you get to see the castles!

With more than 30,000 castles dotting the countryside, it’s impossible to visit Ireland without seeing some of them. But have you ever considered finding accommodation in one of the best castles in Ireland?

Well, you’re in luck, because there are actually loads of options to stay in a castle if you’re interested in finding unique accommodation in Ireland! In our list of Irish castles, we’ve selected some of the most beautiful, best budget, and all-around awesome places to stay.

In a Hurry? Here’s Where to Stay in Ireland for One Night

Drummond Tower Ireland

Drummond Tower

With all the charm a real, historical castle in Ireland should have and a reasonable price, Drummond Tower is your fantasy vacation waiting to happen! You’ll have the entire castle to yourself, including a full kitchen, large book collection, and even a washer and dryer.

  • Local restaurants in Monasterboice
  • Oldbridge and Battle of the Boyne
  • Mellifont Abbey

Is this amazing Ireland Castle booked for your dates? We’ve got your back with our other favorite properties below!

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

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Staying in a Castle in Ireland 

The top 10 castles in ireland , faq about castles in ireland, final thoughts on the best castles in ireland.


In a word, it’s amazing! If you’ve ever had a childhood fantasy of living in your own fairytale kingdom, you now have your chance when you stay in one of Ireland’s breathtaking castles. 

If you’re on a tight budget, there’s no need to fret. While some travellers consider Ireland an expensive destination , there are actually a lot of great budget castles in Ireland to pick from. Yep, you read that correctly – staying at a castle in Ireland is totally manageable on a small travel budget! 

Since most of these castles are refinished historic buildings, they can have their quirks and nuances – like creaky stairs or poor heat circulation – that you wouldn’t find in a hotel room. However, the experience of staying in an actual castle instead of a boring hotel definitely outweighs these small drawbacks. 

In many castles, you’ll be renting one room or a section of rooms within the building. There may be guests occupying other areas of the castle, but you’ll always have your own private space. In some cases, you can rent the entire castle for yourself for ultimate peace and privacy during your trip! 

What to Look for in a Castle

Many vacation rentals in Ireland have a unique charm, but none quite like a castle. Choosing the right castle has a lot to do with what kind of castle experience you want to have. Many of the castles in Ireland available as accommodation are very old and historic buildings; this gives them a unique charm, but also means they weren’t built with heating, plumbing, or modern electricity in mind. 

In every castle, you’ll find some combination of a unique historical atmosphere and modern comforts. However, stairs are usually the only way to reach rooms, and sometimes bathrooms and showers are only located on the ground floor. 

Location is another important factor when considering where to stay in Ireland . Castles are often located slightly outside of major cities, so it may be a good idea to have your own form of transportation. Some castles are close enough to public transport routes, so you won’t necessarily need your own vehicle. 

Since accommodation can range from a single private room to an entire castle, it’s easy to find spots suitable for solo travelers or huge families. And, while it may be a bit surprising, a lot of castles are reasonably priced in comparison to what you’d be spending for a hotel room! 

To look at options for castles in Ireland in more detail, you can check out search platforms like Airbnb. This is a great way to compare all the possibilities for unique accommodation in Ireland and refine your search to fit your price range, travel dates, and specific preferences.  

  • > Fully equipped kitchen
  • > Outdoor patio

Abbeyglen Castle Hotel Ireland

Abbeyglen Castle Hotel

  • > Breakfast included
  • > Gardens onsite

Annes Grove Miniature Castle Ireland

Annes Grove Miniature Castle

  • > Indoor fireplace
  • > Patio and outdoor furniture

The Spires Ireland

  • > Nearby scenic trails

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Fanningstown Castle

  • > Restored gothic architecture
  • > Beautiful views

Cregg Castle Ireland

Cregg Castle

  • > Kitchen and laundry

Medieval Durhamstown Castle Ireland

Medieval Durhamstown Castle

  • > Meals on request
  • > Close to Dublin

Looking for other types of accommodation? Check out our guide to Where to Stay in Ireland !

Ready to begin your own fantasy adventure? After you’re done looking through this list of Ireland’s best castles for accommodation, you’ll be ready to pack your bags and venture off on a unique and spectacular vacation! 

The Overall Best Castle in Ireland – Drummond Tower

Drummond Tower Ireland

  • 2 Guests 
  • Fully equipped kitchen 
  • Outdoor patio 

Not too expensive, and with all the charm a real, historical castle in Ireland should have, Drummond Tower is your fantasy vacation waiting to happen! You’ll have the entire castle to yourself, including a full kitchen, a large book collection, and even a washer and dryer. 

No matter which window you gaze out of, you’ll get a beautiful view of the Irish countryside. It’s only about a five-minute drive to the nearest town, but you might be perfectly content to enjoy your castle in peace and quiet during your stay. 

The Best Budget Castle in Ireland – Abbeyglen Castle Hotel

Abbeyglen Castle Ireland

  • Breakfast included 
  • Gardens onsite

Who said anything about budget travelers not being able to have the experience of staying in a castle? The economy rooms at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel are the perfect solution: you can experience the luxury of a castle stay without an exorbitant price tag. 

A free breakfast is provided every morning, and there are gardens onsite to enjoy the outdoors. It’s walking distance from the Clifden town center, so no need for a car if you don’t have one. Clifden has great music venues and restaurants, and the bar and restaurant at Abbeyglen are open for onsite dining on select nights. 

Budget Tip : Dorms in Ireland start from $10USD per bed. They’re the cheapest accommodation in the city. Search for hostels in the area!

Best Castle for Couples – Annes Grove Miniature Castle

Best Castle for Couples

  • Indoor fireplace 
  • Patio and outdoor furniture 

Imagine having your own little private castle for a romantic vacation in Ireland! Annes Grove is Gothic-style castle has modern comforts while preserving a unique medieval atmosphere. 

Located on a quiet country road, it’s just a short drive to reach shops and restaurants, unless you want to spend all your time at the castle. Relax next to the fireplace, enjoy the view from the outdoor patio, or cook a romantic meal together and enjoy each other’s company. 

Best Castle for a Group of Friends – The Spires 

The Spires Ireland

  • 7 Guests 
  • Nearby scenic trails 

A group trip to Ireland just got way more interesting! Staying at The Spires you’ll have a secluded spot all to yourselves – plus, you’ll be close to the attractions of Letterkenny. Since it’s situated right along the Wild Atlantic Way touring route, it’s a perfect stopping point during your journey.

Other activities nearby include scenic trails, golf courses and some great local dining options, like the famous Brownes on the Green Restaurant . The building dates all the way back to 1838, but it’s been renovated to provide modern comforts like onsite laundry and an equipped kitchen. 

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

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Over-the-Top Luxury Castle – Fanningstown Castle

Luxury Castle in Ireland

  • 8 Guests 
  • Restored gothic architecture
  • Beautiful views 

This 12th-century Gothic castle is the place to stay if price isn’t an issue when looking for unique accommodation in Ireland! Located in the Golden Vale just three miles outside of Adare, you’ll be treated to some of the best views of the Irish countryside during your stay. 

Although the property certainly maintains an air of historic majesty, you can still count on having good modern amenities thanks to the renovations. On colder days, you can stay cozy next to the indoor fireplace – or when the weather is warmer, there’s a great outdoor patio to relax and take in the scenery. 

The Best Castle for Families visiting Ireland – Cregg Castle 

Cregg Castle Ireland

  • 5 Guests 
  • Kitchen and laundry 

Not only does Cregg Castle have spectacular views and unique medieval flair, but it also comes at a very budget-friendly price! Families will enjoy strolling the nearby walking trails or exploring around the castle, which is a work-in-progress restored historic building. 

There are a few local restaurants and shops just a few minutes’ drive from the property. Just a 15 minute drive and you’ll be able to explore Galway City , which makes for some great excursions. If you don’t have your own vehicle, cab rides are an easy way to get around the area. 

Best Castle for Backpackers – Medieval Durhamstown Castle

Medieval Durhamstown Castle Ireland

  • Meals on request
  • Close to Dublin 

Even though the Durhamstown Castle has a remote, historic atmosphere, it’s only a 15-minute ride into Dublin using local public transportation. The convenient location and great budget-friendly price make this castle a top pick for anyone backpacking in Ireland . 

During your stay you’ll have total privacy in the Bolt-hole of the castle, as well as access to the front garden. Nearby, there are lots of fun activities, like horseback riding, fishing, swimming, and historical tours of the area.

Best Castle for a Weekend in Ireland – Galway’s CastleHacket House 

Weekend in Ireland Castle

  • Outdoor BBQ and picnic area 

If you only have a short time to spend in Ireland, you can make it a special time worth remembering at the CastleHacket House in Galway. Built in 1703, the castle has a truly majestic atmosphere, complete with a library, large garden and woods, and a sunroom to relax. 

Light breakfast items and snacks are offered in the dining area, and you can reach other great local restaurants in just 15 minutes by car. It’s also walking distance from the famous Knockma Hill. Other top attractions like the Kylemore Abbey and Claregalway Castle are a short drive away. 

Best Castle for Views – Carraigin Castle

Carraigin Castle Ireland

  • 6 Guests 
  • Indoor fireplace
  • Next to Lough Corrib

To really soak in the beauty of the Irish landscape, stay on the shores of Lough Corrib in the majestic Carraigin Castle. You’ll have the entire property to yourself, as well as access to the seven private acres surrounding the castle! 

For a fun bonus activity, you can rent a fishing boat to go out on the lake. Even though it’s a historic building dating back to the 13th century, the castle has been renovated to have central heating and an equipped kitchen while preserving original features and historic charm. 

Most Traditional Castle in Ireland – Cahercastle

Cahercastle, Ireland

  • 4 Guests 
  • Secluded location 

From the winding staircases to the original stonework walls, Cahercastle is the real deal! Be prepared to trek up and down flights of stairs, but it’s hard to get any more authentic than this when it comes to staying at a castle in Ireland. 

The property is about two miles from the nearest public transportation, so it’s helpful to have your own vehicle to get around and explore nearby historic sites. If you want some suggestions about cool places to visit, the hosts have lived in the castle for 20 years and can give you good recommendations. 

Here’s what people usually ask us when they look for vacation homes in Ireland.

What are the best castles in Ireland?

The best castles in Ireland are: – Drummond Tower – The Spires – Fanningstown Castle

What are the cheapest castles in Ireland?

The best affordable castles in Ireland are: – Abbeyglen Castle Hotel – Creg Castle – Medieval Durhamstown Castle

What are the coolest castles in Ireland?

The coolest castle in Ireland is Carraigin Castle . It has insanely beautiful views and is totally private for you and your group.

Where can you book the best castles in Ireland?

Airbnb is the best place to find castles in Ireland. You can find a spot to suit your budget, group and preferred location with an easy search.

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Whether you’re a long-term backpacker exploring Europe or just traveling for a short summer family vacation, there is nothing quite like having the experience of staying in one of Ireland’s castles. 

It’s a chance for you to see the amazing history of the country first-hand, not to mention some great bragging rights with all your friends and family! In terms of unique holiday rentals in Ireland, castles definitely take the gold medal in terms of authenticity and fantasy appeal. 

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!

Sophie Steinebach

Sophie Steinebach

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THE 10 BEST Ireland Castles

Castles in ireland.

  • Points of Interest & Landmarks
  • Historic Sites
  • Churches & Cathedrals
  • Monuments & Statues
  • South City Centre
  • Budget-friendly
  • Good for Kids
  • Good for Couples
  • Good for Big Groups
  • Hidden Gems
  • Good for a Rainy Day
  • Honeymoon spot
  • Adventurous
  • Good for Adrenaline Seekers
  • Things to do ranked using Tripadvisor data including reviews, ratings, photos, and popularity.

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

1. Blarney Castle & Gardens


2. Dunluce Castle


3. Carrickfergus Castle


4. Glenarm Castle


5. Dunseverick Castle


6. Lissanoure Castle


7. Shanes Castle


8. Olderfleet Castle


9. Kilkenny Castle


10. Rock of Cashel


11. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park


12. Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden


13. Malahide Castle & Gardens


14. Trim Castle


15. Ross Castle


16. Dublin Castle


17. Glenveagh Castle


18. King John's Castle


19. Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre


20. Cahir Castle


21. Ashford Castle


22. Athlone Castle Visitor Centre


23. Donegal Castle

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

24. Dromoland Castle


25. Blarney Stone


26. Drimnagh Castle


27. Birr Castle Demesne


28. Belleek Castle Museum


29. Aughnanure Castle


30. Parke's Castle


What travelers are saying


Isle Inn Tours

The Ultimate Guide to the Most Beautiful Castles in Ireland

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

With more than 30,000 castles, or remnants of castles, on the Emerald Isle, this iconic stone structure becomes a part of the scenery on nearly any drive around Ireland. While there are some fantastic hotel castles (see our Castle and Manor House itinerary for example) we’ve compiled this like of the best castles in Ireland to explore the country’s legends and history.

All of the Most Stunning Castles in Ireland

Trim castle.

We’d be remiss to leave out Trim Castle, which “starred” as the Scottish Castle from Braveheart.  For our customers interested in Scottish castles, you’ll have to wait for our next list but you won’t find the Braveheart Castle there – you’ll have to go to Ireland! Located on the River Boyne and not far from Dublin, Trim is a great location for anyone visiting Newgrange on a day tour from Dublin.

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Dunluce Castle

Dunlace is an icon along the iconic Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland, and is a wonderful stop on any castle tour of Ireland. Once owned by Winston Churchill, the castle has an interesting history to go with the unrivaled location – making it one of Northern Ireland’s most photographed sports.

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Enniskillen Castle

Enniskillen Castle is another gem in Northern Ireland! Any visit to the Fermanagh Lake Region would not be complete without a stop at this wonderfully restored 600 year old castle and museum.  

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Kilkenny Castle

This castle is perhaps one of the best examples of an Anglo-era castle, and the tour is very well done. Located in the middle of the great town of Kilkenny, it’s a great stop on any itinerary that passes through the middle of the country. Be sure to pop in to the Kilkenny Design Center across the road after your tour or into Smithwicks Brewery for a look around.

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

The Rock of Cashel

The history of Ireland, her Kings and Saints, are captured perfectly in a visit to Cashel. If you only see one castle on your tour of Ireland, Cashel would be a great choice. Located between Dublin and the popular tourist sights in Ireland’s Southwest, The Rock of Cashel and the nearby folk village are great stops!

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle is without a doubt the most infamous of Irish castles, and even if kissing the legendary stone is not your thing (eek, hand me the Purell!) the grounds are stunning and if you have any last minute gift shopping to do you won’t find a better selection than at the Blarney Woolen Mill shop located adjacent to the castle.

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Bunratty can perhaps be dubbed the second-most “touristy” of all of Ireland’s castles, but it does it’s duty as one of the country’s favorite places to play “make pretend” as you attend a recreation of a royal dinner from centuries past. It’s authentic right down to the warm honey mead, Ireland’s version of the Hawaiian luau. A must see!

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

King John’s Castle

King John’s Castle is a great example of a traditional Irish castle and is one of our favorite places to stop with kids! There’s an opportunity to dress up and take pictures as part of the tour, and what kid (of any age) doesn’t like a little dress up now and then?

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Ross Castle

Ross Castle makes our list because what list of castles would be complete without a “haunted” one?  Among all the things to see and do in Killarney, Ross Castle stands out for its history and easy access. In fact, you can actually ride to the castle in a traditional jaunting car (horse drawn carriage) from the middle of town and the walk back (less than 2 miles) through Killarney National Park is wonderful.

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Glenveagh Castle

While not haunted, Glenveagh is said to be cursed for the cruel treatment it’s original owner, Captain John Adair, put on the local tenants during the Captain’s time there. No subsequent owners ever found good fortune on the grounds and the estate was eventually donated to the public. It makes up a large part of the wonderful Glenveagh National Park.

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Cahir Castle

We had to put at least one “movie star” castle on our list! Cahir, located in Tipperary, was prominently featured in the film Excalibur.  But, perhaps more interesting is the actual cannonball that found its way over the moat and into the wall during the Nine Years War!

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

If you’re going to be visiting Ireland, you’ll of course want to visit some castles and manors while you’re there! Ireland is known for their historic castles and they do not disappoint! On our most recent visit to Ireland, we visited a few that we just had to share with you all. Read on to discover some amazing stops during your travels!

Lough Rynn Castle

Located in Leitrim, Ireland, this castle is one that you can stay a night or two in while visiting Ireland! With spacious, immaculate grounds and locally-sourced food, you’ll be sure to enjoy your time at Lough Rynn.  Even if you don’t want to stay the night, you can enjoy a tour of the castle or afternoon tea! While there, make sure you explore the Victorian Walled Gardens!

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Markree Castle

This newly-opened castle is another that you can enjoy a few nights living like a king or queen in! Located in County Sligo, on the route of The Wild Atlantic Way, Markree Castle oozes elegance and romance. With majestic staircases and opulent suites, this castle specializes in weddings and bridal rooms, so if you’re looking for a honeymoon destination, this is your spot!

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Castle Leslie

Nestled on 1,000 acres of stunning Irish countryside, this castle is located in Glaslough, County Monaghan, and considered to be one of the finest Castle Hotels Ireland has to offer. Not only can you stay at this beautiful estate, the grounds offer an array of exciting activities for you to do while you’re there! Go horseback riding, kayaking, enjoy time at their Victorian spa…and so much more!

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Ashford Castle

This 5 star rated castle is set upon 350 acres on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib. The castle contains a wealth of history, dating back to 1228, so you’ll want to get a tour while you’re there. Stay in one of their amazing 82 rooms or the Hideaway cottage and enjoy a wide array of activities while there! Their hotel spa was rated the best castle spa in Ireland, so make sure you stop by for a massage!

Don’t forget that we offer a comprehensive Castles And Manors Ireland Tour so you can see many of these incredible castles and more! You can request to download a free copy of our brochure here .

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15 Top-Rated Castles in Ireland

Written by Anietra Hamper Updated Oct 21, 2021

One of the most extraordinary things to do in Ireland is visit some of the centuries-old castles that accent the landscape throughout the country. Your castle options are vast, from the 13 th -century Dublin Castle in the heart of the bustling capital city to the ancient Trim Castle, one of the largest and most storied fortresses on the Emerald Isle and the backdrop for the movie Braveheart .

You can dress up like a character from the show Game of Thrones and shoot arrows in the courtyard at the Castle Ward or walk through the protected ruins of Dunamase Castle, which towers above the countryside in eastern Ireland.

Ireland has so many castles because throughout the centuries, local and regional rulers built fortresses to protect their land and belongings. Their castle dwellings represented wealth and power.

Castles were built at different periods, marking significant milestones in Irish history, from the medieval Norman and Viking periods to the English invasions. Whether you want to stay in a castle or just explore one for the day, you should plot your destinations before you arrive. For ideas, see our list of the top castles in Ireland.

1. Dublin Castle

2. trim castle, 3. dunluce castle, 4. bunratty castle, 5. enniskillen castle, 6. cahir castle, 7. dromoland castle, 8. castle ward, 9. dunamase castle, 10. glenveagh castle, 11. birr castle, 12. blarney castle, 13. kylemore castle, 14. kilkenny castle, 15. slane castle, map of castles in ireland.

Dublin Castle

One of the most significant symbols of power in Ireland is Dublin Castle. This 13 th -century castle , which is more of a multi-building complex, was built on a Viking settlement. The castle served as the government complex for the English then British rule for centuries and now serves as a main tourist destination.

Some of the castle highlights include extensive decorative arts in the form of formal portraits of rulers and royalty, as well as period furniture. Be sure to visit The Chapel Royal, a Gothic Revival chapel, which has been at Dublin Castle since 1242, and the castle gardens that have been here since the early 17 th century, featuring the Dubh Linn Garden, where patterns of sea serpents are cut into the lawn.

Beneath the castle, you can see ongoing excavations of Viking defenses that have been preserved. You can even go down steps to see the original moat.

Address: Dame Street, Dublin 2

Official site:

Trim Castle

For a castle worthy of bragging rights after your vacation, the Trim Castle is a must-visit. This is where Mel Gibson filmed the movie Braveheart , so you will likely recognize the iconic features of this powerful Norman Irish fortress. Construction started on the Trim Castle in 1176 and took 30 years to complete.

This massive structure has a 20-sided tower, masterful curtain wall, and moat. It is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland and has also served as a prison and private home over the centuries.

Now, it is a popular tourist attraction and well worth your time to visit. You can only take a guided tour of the castle, but you can explore the riverside grounds on your own. You can also plan a stay at the Trim Castle Hotel and live like royalty during your trip.

Seaside Dunluce Castle

If castle mystery is more your speed then the coastal Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland should top your list. The medieval castle sits on a clifftop along the remote northern coast. The ruins on the site are said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman who died there, and there are mythical tales about fairies and fierce battles that took place on the site.

The Dunluce Castle was built as a family home in the 1500s and served as the inspiration for author C.S. Lewis, who used it to create his Cair Paravel castle in The Chronicles of Narnia .

The site is now under the guardianship of the Northern Irish Environment Agency. These are great ruins to explore, but a stop at the information center for some history and information before you set out will help in your understanding of the site.

Address: 87 Dunluce Road, Bushmills, County Antrim

Bunratty Castle

The Bunratty Castle is one of the best castles for bringing the medieval times to life. The castle was once part of a Viking trading camp in 970. It has been beautifully restored to its mostly original condition and houses one of the most extensive collections of medieval furniture in Ireland.

There is a Folk Park on the grounds , which is a 19 th- century living village, with 30 buildings that imitate what life in Ireland was like in the 1800s. The village is nice, especially for children, who can wander through the recreated farmhouses and village streets and buildings with a backdrop of Irish music.

One of the most engaging experience at the Bunratty Castle is the medieval banquet that you can take part in for an evening of indulgent food, dance, and music inside the castle. You can stay at the Bunratty Castle Hotel if you want to make several days out of your visit to the area.

Official site:

Enniskillen Castle

The Enniskillen Castle is a stunning structure that can be seen from the River Erne . The turrets and massive fortress walls are believed to have been constructed in the early 1400s, protecting the land in Northern Ireland.

Today, the castle houses two museums that highlight and preserve Fermanagh culture. The Fermanagh County Museum showcases the history of the region and the Inniskillings Museum has displays of 17 th- century weapons, military equipment, and uniforms. Take some time to go through both museums and walk the manicured grounds.

If your Ireland visit includes researching your family history, you may want to schedule a genealogy consultation at the castle.

Address: County Fermanagh, Enniskillen BT74 7HL, Northern Ireland

Official site:

Cahir Castle

As one of the largest castles in Ireland, the Cahir Castle maintains much of its original structure. The castle was built on solid rock on the River Suir, and it was one of the most powerful strongholds against invaders in the country.

It is notable because of its preservation, which is remarkable since it was built in 1142. If you want to see and experience authentic, original elements of a castle then the Cahir Castle should be on your list. There are guided tours that take about an hour and an audio-visual show that chronicles the castle's long history. Address: Castle Street, Cahir

Dromoland Castle

The elegant 16 th- century Dromoland Castle has its roots in the family lineage of Donough O'Brien, who ruled Dromoland in 1014 and is a family name of high nobility in Ireland. The 450-acre estate is now a destination for travelers, who come to stay in the lavish bedrooms with canopied beds and embellished furniture fit for a king.

The estate has a spa , a championship 18-hole golf course , and outdoor recreation, and it is a popular destination for weddings . While the Dromoland Castle is a destination versus a day visit, you can still swing by for a peek at the grounds, even if you are not staying here. Address: Newmarket-On-Fergus, Co. Clare

Official site:

Castle Ward

For Game of Thrones fans, the Castle Ward is an unforgettable experience. The 18 th- century castle is the main filming location for the show . An exciting way to enjoy a visit to Castle Ward is to take part in a medieval banquet or sign up for the ClearSky Adventures on-site, which lets you try on Game of Thrones costumes with experts, who teach you how to shoot arrows in the courtyard.

Non- Game of Thrones visitors will enjoy the unusual architecture of the castle. When the castle was built for Lord Bangor and his wife, they could not agree on a structural style, so they compromised by building one side in Gothic architecture for him and the other in Palladian geometry to suit her. The Castle Ward is one of the most unique in Ireland.

Official site:

Rock of Dunamase at sunset

The ruins of the Dunamase Castle are a destination for those who like to explore a little bit on their own. The structure, now only remnants, is referred to as the Rock of Dunamase. It was built in the Middle Ages, but archaeology research suggests that it dates back even further, to the 9 th century, and was once occupied by Vikings. The site is now a national monument, with a storied history. It sits 46 meters above the countryside on the eastern side of Ireland and is free to visit on your own.

Glenveagh Castle

The Glenveagh Castle is part of the Glenveagh National Park , a great location to put on your list if you are looking for a little recreation beyond just a castle visit. This remote 19 th- century castle is set near the Derryveagh Mountains and was an idyllic retreat for the private owners who occupied it since the 1800s.

As personal friends of the owners, Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin were known to visit the castle.

The 40,000-acres that surround the castle are fantastic for exploring. You can hike the trails and stroll through the gardens , or you can take a scenic drive through the estate property on a bus from the visitor center. Address: Church Hill, Letterkenny, County Donegal

Official site:

Birr Castle

For an experience that combines the most stunning representation of early Irish castle architecture and gardens with science and engineering, visit the Birr Castle Gardens & Science Center. This castle is unique because it is still a private residence, although the descendants of the Parsons family open their doors to the public at regularly scheduled times between May and August.

Birr Castle was built in the 11 th century and welcomes guests with 3.6-meter walls at the central gate. The tours of the castle are only a small part of the experience. The Great Telescope is a must-see in the science center on the grounds. It was the largest telescope in the world for more than 70 years and it still operates today, remaining one of Ireland's most significant scientific contributions.

Address: Rosse Row, Birr, County Offaly

Official site:

Blarney Castle

You have likely heard of the Blarney Stone in Ireland and the luck bestowed upon those who kiss it – a tradition that goes back more than 200 years. The Blarney Stone is just one of the reasons to visit Blarney Castle.

Be advised that if you plan to venture to the top of the tower to kiss the Blarney stone, lines will likely be long on busy days and can take several hours. That can also mean standing in tight stone stairways for long periods of time, so you will want to check the lines for that first as you plan your visit.

This is actually the third castle on this site, built in 1446. The first castle, made of wood, and the second castle, made of stone, were demolished over time and replaced by Blarney Castle, which welcomes visitors today.

Besides touring the castle and kissing the Blarney Stone, be sure to see the unusual gardens, which include a fern garden; woodlands; and a Poison Garden with plants that are so toxic, they have to be kept behind protective structures.

Official site:

Kylemore Castle

One of the most impressive castles in Ireland is in the northwest in Connemara, overlooking Lough Pollacappul. The castle sits on more than 15,000 acres of land, with stunning gardens and a classically Victorian walled garden.

The castle was built in 1871 as a gift to the wife of an English doctor. The estate changed hands several times, eventually becoming an Abbey in 1920, when it was purchased by the Irish Benedictine. Although you can explore the castle grounds on your own, first-time visitors should take a guided tour to capture the full history and significance of the castle.

Some of the things to include on your Kylemore Castle must-experience list are: going inside to see the restored rooms and artifacts from previous owners, walking through the six acres of walled gardens accented with fruit trees and flower and herb gardens, and visiting the Neo-Gothic church on the estate.

Location: Kylemore Abbey, Pollacappul, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland

Official site:

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle in southeast Ireland is a 12th-century castle overlooking the River Nore. The castle holds an important piece of Ireland's history following the Norman conquest. Kilkenny Castle was privately owned for hundreds of years until the mid-1960s, when it became the property of the city of Kilkenny.

Today, it remains one of the finest examples of castle architecture in the country. You can walk the stairs below the Rose Garden Terrace to the castle's medieval foundation, and see how the structure winds through the ground floor. Be sure to take note of the circular room beneath the West Tower, which gives insight into the methods used during the castle's 13th-century construction. It seems labor intensive compared to what is used today with technology and machines.

Inside the castle, you can see a cantilevered staircase, a fireplace made entirely of marble, and a stunning grand entrance corridor that adjoins the east and west wings. The castle's collection of 17th-century tapestries is also worth a visit. You will want to plan a significant amount of time to walk the grounds, which feature a park and gardens.

Official site:

Slane Castle

The Gothic Revival architecture of Slane Castle in County Meath is one of the reasons it is a standout among castles in Ireland. It was built in the late 1700s in the Boyne Valley by a family committed to improving the Village of Slane.

Guided tours of the castle are offered and recommended as a way to learn about the history of the castle, the significance of its architecture, and the people who lived in the castle throughout the centuries. The estate sits on more than 1,500 acres of park green space, which is nice to stroll, or you can hike up the Hill of Slane to find out about its connection to St. Patrick.

The Slane Castle has also been transformed into a concert venue, so that is a unique way to enjoy the estate if there is an event scheduled during your stay. There are overnight accommodations at Slane Castle available at the organic farm located on the estate.

Official site:

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Ireland Highlights: For a quick look at what to see around the country, have a read through our list of the top attractions in Ireland . And if you are spending time in Dublin, see our article on attractions in Dublin .

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15 Must-See and Best Castles In Ireland To Visit

Categories Antrim , Clare , Cork , Donegal , Dublin , Galway , Kerry , Kilkenny , Limerick , Mayo , Meath , Shannon , Tipperary , Where To Go

Ireland is home to over 30,000 castles. Say what?

Yes, there are several castles in Ireland that even locals already lost count and it’s probably one of the things that Ireland is famous for .

These castles were built as early as the 10th century and although most of them have already seen their days, these castle ruins still possess the grandeur they once had. There are also few castles that have been restored and still standing proudly up to this day.

These castles are scattered all throughout Ireland and it’s hard to decide which castles to prioritize. So if you have limited time, this guide to the best castles in Ireland can help you decide.

Things you'll find in this article

1. Blarney Castle, County Cork

2. kilkenny castle, kilkenny, ireland, 3. trim castle, county meath, ireland, 4. rock of cashel, co. tipperary, 5. glenveagh castle, co. donegal, ireland, 6. king john’s castle, co. limerick, 7. bunratty castle, county clare, 8. ross castle, county kerry, ireland, 9. slane castle, ireland, 10. kylemore castle, 11.cahir castle, tipperary, ireland, 12. athlone castle ireland, 13. ashford castle, county mayo, ireland, 14.malahide castle, county dublin, ireland, 15. dunluce castle, county antrim, northern ireland.

blarney castle

One of Ireland’s most popular attractions is Blarney Castle . It was built nearly six hundred years ago by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains.

Surrounding the castle are extensive gardens. There are paths touring the grounds with signs pointing out the various attractions such as several natural rock formations.

Aside from the castle itself, the place is also popular because of Blarney Stone.

In order to get the gift of eloquence, for over 200 years many famous people from around the world visit Blarney to kiss the famous Blarney Stone.

There is an ongoing debate over the story of the Blarney stone but no one has been able to prove the origin of the stone.

Opening Hours

9 am to 5 pm

Admission Fee

€16 for adults, €13 for students and seniors, and €40 for a family. For more information regarding booking, click here.

Contact Information

Location: Blarney, Cork , Ireland

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +353 21 4385252

Check this tour that includes a visit to the famous Blarney Castle. 

kilkenny castle ireland

Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and it is an important site to the history of Kilkenny . In 1967, the Castle was transferred to the people of Kilkenny for £50.

The Kilkenny Castle is now one of the very few castles in Ireland that offer tours to the public. The garden and park in the castle complex are also open to the public.

If you are planning to visit this city, this is also one of the best castles in Kilkenny. 

Daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm

Adult € 8.00 | child € 4.00 | Family € 20.00

Address: The Parade, Collegepark , Kilkenny , Ireland

Phone: +353 56 770 4106

Email: [email protected]

For other visitor’s information, click here . 

trim castle ireland

Trim Castle is a Norman castle on the south bank of River Boyne in the town of Trim and currently the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland.

The castle was built in 1173 by Hugh de Lacy, the castle was used as a center of Norman administration for the  Lordship of Meath . It is also probably best known as the setting for Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. 

This castle in Ireland boasts imposing twenty-sided towers protected by curtain wall and moat. It was a great example of experimental military architecture during its period.

If you want to learn more about the legacy of this castle, this day trip from Dublin is a must.

Opening hours vary depending on the season. For an updated list of opening hours, click here .

€5 per adult, €3 for students, and €13 for a family of 4. It includes access to the Trim Castle grounds and an audio-visual show at the visitor center. You can get a ticket from the visitor center.

Location: Trim, Co Meath

Phone: +353 46 943 8619 

Email:   [email protected]  

Check this tour that includes a visit to Trim Castle and Slane Whiskey Distillery.

Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel , also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock, is a historic site located at Cashel in County Tipperary . It is one of the most spectacular attractions in Ireland and also one of the most visited castles in Ireland.

This iconic landmark was the seat of the High Kings of Munster and was built between the 12th to the 13th century.

9 am to 4:30 pm during winter and 9 am to 7 pm during the summer.

Adult : €8.00, Group / Senior : €6.00, Child / Student : €4.00, Family : €20.00

Location: Rock of Cashel, Moor, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland

Phone: 062 61437

Email: [email protected]

Buy your ticket online here. 

Bunratty Castle

Set in some 16,500 hectares of County Donegal mountains, Glenveagh Castle is a 19th Century, castellated mansion built between 1870 and 1873 in Letterkenny .

The Scottish Baronial-style Irish castle is built by Captain John George Adair. When he picked the location for his castle, he went as far as evicting 244 tenants to have privacy.

The gardens around the house were planted in a free-flowing style with exotic species from Tasmania, Madeira, and Chile. The Glenveagh gardens itself is a major attraction aside from the surrounding lakes and forest in the area.

Opening Hours:

9 am to 5 pm but check in advance first as the castle tour is limited during off-peak and winter season. To verify the schedule, click here .

Adult Castle Ticket €7.00 | Concession Castle Ticket €5.00 | Family Castle Ticket €15.00

Location: Glenveagh, Churchhill, Letterkenny, Donegal

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +353 76 1002537

King John’s Castle

King John’s Castle is a 13th-century castle located on King’s Island in Limerick and next to the River Shannon. This Irish castle overlooks the river and the panoramic view of Limerick City.

The stunning new exhibition brings to life over 800 years of King John’s Castle and Limerick City’s dramatic history all through Touch-screen technology which will connect visitors to tales of siege and warfare. It is also one of the best castles in Ireland.

09.30 am – 5 pm

€10 for adult, €5 for children and €22 for family (2 adults + 2 children)

Address: Nicholas St, Limerick , Ireland

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +353 61 360788

Bunratty Castle in Ireland

Bunratty Castle is a large 15th-century  tower house  in  County Clare . The name Bunratty, Bun Raite in Irish, means “river basin” of the ‘Ratty’ river . This river, alongside the castle, flows into the nearby  Shannon   estuary .

The castle was built in 1425 and was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendor. It now contains mainly 15th and 16th-century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art that capture the mood of those times.

To live up to its medieval look,   medieval banquets  are held in the castle in the evenings and it’s open to the public to enjoy.

Daily from 9:00am- 5.30pm

Adult €15. Child/Student €9. Family (2 adults and 4 children under 18) €34.25.

Location: Bunratty West, Bunratty, Co. Clare, Ireland


Ross Castle is also one of the best places to visit in Killarney and one of the must-see castles in Ireland. The castle is a 15th-century tower house built by O’Donoghues Mor, a local ruling clan on the edge of Lough Leane.

The castle has a long history of rebellions and wars and it is said to be the last castle to surrender during the  Irish Confederate Wars .

9.30 am to 5:45 pm

Adult: €5.00, Group/Senior: €4.00, Child/Student: €3.00 , Family: €13.00

Location:  Ross Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry , Ireland

Email:   [email protected]

Phone: +353 64 663 5851

Buy your ticket online here.

Slane Castle

Slane Castle is located within the Boyne Valley near Navan and is set in the middle of a 1,500-acre estate. The castle was built in the 18th century and has been a family seat for the Conyngham family .

Today, the castle is a famous concert venue that held concerts for world music icons such as The Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna, Guns N’ Roses, Bob Dylan, Queens, Bruce Springsteen to name a few.

The guided tours to the castle are seasonal and only if there’s no event. To check for the latest tour schedule, click here .

Adults: €12.00, Children: €7.20, Students, O.A.P.’s & Groups: €10.80, Children under 5 years are free

Location: Navan Road, Slane Meath

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +353 41 9820643

Check this  tour that includes a visit to Slane Castle.

kylemore abbey castle

Kylemore Castle was built by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from England, as a gift to his wife Margaret in 1871. It was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1903 and was then purchased by the Irish Benedictine nuns in 1920.

Kylemore Abbey, a Benedictine monastery was then founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara . Since the 1970s, the estate has been opened to the public.

Nestled at the base of Druchruach Mountain and along the shore of Lough Pollacappul in Connemara , the Abbey is one of the most iconic attractions in Galway , Ireland. It is also one of the most beautiful castles in Galway . And no visit to Ireland is complete without spending a half-day to the castle ground.

Check out this Kylemore Abbey Tour article for more information.

9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The last admission is at 4 pm.

€13 for adult, €9 for the student, €10 for senior, and €26.00 for a family of 4.

Location:   Kylemore Abbey, Pollacappul, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland

Email: bookings@kylemoreabbey. com

Check this full-day tour that includes a visit to Connemara & Kylemore Abbey.

Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle is one of the largest castles in Ireland. It is located on an island in the river of Suir, in the town of Cahir , County Tipperary.

Built-in 1142 by the Prince of Thomond, Conor O’Brien, it was designed as a defensive castle with state-of-the-art facilities. However, the castle was besieged multiple times during the Irish Confederate Wars .

March-Mid June Daily 09.30 – 17.30

Mid-June – August Daily 09.00 – 18.30

September – Mid October Daily 09.30 – 17.30

Mid October – February Daily 09.30 – 16.30

Adult: €5.00

Group/Senior: €4.00

Child/Student: €3.00

Family: €13.00

Location: Castle St, Townparks, Cahir, Co. Tipperary , Ireland

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +353 (52) 744 1011 

Check this tour that includes a visit to Blarney and Cahir Castles . 

Athlone Castle Westmeath

John de Gray, the Bishop of Norwich, constructed Athlone Castle amid the Norman Invasion of Ireland dating from the 12th century. It was fortified a few times and it was built to protect and defend the crossing point in Athlone and to provide support to facilitate the Norman advance into Connaught.

The castle is a free-standing polygonal tower built inside a moat and it’s one of the popular castles and attractions in Ireland.

For an updated list of opening hours, click here .

Adult €8, Senior/Student €6, Children/Under 15 €4, Children under the age of 4 are free, Family (2 adults & 2 children) €2

Location: St Peter’s Square, Athlone, County Westmeath , N37 A6D7

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +353 90 6442130

Ashford Castle County Mayo

Ashford Castle is a medieval and Victorian Ireland castle that was turned into a 5-star hotel over the years in County Mayo .

Built in 1228 by the House of Burke , an Anglo-Norman family , ownership was later transferred to other rich Irish families.

In the 19th century, the Guinness family, known for their accomplishments in brewing (Guinness beer anyone?) and other business, bought the estate and transformed it. It was later sold to Noel Huggard who made the castle a hotel.

The castle hotel in Ireland is a member of Leading Hotels of the World  organization and is considered one of the best hotels in the world.

To check the rates for this castle hotel, click here .

Location: Ashford Castle Estate, Cong , Co. Mayo , F31 CA48, Ireland

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +353 94 954 6003

Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland which dates back as far as 1175. This is also one of the few castles in Dublin County and it’s located in the remaining parklands of Malahide Demesne Regional Park.

The Malahide Castle was home to Talbot Family for almost 800 years and survived many wars and also the deaths of its previous owners inside the palace.

For 11 years, the castle was given by Oliver Cromwell to Miles Corbet  after the English Parliament conquered Ireland. He hanged himself following the death of Cromwell.

The Talbot family took the castle back but it was followed by the death of 14 members where they didn’t make it back after the Battle of Boyne near Drogheda . Now, this Irish castle is owned by the State as the last member of the Talbot family sold it.

9.30am- 5.30pm Monday-Sunday

Adults €12

Student / OAP €8

Child (under 12) €6

Family €26

Location: Malahide Demesne, Malahide, Co. Dublin, Ireland

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +353 1 816 9538

Dunluce Castle Image by Christine Rogador

Dunluce Castle, Image by Christine Rogador

Dunluce Castle is now a ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland. It is located on the edge of rocks on the coast of County Antrim.

  Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster , built the first castle in Dunluce. From then on, this Irish castle witnessed a long and tumultuous history between Scotland, Ireland, and the UK.

Dunluce Castle is also said to be the inspiration for   Cair Paravel , the fictional castle in Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It is also the film location of Game of Thrones for the Seat of House Greyjoy of the great castle of Pyke.

Daily: 10 am – 4 pm (last entry strictly at 3:30 pm)

Adult – £5.50, Child (age 4 – 16) – £3.50

Senior citizen £3.50

Student and Benefit Claimants (ID required) – £3.50

Child under 4 – Free

Family (up to 5 members, including up to 3 adults) – £15.00

Group rate(10 plus, must be pre-booked) – £4 per person

Location: 87 Dunluce Road, Bushmills, County Antrim, BT57 8UY

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (028) 2073 1938

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Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.

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Home » Travel Guides » Ireland » 15 Best Castles in Ireland

15 Best Castles in Ireland

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.

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.

1. Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

One of the most beautiful castles in Ireland lies only an hour’s drive from Dublin in the province of Leinster – it’s the Kilkenny Castle. A symbol of the Norman occupation, the building of the castle began at the very end of the 12th century.

The first castle, most likely a wooden construction, was built by Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, also known as Strongbow. A square-shaped stone castle with four towers was finished in 1213. To this day, three of the original towers survive.

The majority of the castle these days dates back to the early and mid-19th century when the castle was restored during a large-scale project.

Kilkenny Castle is a significant element in the surrounding landscape, and you can see how the town has grown around it. River Nore flows past the castle, and it is particularly beautiful when you see it appear during a boat ride.

2. Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle

Many would dream of living in a castle someday and if that’s a bit unrealistic then at least spending a night in one. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s not possible. The best you can do is visit, have a sneak peek inside, perhaps take a guided tour, and only dream about what it would be like to live in a castle of your own. Ashford Castle in the North-West of Ireland is different. Not only is it a castle but it is also one of Ireland’s finest 5-star hotels.

Despite there being a castle from early 13th century, the one we see today was actually built in the 18th century. Following the style of a 17th-century French chateau, Ashford Castle was a family house and a hunting lodge for the Brown family of the Baron Oranmore and Browne.

Nowadays the castle is a combination of medieval and Victorian architecture.

The hotel rooms and suites embrace the noble history of the castle, and each interior is as kingly as the other.

3. Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle in South-East of Ireland is one of the largest castles in the country. Visually it embodies everything you would expect from a medieval castle and fortress – massive walls, a moat, an impressive keep, and an overall gargantuan and slightly intimidating appearance. Exactly what medieval fortresses were supposed to convey.

The castle dates back to mid-12th century. In 1599 it was heavily damaged by cannon fire after a three-day siege. It was besieged again in the 17th century during Irish Confederate Wars.

Cahir Castle is one of the few castles in the country with a working portcullis.

4. Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Most people will know Blarney Castle due to Blarney Stone, also known as The Stone of Eloquence. The legend has it that if you hang backward and kiss the stone, you will gain the gift of eloquence. Several hundred thousand tourists visit per year. The stone itself lies at the very top of the castle, which is partly in a state of ruins. Despite that, the castle is a noteworthy example of Irish medieval architecture.

MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty built the keep in the mid-15th century, even though there are records of former fortifications on the same site.

Blarney Castle is one of the castles that was affected by the Irish Confederate Wars and besieged during this time. Over the centuries, the castle belonged to various owners, and currently is in the hands of Colthurst family.

While the castle has an impressive and well-preserved exterior, it is a partial ruin since only a few rooms and battlements are accessible. Anyone visiting can climb the spiral staircase and explore the vast gardens, which contribute to the magical atmosphere of the castle as it features a poison garden with numerous poisonous plants.

5. Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle is a beautiful and well-preserved square tower in West Ireland in County Clare. Dating back to 1425, Bunratty Castle is one of the most authentic and complete medieval fortresses in Ireland. There were three other structures built on or around the same site, including an early Viking settlement, prior to the current castle. Bunratty Castle was built by the MacNamara family.

Another castle which was affected by the Irish Confederate Wars, Bunratty Castle held an important strategic position as it controlled the waterways leading up to Limerick. The Confederates ended up taking the castle after a long siege.

In the mid-20th century, the castle was restored by 7th Viscount Gort, who managed to preserve the castle from becoming to ruins. The castle is open to visitors, and the interiors feature 15th and 16th-century works of art, furnishings, and tapestries.

6. Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle

At the outskirts of Dublin, only half an hour train ride away lies Malahide Castle whose oldest parts date back to the 12th century. The structure changed since its inception, and enlargement works were done in the 15th century during the reign of King Edward IV. The towers were added even later, from the beginning until the mid-17th century. The castle was built by the Talbots, a family with a long and noteworthy history.

Four reception rooms and bedrooms are open to the public. Period furniture and paintings decorate the interiors while setting the tone of times gone by.

Malahide Castle used to be surrounded by a moat and an outer wall as well as a drawbridge, portcullis and a barbican.

7. The Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

In spite of its ruinous state, The Rock of Cashel is one of those castles that leaves an unforgettable impression upon witnessing it in person. Located at County Tipperary, The Rock of Cashel is one of the main focal points in the surrounding scenery, as the castle is located on a hill overlooking its backdrop.

The oldest part of The Rock of Cashel is also the tallest – the round tower is 28 meters high and dates back to approximately 1100. The tower was originally built using the dry stone method, which means that the construction is made solely with stones and no binding agent, like mortar, is used. Nowadays, however, some fillings with mortar have been made to make the structure safe.

One of the most visually beautiful buildings within the complex is the Cormac’s Chapel with its vaulted ceilings and wide arches.

The castle is surrounded by an extensive graveyard, and the whole complex is walled.

8. Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle

Looking less like a typical castle and more like a traditional late-Medieval/Jacobean country home, Donegal Castle has a very particular and undeniable charm. Located in Donegal Town in Ulster, the castle was in the state of ruins for nearly two centuries until it was almost fully restored approximately 30 years ago.

The castle is made up of an impressive rectangular keep dating back to the 15th century. A Jacobean-style wing was added a little later. Like many castles, Donegal Castle also sits near a river – River Eske that is. A boundary wall surrounding the castle was built in the 17th century. Local sandstone and limestone were used in the building of the castle.

9. Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle in South Ireland is the seat of Duke of Devonshire. Originally belonging to Earls of Desmond, the castle passed in possession of the Cavendish family since the mid-18th century. The castle is nothing short of a royal residence. The large structure features many turrets, towers, and a large inner courtyard. Lismore Castle overlooks River Blackwater.

While the castle is still a private residence for much of the year, unlike many other castles which are open to the public via guided tours, Lismore Castle is available for hiring and can accommodate up to 27 guests. Truly a dream come true for many as the castle offers an unmatched fairytale setting.

10. Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Beautifully stood at the very heart of Dublin, contrasting with modern architecture, Dublin Castle now houses a large part of the Irish government. However, it has always played a role with governing institutions – from British to Irish. In 1921 it was ceremonially passed onto the Provisional Government of Ireland after the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty.

Despite there being a castle on the same site even during the times of King John, the current building dates back to approximately 18th century. When Dublin was still a Norman city, the castle was built to serve a fortifying purpose. Yet over time, Dublin Castle evolved into an official residence.

After being affected by significant fire damage in the late 17th century, the castle was rebuilt from a Medieval fortress into a Georgian palace. Above the ground level, there are no remaining medieval elements within the castle.

11. Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle in West Ireland, just like Ashford Castle, nowadays serves as a 5-star luxury hotel. The current building dates back to mid-19th century even though a previous tower house has been on the site from around the 15th or early 16th century. The castle was built in a neo-gothic architectural style.

The baronial-style castle has remained very much the same as it was in the mid-19th century, and no significant changes have been made. The western part of the castle overlooks a lake, making the whole landscape seem like something out of a fairytale. On the south side, there are extensive walled gardens. Surrounded by vast woodlands, Dromoland Castle is not only a gateway into majestic past but also a much-welcomed escape from the buzz of everyday life.

12. King John’s Castle

King John’s Castle

King John’s Castle in Limerick is a must-see for anyone visiting South-West Ireland. This significant location is not only a remarkable example of Medieval architecture but also one of the best-preserved Norman castles in all Europe since the towers, walls, and fortifications have survived the test of time. Sitting on top of King’s Island on the banks of River Shannon, the castle was in a strategic position historically, and still breathes this historical significance to this day.

King John ordered the building of the castle at the very beginning of the 13th century. Before then there were Viking settlements in the same location since 922.

The castle was built in this strategic location to control any potential Norman rebellions to the east and south.

During the 1642 Siege of Limerick, the castle suffered damage in its walls, and just like many other Irish castles, it was affected by the Irish Confederate Wars.

The castle features impressive rounded and barrel towers and four curtain walls, however, it does not feature a square keep.

13. Birr Castle

Birr Castle

Birr Castle, located in Central Ireland in County Offaly, is the home of The 7th Earl of Rosse. A castle has stood on the grounds since the Anglo-Norman times, yet over the centuries numerous changes have been made and little remains from the original structures. Despite that, the current castle is an excellent example among Irish castles.

The castle is only partially available for visitors as it is the residence of The 7th Earl of Rosse, however, the gardens and the supporting park is available for the open public.

Around the early 17th century, the original castle lay in ruins, and it was granted to the Parsons family that added two flanking towers on either side of the Norman gate tower to make the building more liveable. During the Irish Confederate Wars, the castle underwent two sieges.

14. Ross Castle

Ross Castle, Ireland

Ross Castle is stood in a place, where time stands still. Surrounded by a vast and untouched landscape in the South of Ireland, looking at the castle from afar, you could easily imagine being taken back to the Medieval times. Overlooking Lough Leane and Killarney National Park, the 15th-century tower house embodies serenity despite its mammoth appearance.

Originally, Ross Castle was the ancestral home of the O’Donoghue clan, and during the Second Desmond Rebellion in the late 16th century it changed ownership to the MacCarthy Mór.

The castle is built in a traditional Medieval stronghold fashion – a tower house with square bartizans, and thick walls. The windows on the lower levels are narrow enough to allow people residing in the castle to defend themselves from potential enemies by shooting arrows, however, they were not wide enough to allow access to the castle from unwanted visitors. Even the spiral staircase was built in a way to give an advantage to people defending the castle – anyone heading up the stairs would have their swords on the inner side of the stairs giving them a massive disadvantage.

15. Doonagore Castle

Doonagore Castle

Even though not much is left from the original castle except for a round tower house, it’s an exceptional place to see near the shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. The round tower house dates back to the 16th century, and a small walled enclosure is also intact.

A castle was built here around the 14th century. The 16th-century tower house, unlike many others in the region built from limestone, was actually built from sandstone, which is also native to the surrounding area.

An eerie part of the castle’s history dates back to the very late 16th century when a Spanish Armada ship ran ashore just below the castle. The survivors were then hanged at the castle.

The castle has been in possession of a private Irish-American owner since the 1970s, therefore, the castle is not open to the public.

15 Best Castles in Ireland:

  • Kilkenny Castle
  • Ashford Castle
  • Cahir Castle
  • Blarney Castle
  • Bunratty Castle
  • Malahide Castle
  • The Rock of Cashel
  • Donegal Castle
  • Lismore Castle
  • Dublin Castle
  • Dromoland Castle
  • King John’s Castle
  • Birr Castle
  • Ross Castle
  • Doonagore Castle


The Best 20 Castles to Visit in Ireland (Listed by Popularity)

featured image for 20 best irish castles

Ireland has a long history filled with war, adventure, royalty, and invasions. In consequence, there are also a lot of historical places to explore and revel in. However, the most prominent of all historical relics in Ireland are its castles. Did you know that there are around 30,000 castles in Ireland? Astounding, isn’t it?

The lush and scenic landscape of the Isle of Ireland is dotted around with castles, which range from military towers to ruins to even majestic homes built for the nobility and the super-rich. Each castle has its own inimitable history, legacy, and heritage. Most of these castles were constructed from medieval times to the late 19th century. Many of them are now in ruins, some are open to the public, some are still used as private residences and many of them are five-star hotels too!

The castles remain one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, which give a glimpse into the rich and glorious culture of the island. Here, we will explore ten of the most famous, impressive, and beautiful castles located all across the country. For the avid travelers seeking to explore not-so-crowded and less-visited places, there are ten more castles, just as spectacular and worth exploring as the first ten.

Table of Contents

  • 1.1 1. Ashford Castle
  • 1.2 2. Blarney Castle
  • 1.3 3. Kilkenny Castle
  • 1.4 4. The Rock of Cashel
  • 1.5 5. Dromoland Castle
  • 1.6 6. Dublin Castle
  • 1.7 7. Dunluce Castle
  • 1.8 8. Bunratty Castle
  • 1.9 9. Leap Castle
  • 1.10 10. Knappogue Castle
  • 2.1 11. Malahide Castle
  • 2.2 12. Lismore Castle
  • 2.3 13. Ross Castle
  • 2.4 14. Cahir Castle
  • 2.5 15. Dunguaire Castle
  • 2.6 16. Trim Castle
  • 2.7 17. Belfast Castle
  • 2.8 18. Donegal Castle
  • 2.9 19. Birr Castle
  • 2.10 20. King John’s Castle
  • 3 Conclusion

10 Most Popular Castles to Visit in Ireland

The order of the list is based on Google search volume of each castle = popularity.

1. Ashford Castle

The view of Ashford Castle in front of the castle's fountain.

This list would not be complete without the mention of the beautiful and breathtaking Ashford Castle.  First built in the 1200s, this castle has served as the location of numerous battles and wars. After a truce, it was converted into a hunting lodge. Eventually, the famous Guinness family purchased it in 1852. 

The famous beer family expanded the property and built new wings, before selling it off in the 1930s. This gorgeous castle has since been converted into a luxury five-star hotel. With towers, turrets, manicured grounds, a lake, and a host of impressive activities, it is the perfect place for a vacation. It is counted among one of the most unique hotels in the world and provides a mystic experience for all its visitors.

  • Location: County Mayo
  • Time built: 13th Century
  • Architectural style: Medieval and Victorian
  • Touring: It is a five star hotel. Visit the official website for more information .

2. Blarney Castle

The tower of Blarney Castle surrounded by trees with view visiting tourists spotted.

Blarney Castle is one of the most popular and top-ranked places to visit in Ireland. It was built nearly six hundred years ago by one of the greatest rulers and chieftains of Ireland, Cormac MacCarthy. 

You absolutely cannot miss this medieval fortress situated in Blarney, near the city of Cork. Deeply rooted in history and lore, this castle is known famously for the Blarney Stone . The Blarney Stone is famous as the legendary Stone of Eloquence. Thousands of tourists flock here every year to kiss the stone, for it is believed that if you climb to the top of the castle and kiss the Blarney Stone hanging upside down, you will be gifted the skill of eloquence!

Besides kissing the famous stone, you can also take a walk around its beautiful and magical gardens, which are spectacular in all seasons. Rightly considered one of the ‘greatest treasures of Ireland’, it is a must-visit if you are in the country. (Just be careful to step lightly in the poison garden…)

  • Location: County Cork
  • Time built: 15th century
  • Architectural style: Irish Medieval
  • Touring: Allowed. Visit the official website for more information.

3. Kilkenny Castle

The panoramic view of Kilkenny Castle and the green grounds.

Kilkenny Castle boasts of being one of the most beautiful castles of Ireland. Its regal stone front, nestled between its beautiful gardens and woodlands is a perfect representation of its rich history and culture. 

Its construction began in 1195 by the First Earl of Pembroke. The castle was meant as a prominent symbol of Norman occupation and power in Ireland. Currently, the castle is open to visitors, and thousands throng there every year to see the castle where the rooms have been restored to their original time of centuries ago, filled with the furniture and toys of that age. The castle also has the famous Butler Gallery where Irish and international artwork is displayed. Not to forget its amazing fifty acres of the rose garden, woodlands, lake, and abundant wildlife.

  • Location: County Kilkenny
  • Time built: 12th Century
  • Architectural style: Victorian

4. The Rock of Cashel

The beautiful ruins of the Rock of Cashel.

One of the oldest castles in Ireland, the Rock of Cashel is also a very significant archaeological site. Situated in County Tipperary, it is one of Ireland’s top attractions. These clusters of medieval buildings are perched atop a green, rocky hill and offer a spectacular view of the surrounding woodlands.  

The Rock of Cashel is steeped in ancient tales and mythology. It is also the place from where powerful Kings of Munster ruled for over a thousand years, before the invasion of the Normans. The round tower of the Cashel is approximately 28 meters high and has an imposing view. However, the most visually appealing among the buildings is Cormac’s Chapel. It has beautifully carved doors, vaulted ceilings, and wide arches.

  • Location: County Tipperary
  • Architectural style: Medieval
  • Touring: Allowed. Visit the official website for more information .

5. Dromoland Castle

The beautiful Dromoland Castle with cars and trees at the front.

Dromoland was once the property of the O’Briens of Dromoland, one of the noblest aristocratic families in all of Ireland. Today, it is a 5-star hotel with a 400-year-old legacy; it has been welcoming guests since the 16th century. With lots of amazing packages and an interior that is well-suited to its castle heritage, Dromoland is the epitome of a magical getaway experience. There are 4 types of rooms available at the castle today. While you’re there, enjoy their renowned award-winning cuisine. There’s also a spa, a golf course, and the lush grounds are perfect for carrying out an unparalleled wedding photoshoot.

  • Location: County Clare
  • Time built: 16 th century
  • Architectural style: Gothic Revival

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6. dublin castle.

Front view of Dublin Castle.

Located in the heart of the capital of Ireland, Dublin, the castle was constructed in the early thirteenth century. Erected atop a Viking settlement site, it had served for centuries as the headquarters of the British administration till the year 1922. After Ireland’s independence, Dublin Castle passed to the hands of the new Irish government. It is now a major tourist attraction and a busy government complex.

The castle has museums, cafes, and gardens, which attract thousands of tourists every year. It is also a stone’s throw away from the other major attractions of the city. Though home to a lot of important government offices, most of the areas are still open for tourists and visitors seven days a week.

  • Location: County Dublin
  • Architectural style: Medieval and Georgian

7. Dunluce Castle

The picturesque view of Dunluce Castle on the clifftop by the sea.

This romantic Irish castle is the epitome of picturesque. With its clifftop perch, sea-side views, and lush surroundings, it’s perfect for a romantic getaway or a family outing. The surroundings urge the visitors to explore the rocky terrain while enjoying the beautiful vistas to the fullest.

Although Dunluce Castle is in a semi-ruinous state right now, it once used to be the stronghold of the clans McQuillan and MacDonnell. It was known for hosting an annual fair once, which was shut down because of excessive debauchery. But that’s not all – Dunluce was also used to host the very first BBC broadcasts in the 70s. Currently, the enclosed parts of the castle host archaeological displays, but be sure to check with official websites before visiting as public access is sometimes restricted.

  • Location: Antrim Coast
  • Time built: 16th Century
  • Touring: Allowed. Visit the official website for more information   

8. Bunratty Castle

The tower of Bunratty Castle in the middle of the road.

Bunratty Castle, located in County Clare, is one of the country’s most complete medieval fortresses. It stands atop a 970 AD Viking trading camp. It is the last of four castles built on the site, this one in the year 1425. Restored in 1954, the castle was opened to the public in 1960. It has a rich heritage of furnishings, tapestries and works of art from the 15 th and 16 th centuries. It perfectly captures the mood of the bygone era. You can also participate in a traditional medieval feast, where you can partake in all types of delicious food. Bunratty Castle is one of the best places to experience an authentic medieval experience.

  • Time built: 15th Century

9. Leap Castle

Front view of Leap Castle and its green castle ground.

Leap was originally first constructed by the O’Bannon clan and is said to have been constructed on the site of an ancient stone monolith. Through the centuries of sieges and changing ownerships, the castle managed to survive and come out stronger than ever before.

Leap Castle is also steeped in legends, the most popular one of which is the Ghost of the Red Lady who walks up and down the halls with a dagger. Then there are ghosts of the two little girls who run up and down the stairs. But most unusual of them all is the elemental spirit that runs across the castle, earning Leap the title of the most haunted castle in all of Scotland. These make for interesting stories for tourists who come to explore the medieval magnificence of the structure when discovering the area.

  • Location: County Offaly

10. Knappogue Castle

The view of the side of Knapppogue Castle along the road.

This 15th-century castle was actually expanded in the 19th century and is an excellent example of medieval tower-keep style architecture. It used to be the seat of power of the MacNamara clan but continuously changed ownership over the years until being purchased by Mark Edwin Andrews in the 60s. His wife was an architect who set about restoring Knappogue to its original 15th-century glory.

Part of the castle was leased to the government in order to make it a viable tourist destination. These days, it’s used to throw medieval-style parties or host wedding receptions. The most interesting part: the castle’s brand whiskey (aptly named Knappogue Castle) has now become a norm and is produced in Bushmills.

  • Touring:   Allowed. Visit the official website for more information.

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10 Less Popular Castles Worth Visiting While In Ireland

If you are a castle enthusiast, you must take out the time to visit these equally spectacular castles in Ireland as well:

11. Malahide Castle

The front view of Malahide Castle where the entrance door is surrounded by green big bushes.

Malahide Castle lies in the village of Malahide, very close to Dublin.  The Talbot family built it in the 12th century when they arrived in Ireland from England in the wake of the Norman Conquest. The family-owned the castle until they sold it to the state in 1975. It is now open for tourists and visitors all year round.

Enclosed by a large park as well as a botanical garden, the castle boasts of many rare and tropical plants. Inside the castle, you can admire the elaborate oak paneling and the authentic Victorian toys. It is also rumored to be the most haunted castle in Ireland, so you may come face to face with a ghost or two!

  • Time built: 12 th Century

12. Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle's view surrounded by green trees and grasses. view surrounded by greens.

Although belonging to the Duke of Devonshire today, Lismore Castle is one of the most iconic historical buildings in all of Ireland. Over the years, it has belonged to several notable people, including Sir Walter Raleigh (the tobacco introducer of the English Court) and Richard Boyle (the first Earl of Cork).

The location of the castle is strategically moored by various surrounding activities. Tourists not only love exploring the lovely grounds and interiors, but also participate in activities like golf, salmon fishing, and even hiking once they’re in the area. It’s a veritable tourist haven and thriving in the modern world because of it!

  • Location: County Waterford
  • Architectural style: Gothic, Jacobean, & Victorian

13. Ross Castle

The beautiful ruins of Ross Castle with visiting tourists outside.

Ireland’s Tall Maiden was actually built on the behest of a local clan who went by the name O’Donoghue Mór. Over the years, it changed ownership multiple times until being seized by the English in the Irish Confederate Wars. For a brief while, it served as military barracks before finally being relinquished to the private ownership of the Browne family.

Currently, it is controlled by the Office of Public Works. With its gorgeous surroundings, rich heritage, and picturesque views, it has become quite a popular tourist destination. One can spend a nice, lingering day exploring the keep-style architecture and the lush green surroundings.

  • Location: Ross Island
  • Time built: 15 th Century
  • Architectural style: Tower House & Keep

14. Cahir Castle

Front view of Cahir Castle.

Cahir Castle is one of the finest and biggest castles in Ireland. It sits on a rocky island on the River Suir.  Built in the 13 th century, it is still remarkably well preserved. You can see the tower and the defense structures that have remained undamaged since their construction. Amazing, isn’t it?

The castle is surrounded by amazing woodlands and provides spectacular views of the countryside. The castle also provides guided tours and audiovisual shows to highlight the rich heritage of the castle. The castle has been the site of several films and TV shows like Excalibur and the Tudors.

  • Time built: 13 th Century

15. Dunguaire Castle

Dungaire's Castle view from across the rocky river.

The O’Hynes clan built this beautiful castle on the shore of Galway Bay.  Situated near the port village of Kinvara, this 16th-century castle served as one of the strongholds of the clan. It was renovated and refurbished in the 20 th century by Oliver St. John Gogarty, a well-known surgeon, and writer. He made it a meeting place for literary giants like W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, J.M. Synge, Lady Gregory, etc. 

The castle is also a very popular tourist attraction. If you visit between mid-April to mid-October, you can enjoy the spectacular medieval banquets where you will be served a wonderful four-course menu while being entertained by songs, poems and stories. 

The main feature of this castle is its 75-foot tower and defensive wall, against a stunning background of Galway Bay. This makes Dunguaire Castle the most photographed castle in Ireland!

  • Location: County Galway
  • Time built: 16 th Century
  • Architectural style: Medieval Architectural Style

Chateau d’Angers front view from afar.

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Arundel Castle

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16. trim castle.

The stunning view of Trim Castle's ruins  reflecting the sunlight.

Known to be the largest Anglo-Norman construction this side of Ireland, Trim Castle stands tall in all its medieval glory and actually took 30 years to be built. The most notable part of its design is the massive keep that has a whopping 20 facades and was simply unconquerable back in the day.

Today, the castle hosts hoards of tourists every day and the keep has been outfitted with modern walkways so that people can experience the interior closely as well. If you’re interested in classic medieval architecture and Irish heritage, then you definitely need to visit this castle.

  • Location : Trim
  • Time built: 12 th century
  • Architectural style : Medieval Architectural Style

17. Belfast Castle

The  beautiful Belfast Castle in front of the garden's fountain.

Originally built by Norman’s hands in the 12th century, Belfast Castle was reconstructed by the Baron of Belfast in a stone and timber rendition around 1611. This version, however, was reduced to ashes by a raging fire and a new castle was constructed on the site again by the Marquis of Donegal in the nineteenth century. That’s the iteration that we see today.

The gorgeous fairytale-esque facade of this castle made it quite a popular wedding and reception location from the 40s to the 70s. Even today, after extensive refurbishment, it is still an amazingly popular venue used to host afternoon teas and weddings, while also hosting a number of tourists every day.

  • Location: Cavehill Country Park
  • Time built: 12th century
  • Architectural style : Victorian and Scots Baronial Styles

18. Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle's view of its architectural structure.

Donegal Castle is one of the country’s most impressive Gaelic castles. Situated in the very heart of the county of Donegal, this castle is located along the River Eske. The chief of the O’Donnell clan, Hugh O’Donnell, constructed it in 1474. 

This spectacular castle was nearly destroyed in the Nine Years’ War after Hugh O’Donnell burnt it to the ground rather than let the enemies capture it. Sir Basil Brooke later rebuilt it in a Jacobean style. Today, a 17th-century boundary wall surrounds the castle. It fell into ruins in the 20th century but was restored to its former glory in the 1990s.

The castle is now open to the public and hosts different events like Gaelic cultural evenings.

  • Location: County Donegal
  • Time built: 15 th century
  • Architectural Style: Medieval and Jacobean

19. Birr Castle

The picturesque view of Birr Castle.

Although the Norman predecessor of Birr Castle stood on the same site circa 1170, the interpretation that we see today was fashioned by a number of aristocratic families who lived in the area. It was the O’Carroll family who gave the facade a Gothic revamp. The castle was once home to the great inventor William Parsons, the Third Earl of Rosse.

Today, Birr stands as proud and beautiful as ever, while housing Gardens and Science Center. It is still owned and occupied by the Parsons family, so only a portion of the castle is open to the public. The surrounding meadows are a sight to behold, but botanists and nature aficionados are blown away by the 500-year-old oak tree that resides in the castle grounds.

  • Location: Offaly
  • Architectural Style: Gothic
  • Touring : Allowed. Visit the official website for more information.

20. King John’s Castle

The panoramic view of King John's Castle near the water.

Located on the site where Vikings once ruled, King John’s Castle boasts an 800-year legacy. Its Medieval countenance is as dramatic as its last owner, John of Ireland. Known to be the epitome of vengeful and cunning, John was the mastermind behind the Magna Carta. The castle was the center of his kingdom in Limerick, and one can still see how it might have bustled with activity back in the day.

Today, King John’s Castle is an interesting and popular tourist destination that offers many activities. While old-school on the outside, the inside of this building is installed with state-of-the-art technology where visitors get an immersive experience of computer-generated projections and animations of old sieges and legends!

  • Location: Limerick City
  • Time built: 13 th century
  • Architectural Style: Norman

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A visit to Ireland can never be complete without a visit to its many remarkable and astounding castles. Filled with eons of history, war, adventure, they are enchanting and magical, filled with the memories of bygone eras. Some are even rumored to be haunted!

Plan your itinerary carefully and have fun visiting this beautiful country and its astounding castles. For more information and general guidelines, feel free to browse around our website and contact us if you have any questions.

Zunaira Ghazal


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The 12 Best and Most Breathtaking Castles to Visit in Ireland - IL

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

What does the word castle mean to you? Cinderella’s Castle may quickly spring to mind; the impossibly beautiful Neuschwanstein castle built on a rocky crag in the German Alps, or it might be England’s stately Windsor Castle, for lavish ceremonies and royal weddings. Even a dreamy lakeside hotel, and for others, its battlements, baileys, and keeps, with knights in shining armor.

For the fortunate few, actor Jeremy Irons and musician Enya among them, ‘castle’ simply means home. Whatever emotion the word might evoke for you, you’re sure to find a match to the memory, because this small island has a staggering 30,000 castles, more than anywhere else in the world.

Here are 12 great Irish castles, ranked in must-see order:

1. ashford castle—the best of the best.


Ask a local where to find Ashford Castle and some would say Mayo, others might say Galway. In a delightful irony, both are correct. The castle is located in Co. Galway while the tea rooms, lodge, and much of the extensive grounds are in Co. Mayo. Furthermore, in another peculiar twist, you cannot reach the castle—which is in Co. Galway—without traveling through Co. Mayo.

This remarkable 800-year-old castle, widely recognized as Ireland’s top castle and once home to the Guinness family, is exceptional in every sense. Set in 350-acres of woodland on the shores of Lough Corrib, this historic multi-award-winning castle has been voted ‘Best Hotel in the World.’

Watch hawks soar at Ireland’s first School of Falconry, enjoy a round of golf on a course designed by Eddie Hackett, and restore inner peace and harmony at the state-of-the-art spa. Take a lake cruise to explore the stunning scenery and surrounding islands or try your hand at archery and clay shooting.

Extraordinary dining experiences await in the Dungeon, the George V Restaurant, and in the wine cellars beneath the castle. In the evening retreat to the Billiards Room, watch a movie in the 32-seater cinema, or try one of the 60 Irish whiskies in The Prince of Wales Bar.

Part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection and a member of Leading Hotels of the World, Ashford Castle is the only hotel in Ireland to have earned a 2021 5-Star Forbes Travel Guide Ranking for the second year in a row.

See here for more information

2. Blarney Castle—You Won’t Stop Talking About it!


Just under five miles from Cork City, this historic castle is a world landmark and has a fascinating 900-year history. It is most famous for its Blarney Stone which, according to legend, has the magical power of conferring eloquence upon all those who bestow a kiss. The gardens are some of the most visited in Ireland . Wander the prehistoric Fern Garden, a deadly Poison Garden, and the magical Rock Close with its ancient Yew trees and druidic stones. The gardens are a constantly changing and evolving environment so each visit is a new experience.

3. Bunratty Castle—A Great Family Day Out


Bunratty Castle, together with its amazing interactive folk museum, is a great place for the whole family to visit. The castle, once a ruin but now fully restored, is a superb example of a 15th-century tower house.

Built in 1425 by the powerful MacNamara family on ancient ruins, this one-time home saw many battles and skirmishes in its long history. You can find out more by joining one of the excellent guided tours

Enjoy also the 26-acre Folk Park and explore a 19th-century village complete with actors in period dress. There’s even a working pub—P. MacNamara & Son—where you can stop by for a meal and a drink. Children will love the Fairy Village and Pirate Adventure Playground.

4. Leap Castle—A Haunting Experience


Who wouldn’t want to visit a haunted castle, and perhaps experience a ghostly encounter or two? Well, there is every chance you’ll do just that at Leap Castle because this is reputedly the most haunted castle in Ireland, but see 7 (Malahide Castle) below. You will understand why when you discover its brutal past, not to mention the oubliette used by the castle’s former owners to dispose of unwanted guests!

Built by the O’Bannon clan during the 13th century, they were secondary chieftains under the fierce and warlike O’Carroll family. During the course of its long history, the castle changed hands several times and saw much bloody conflict. It recently ended up in the caring hands of musician Seán Ryan and his wife Anne who are now restoring it to its former glory.

5. Kilkenny Castle—A Fascinating History


Stunning Kilkenny Castle was built in the early 12th century for the powerful Butler family. It was strategically located above a ford on the River Nore and the junction of several roads. Take a tour and step back in time to learn the castle’s fascinating history, and discover what it was like to actually live here. A dedicated tour route ensures you won’t miss a thing. This magnificent castle, set in extensive landscaped parkland, was tastefully restored in the Victorian era. An amazing castle and a great place for a family visit.

6. King John’s Castle—A Great Castle in Every Sense


If the name sounds familiar, that’s because bad King John (think Magna Carta) was the younger brother of Richard the Lionheart (who really wasn’t much better), famous for fighting in the Crusades—only to be captured for ransom on his way home.

John came to Ireland in 1210 at the head of an army to crush the local chieftains and quell the troublesome Irish. He built his great castle on the River Shannon, “one of the finest specimens of Norman military architecture in Ireland.” Discover the castle’s dramatic, and violent history, by taking a well-organized tour, during which you will learn the tactics used in medieval and siege warfare, and more. A fantastic castle that brings the history of Limerick to light.

7. Malahide Castle—A Magnificent Fortress


Malahide castle also claims the title of ‘most haunted’ in Ireland, but see 3 (Leap Castle) above—they can’t both be right, but when it comes to ghosts; who’s counting. It is said to be haunted by an eerie “lady in white” and other spooky spirits. The castle, standing on 260 acres, dates back to King Henry II who gave it to Richard Talbot as a reward for his services to the crown. Learn what life was like living in one of Ireland’s oldest castles, but watch out for the ghosts! Visit also the wonderful botanical gardens, walled gardens, the west lawn, the Butterfly House, and Fairy Trail.

8. The Rock of Cashel—A Thousand Years of History


With a thousand years of history this impressive cluster of medieval structures is one of Ireland’s greatest, and most visited, tourist attractions. It was here in the 5th century that St Patrick converted Aenghus, the King of Munster, to Christianity. In 978 Brian Boru was crowned High King and made Cashel his capital. In 1101 the site was granted to the church and Cashel swiftly became one of the most significant centers of ecclesiastical power in the country.

Most of the buildings date from the 12th and 13th centuries whilst the castle is from the 15th century. Among the monuments to be seen are a massive stone round tower, a high cross, a Romanesque chapel, a Gothic cathedral, an abbey, the Hall of the Vicars Choral, and a 15th- century Tower House. Tour guides are knowledgeable, often amusing, and an audiovisual display tells the fascinating history of Cashel.

9. Birr Castle—See the Great Leviathan Telescope


Not just a well-preserved Gothic-style castle with 800 years of history waiting to tell you its story, but 120-acres of award-winning gardens and beautiful parklands to enjoy. Since the 7th Earl of Rosse still lives here, only parts may be open to the public. You will also see an enormous reflecting telescope, ‘The Leviathan’—once the biggest in the world, a radio telescope that is still in use today, and a Science Centre dedicated to photography, engineering, and astronomy.

10. Dunguaire Castle—On the Shores of Galway Bay


There could hardly be a better location for this 16th century fortified tower house perched on a tiny promontory on the shores of Galway Bay. It was once owned by Oliver St. John Gogarty, the inspiration for Buck Mulligan in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Today you may visit the castle, even book in for a medieval-style banquet—a sumptuous four-course dinner with locally-sourced fayre, held between April and September.

11. Cahir Castle—One of Ireland’s Largest Castles


One of the largest castles in Ireland, Cahir Castle was built in the 13th century and survived several sieges. It was built on a rocky island in the River Suir—which is now the town center. It retains much of its original structure, and is in superb condition. Guided tours are available and an audiovisual show gives the history of the castle. It has become popular with visitors due to its TV and film location especially Excalibur and The Tudors.

12. Trim Castle—Great History and Well Worth a Visit

© Hudson

Arguably one of the most beautiful 12th century Cambro (Welsh)-Norman castles in Ireland, Trim Castle, on the shores of the River Boyne is also one of the biggest. In the 15th century, it become a gathering place for parliament and a mint for local currency. The castle’s keep is massive—a latter-day skyscraper —and tour guides’ tales and anecdotes bring it all to life. Picnic tables are located just outside the castle walls, and stocks provide a great photo op. It found itself on the map in 1995 when it played a starring role as King John’s Castle in the Oscar-winning historical epic, Braveheart with Hollywood star, Mel Gibson

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  • Jul 13, 2021

Top 10 Castles to Visit in Ireland

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

For many people, visiting the many castles dotted around the country is one of the most exciting things about a trip to Ireland. Some of these castles were inhabited by ruling classes, while others are connected to the ancient kings. But in almost every instance, these castles offer a majestic look at a very colorful time in Irish history.

Let’s take a look at the top ten castles to visit in Ireland:

Top 10 Castles to visit in Ireland

1. Trim Castle in County Meath

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Located next to the River Boyne in Meath, Trim Castle is the biggest Anglo Norman castle in the country. It took thirty years to construct and building began back in 1172. This three storey castle is also surrounded by a magnificent wall and the surrounding gardens are the perfect place to capture a photo of this stunning landmark.

2. Kilkenny Castle

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Kilkenny Castle is one of the best known castles in Ireland and sits at the very center of the main town. It was home to the Butler family for hundreds of year and strikes an awe-inspiring sight next to the River Nore. It’s also one of the biggest castles in Ireland and the frontage features some beautiful rolling lawns and flowerbeds.

3. The Rock of Cashel in Tipperary

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

A quick glance at a photo should be enough to encourage anyone to visit the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary. This iconic castle sits on top of a large crop of limestone which makes it look especially impressive. As with many of the castles in Ireland, the Rock of Cashel was a central landmark during medieval times in Ireland. That being said, this castle consists of a number of buildings and the on-site cathedral was once the seat for the Kings of Munster.

4. Bunratty Castle in Clare

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Bunratty Castle has been restored to a great extent in order to recreate feudal times and an old folk village. Visitors can not only enjoy an interactive experience in the village but then also attend a medieval dinner in the banquet hall of the castle. Built in 1425, it’s a spectacular castle and a great day our for the family or a group of friends!

5. Ross Castle in Kerry

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Ross Castle was a stronghold for chieftains in the Middle Ages and sits next to Lough Leane in Kerry. The surrounding area is a National Park which means you can expect glorious views of the countryside. But the features of this defensive castle are especially impressive and it is thought that a mighty battle took place at Ross Castle when it fell into the hands of Oliver Cromwell during the Confederate Wars in Ireland.

6. Dublin Castle

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Dublin Castle is located strategically near the River Liffey right at the heart of the city center. It was the seat of the ruler of Ireland and was once controlled by the King/Queen of England. The castle is open for visitors today and used as a government building and many original sections of the castle remain since is was established in the capital.

7. Dunluce Castle on the Antrim Coast

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

The Antrim coastline is best known for the Giants Causeway and for good reason. However, many tourists are even more fascinated by Dunluce Castle which is just a short drive from the above attraction. It’s probably the most recognizable castle in Ireland (Thanks to Game of Thrones) and quite dramatic to explore given a granite-bridge needs to be crossed in order to take a look around.

8. Blarney Castle in Cork

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Blarney Castle is best known for the Blarney Stone and the “gift of eloquence” that kissing this stone might bring. But the castle itself is truly incredible and it’s possible to walk around inside, while climbing to the Blarney Stone on the roof. With landscaped gardens in every direction, this is also a magical area to walk and explore, and the short distance to Cork City means this is an accessible castle that you really shouldn’t miss on a trip to Ireland.

9. Ballynahinch Castle in Galway

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

This is quite possibly one of the most picturesque hotels in Ireland and sits at the foot of the 12-Bens mountains. The compact parlors and wooden interior of Ballynahinch Castle makes for a cozy visit, while the surrounding countryside is endless. Being a “castle hotel”, you can actually sleep here and...maybe you should!

10. Donegal Castle in Donegal

top 10 castles to visit in ireland

Donegal Castle was built by the O’Donnell chieftains during the 15th Century. It was then burnt to the ground in the a7th century and re-built to look how you see the castle today. Standing next to the River Eske, Donegal Castle is a striking sight and has an especially interesting tower which is unusual for castles in Ireland. Meanwhile, the inside of Donegal Castle is overflowing with art, tapestries and antiques and a guided tour will help you uncover the colorful history behind this wonderful gem at the heart of Donegal town.

But maybe I’ve missed one or two in my list of top castles to visit in Ireland? What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments...

Interested in planning a trip to Ireland? Contact me for a complimentary travel consultation or to book your trip.

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Take Your Pick: Here Are the 10 Best Castles in Ireland

Posted by Danielle Dougall | Sep 10, 2023 | Attractions , Destination Guides , Inspiration , Trip Ideas | 0 |

Take Your Pick: Here Are the 10 Best Castles in Ireland

The 10 Best Castles In Ireland

In the Emerald Isle, fairy tales come to life and storybook castles are speckled across the hills. The green heart of Europe is home to a rich culture, tradition, and some of the most breathtaking views north of the Atlantic. When you picture Ireland, you most likely think of its many castles and grazing sheep, dotting the lush green hills. Most of the castles you’ll see are far from traditional European grandeur. For thousands of years, Ireland had no royalty. Some of the castles in Ireland were built as fortified homes for chieftains and Anglo-Norman settlers, primarily used as pillars for defense.

A Short History

Ireland is an island located in northwestern Europe. In terms of European prehistory, it was settled relatively late. The first human settlements took place in Ireland around 6000 BC. Since that first settlement, the island and its people have endured many periods of invasion, cultural changes, and fluctuating civilian populations. Some of the most influential periods in the history of Ireland include early Gaelic and medieval Ireland, Viking invasions, the Anglo-Norman conquest, modern Ireland, Protestant ascendancy, Great Famine, Home Rule Movement, and the division of Ireland into North and South.

This cultural heritage molded Ireland into the unique country it is today. Many of the castles in Ireland have survived their medieval origin, dating back from the 11th to 15th centuries. While there are a few more flamboyant in style, they owe their origins to the Georgian era and Neo-Gothic revival in the Victorian age.

Explore the Best Castles in Ireland

While each castle has a fascinating history, there are more than 3,000 to explore. Unless you plan on moving, there are far too many castles in Ireland for the average traveler to see. With so many options, we’ve helped to narrow down your choices for you. Read on to learn some unique history and discover the most spectacular castles in Ireland.

Here, public transportation is scarce, so you’ll need to rent a car. Some castles are a little further off the grid than others. This only lends to their mystery. Not to worry though, journey times from one city to the next only require a few hours in the car. There’s honestly no better way to explore a country than to drive right through the heart of it. Here are our choices for the best castles in Ireland.

Rock of Cashel

castles in ireland - Rock of Cashel

If you decide to visit one of the medieval castles in Ireland, the Rock of Cashel should be at the top of your list. A strong fortified complex, the Rock is the oldest building established in 1100. From a closer view, you’ll see its strategic foundation on a limestone outcrop, tall round tower, and a stunning 13th-century Gothic cathedral (added after its completion). Not far away, there is a mountain with a large base at the bottom, known as the Devil’s Bit. Legend has it that the devil broke his teeth when he attempted to take a bite out of the mountain. The Rock of Cashel dropped from his mouth and fell on the hill it stands today.

Today, the Rock is one of the most-visited sites in all of Ireland. As one of the most famous castles in Ireland, it has the whole package – A unique history, wonderful preservation, and interesting local folklore. The grounds are open all year for locals and tourists alike. If you plan your trip just right, you can get free entry. The first Wednesday of every month, the castle offers free admission. After you spend an afternoon exploring, take a five-minute walk to the town of Cashel. Here, you’ll find a fascinating replica Folk Village, depicting life in early Ireland.

Blarney Castle

castles in ireland - Blarney Castle

Another popular site for tourists, Blarney Castle is definitely worth the visit. We’re sure you’ve heard of the notorious Blarney Stone. No? For over 200 years, world statesman, literary giants, and travelers seeking good fortune have climbed the steps of Blarney to kiss the famous stone and gain the gift of its eloquence. In older times, visitors were carried, held upside down by the ankles over a dangerous 10-story drop, and lowered over the wall’s battlements to kiss the stone. Some legends passed down claim it is Jacob’s Pillow, brought to the Irish homeland by the Biblical prophet Jeremiah. Here, it became the famous throne of Irish kings.

Blarney offers more than just its gift of good fortune. Perhaps the most captivating part of this castle is its sprawling 60-acre floral gardens. Walk among the paths of the kings up to a sweeping 360-degree view of its prized tower, built over 600 years ago by a chieftain named Cormac MacCarthy.

Cabra Castle, Co Cavan

castles in ireland - Cabra Castle,


With all of their nooks and crannies, castles in Ireland were made for exploring. Would you like to spend the night in one of the best? We thought so. Wander through stunning reception rooms, find a quiet corner by the fire to relax with your favorite book, or just enjoy the atmosphere in one of the best-known castle-hotels in the Emerald Isle. Statement period pieces and rustic furnishings lend to an old-world charm. The long-standing tradition of a warm and amiable service make the Cabra a perfect escape from the fast pace of modern living.

Due to its superb location and range of accommodation, the Cabra is a leading luxury hotel in Ireland and also one of the best-known wedding venues. Choose from one of twelve spacious rooms in the original wing of the Cabra Castle . Just outside of Kingscourt, this beautiful hotel dates back to 1760. Here, no two rooms are alike. Open your silk curtain windows and gaze out at expansive gardens, the parkland, and panoramic views of the breathtaking Dun na Ri Forest Park just across the way.

Ross Castle

castles in ireland - Ross Castle

Credit: Killarney Oaks

Castles in Ireland hold so much history. Centuries of life, death, and battles mark these walls. This five-bedroom stone castle built in 1536, is now run as a bed and breakfast. But be warned. Unlike the glamor of Cabra Castle , guests choose the Ross for an entirely different reason. It’s haunted. Here, the noises of the evening give way to a ghostly atmosphere. Winds howl across the lake in chilling voices of their own, ancient trees extend their branches to knock on windows, and chills crawl race down your spine.

In the middle of the night, guests awake to echoing voices, faint footsteps running down the hall, and the squeak of old doors opening and closing on their own. Believers in the paranormal swear the spirit of an old English lord’s daughter still lives in the castle. She’s not the only one. The most famous ghost is its permanent resident Sabina.

Sabina's Story

Her story started back in 1536 when Richard Nugent, the 12th Lord of Delvin, built Ross castle. Overlooking the enemy territory of the O’Reillys to the north, it was positioned safely atop a steep hill. The Black Baron’s power was dealt with a heavy hand and more often than not, it came crashing down on those of low repute.

One day, a townswoman finished baking a loaf of bread and placed it on the window of her cottage. A dog happened to come by and snatched her loaf. When she returned, her bread was gone. Running through the streets, the woman screamed that a thief had stolen her bread. The dog dropped the loaf in the street and ran. Later on, a beggar passed by and found the loaf. He was discovered by Richard Nugent and taken to the gallows for his accused lawlessness.

Later, the townspeople found the missing bread and realized their mistake. The beggar had not eaten it. But it was too late. For Nugent’s mistake, his daughter Sabina was cursed. When she found love, he was taken away from her, carried away, and drowned. Legend has it, she spun into a frenzy, locking herself in her father's tower until her very last days.

Tourists come from far away lands to walk the castle’s halls and hopefully catch a glimpse of her ghost. For thrill-seekers, add this to your list of spooky places to see that go bump in the night. Here, tales are so shocking you might want to leave the lights on.

Kylemore Castle

castles in ireland - Kylemore Castle

Best known as the Kylemore Abbey, this castle was founded in modern times in 1920. Today, it sits on the grounds of the Benedictine Monastery in the County of Galway (cue Ed Sheeran’s song, “Galway Girl”). It was initially designed as a private home for the wealthy family of a London doctor, Henry Mitchell.

It’s amazing that Kylemore Castle survived. During World War I, it was bombed during one of many air raids. Thanks to the local Benedictine community, donations from private citizens were enough to rebuild and upkeep it. We’ve listed Kylemore as one of the best castles in Ireland because of its resilience and interesting legend.

Those who walked the grounds have said that every seven years, a beautiful white horse arises from the waters beyond the Abbey. On a windy day in  2011, the Abbey’s staff swore they saw a white horse emerge from the lake. While it was only white foam raised by the fierce winds, this supposed apparition only fueled the legend. Believers and their lore have given Kylemore the name “Pol a Capall,” or the “Place of the Horse.”

Cahir Castle

castles in ireland - Cahir Castle

If you’ve gained your views of medieval times from a themed restaurant, it’s time to take a trip. Perched on a small, rocky stretch of land in the River Suir, sits Cahir Castle. Known as the best preserved medieval castle in Ireland, it fits all the descriptions of an old King Arthur’s court.

Perhaps you’ve seen it before. Excalibur was filmed here. So pack your bags and walk the grounds of living and historical legends. Cahir is open to the general public and while you can take the family or visit alone, booking a guide will give you the best education of the site’s history.

Enniskillen Castle

Enniskillen Castle

Credit: President of Ireland Media Library

History buffs flock to Enniskillen. As you approach the castle sitting on the banks of the River Erne, it is clear it played a huge role in history. During the 16th century, it was one of the only passes into Ulster for Irish rebelling against the English. In the 17th century, it was used as a fort and later as military barracks.

Today, it is home to two museums. The Fermanagh County Museum gives visitors a comprehensive understanding of the county’s cultural, natural, and traditional history. On the other hand, the Inniskillings Museum gives military history enthusiasts a fascinating glimpse at old regimental regalia. While the castle is undergoing some renovations this year, we’re sure you’ll appreciate the new visitor’s center.

Ballynahinch Castle

Ballynahinch Castle

It’s easy to see why the Ballynahinch is one of the best castles in Ireland to visit. Besides its beauty, it was once home to a famed pirate queen. The home first belonged to the husband of Grace O'Malley, the chieftain of the clan. After her father’s death, she took on the role of a chieftain, inheriting his title and a ready fleet of ships. She took advantage of her power, frequently stopping ships that passed through the waters. Her exhortation of money and cargo goods earned her the nickname the Pirate Queen.

If you want to stay at the Ballynahinch Castle today, you’ll enjoy a quiet and luxurious residence on the hills. Here, you can try your hand at salmon fishing, bike the old country roads, and go for a morning hike to catch the sunrise on the surrounding trails.

Hillsborough Royal Castle

Hillsborough Royal Castle

If you’re like us and avidly follow the lives of the Royals in the United Kingdom, read on. This is where the Royals come to visit when they tour Northern Ireland. Queen Elizabeth has likely taken a stroll through the same gardens that you will. The castle is also home to the Secretary of State of Northern Ireland and any other important guests.

Today, the property is undergoing a project to maintain its stunning grounds. The Hillsborough Castle Project will refine the Throne Room, the original features of the Staircase Hall, and the Drawing Room.

Dublin Castle

castles in ireland - Dublin Castle

Walk in the steps of the Vikings. That’s right. The Dublin Castle was built on their settlement. The city’s history is steeped in a rebellious spirit, tracing back to the castle itself. Having served as a prison for dissidents and a dungeon for criminals, it is now a major government complex. Its remarkable history symbolizes English reign, which made it a primary target of attack during the Easter Rising of 1916. Memorialized in stone, sits the first step taken by the Irish people to end British rule in their land.

Book Your Flight and Visit the Most Amazing Castles in Ireland

Go ahead and book your flight . Embark on a beautiful road trip. The country of Ireland and its people have so much to offer. From stunning royal estates to strong Viking fortresses, the Emerald Isle is just waiting to be explored. Whatever kind of vacation you want, Ireland has it all. Climb the stairs of medieval fortresses, tour dark and mysterious dungeons. Perhaps, book a stay at one of the beautiful castle hotels. It’s all at your fingertips.

Related Article: Here’s Why Tourism is on the Rise in Ireland

About The Author

Danielle Dougall

Danielle Dougall

Danielle Dougall is a photographer, avid writer, and traveler. Hailing from the rainy city of Seattle, WA she now lives in southern California where she enjoys longboarding, hiking, coffee shop hopping, and dreaming up destinations for her next international trip.

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The Top 10 Castles to Visit in Ireland

Ireland is home to thousands of castles and castle ruins. It can be difficult to know where to start. Castles range from fully operational hotels to crumbling ruins, but all have a story to tell, and you sometimes have to be in the right place at the right time to hear it.

At Overland Ireland, we specialise in small-group experiences tailored to your interests and fuelled by our passion and sense of adventure. In that spirit, we have shared our top ten castles here, with the aim to include something for everyone. 

Make sure you check opening times, especially during winter months, and please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about our small group tours of Ireland , Castle trivia or just for a chat.

1. Blarney Castle

This 600-year-old castle near Cork is most famous for the Blarney Stone — a large block of limestone built into the castle battlements. The stone has mysterious origins but has gained a reputation for magically endowing the “gift of blarney” to anyone who kisses it.

“Blarney” is a language that charms, influences, or persuades. The ritual of kissing the stone is not an easy one: participants must ascend to the top of the castle and then lean over backwards from the parapet. Famous people who have risked it include Winston Churchill, Stan Laurel, Mick Jagger, Katherine Jenkins, and James Nesbitt.

There may be some trickery afoot, however, as historians have suggested that the real Blarney stone is actually hidden elsewhere in the castle. Or is this, as the castle’s owner Charles Colthurst says, “a load of blarney”?

Apart from the stone, there are lots to see at the castle. You can climb its winding staircases, stroll through the beautiful gardens and visit the ancient stone formations of Rock Close, said to be the dwelling of a witch.  Blarney Castle is such a must-see that we have included it on our most popular tours, including our Ultimate Ireland Tour and our Magical Southern Ireland Tour. Join one of these tours to understand the histories and mysteries of this castle in its fascinating wider context.

Blarney Castle exterior

2. Bunratty Castle

County Clare’s Bunratty Castle not only offers the most complete castle experience, with excellent tours, medieval banquets, and Céilís in the castle kitchen, but it is also the site of an absolutely magical folk park.

Featuring traditionally furnished houses, a Viking-themed playpark, and a magical fairy trail, the folk park is an immersive cultural experience for all ages. For this reason, we included it on our carefully curated 8-Day Ireland Tour , which creates the perfect balance of culture, magic and fun. 

3. Dunguaire Castle

Further up the west coast in Kinvarra, Dunguaire was an important venue for the revival of Celtic storytelling traditions and was the meeting place of W.B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. 

Only the grounds of Dunguaire Castle are open to the public, but, for a unique insider’s perspective, you can book yourself into a magnificent medieval banquet. Our 7-Day Ireland Tour includes a stop at Dunguaire, and there is an excellent guided tour available.

4. Ashford Castle

Continuing up the west coast, you will find Ashford Castle, which is converted into a hotel so opulent it was reportedly chosen by Harry and Meghan for their honeymoon. The castle is only accessible for hotel guests but we had to mention it here, and we include a stay here on our Luxury 8-Day Ireland Tour.  

Activities at Ashford include falconry, boat trips, archery, an award-winning spa and even a Lego butler for younger guests!

5. Ballynahinch Castle

Another of our hand-picked Castle stays is Ballynahinch Castle, set in the ruggedly beautiful Connemara landscape. This is our choice of accommodation for our 10-day self-drive Ireland tour . 

Even if you choose not to stay, the restaurants offer food fit for royalty, perfect after a day exploring the surrounding Connemara National Park.

Connemara National Park

6. Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny is a magnificent example of a medieval fortress with Norman and Gothic styles incorporated into the architecture. The rose gardens here are particularly special, offering a scented oasis in the heart of the city. 

Kilkenny’s Butler Gallery is a free art gallery and museum with an extensive permanent collection and vibrant exhibitions. 

7. Ross Castle

County Kerry’s Ross Castle has pride of place in several of our tours, and for good reason. The guided tours here provide a real glimpse into medieval life. Ross Castle is located on the shores of the breathtakingly beautiful Lough Leane and is surrounded by mountains.

Explore the lake by boat and learn about the area’s flora, fauna, and folklore. But beware! Legend has it that the castle’s founder keeps watch over his castle from the bottom of the lough and rises every seven years, accompanied by a group of ghostly musicians. 

The date set for his return is 1st May. You have been warned.

Sunset at County Kerry’s Ross Castle

8. Dunluce Castle

The ruins of Dunluce Castle are a not-to-be-missed feature of the Causeway Coastal Route . Abandoned since the 17th century, this 13th-century ruin is steeped in legend and mystique.

On a bright day, enjoy the stunning coastal scenery, but in the mists or at sunset, keep your ears peeled for the Banshee of Dunluce Castle, who is said to be responsible for the agonising cries emanating from the ruins. 

While on the Causeway Coastal Route, Game of Thrones fans should ensure they pass between the beech trees on Bregagh Road — an atmospheric tunnel which was just waiting for its film opportunity.

9. Trim Castle

County Meath’s 12th-century Trim Castle ruins are an astounding example of an Anglo-Norman fortification. Modern walkways allow visitors to get a sense of the size and thickness of the walls, made to imprison Kings and host parliaments.

Beyond the castle, the town of Trim also boasts many other medieval buildings, making it one of the best spots in Ireland for history enthusiasts.

10. Dublin Castle

To end on a contemporary note, Dublin Castle started life as a medieval fortress and now inaugurates Ireland’s presidents. Visitors can tour the castle and its beautifully manicured gardens or attend one of the many vibrant cultural events held within its walls.

Dublin Castle is also home to the Chester Beatty Library, which houses a remarkable collection of rare books and manuscripts. Highlights include ancient Egyptian papyrus manuscripts, Japanese woodblocks, and several illuminated manuscripts, including the Qur’an, Bible, and Buddhist texts. 

Dublin Castle exterior

As this guide shows, Ireland’s castles provide a fantastically rich picture of culture and folklore. It must be said, this is just a small glimpse of Ireland’s over three thousand castles, which means we’ve only covered 0.33% of our country’s castles. Ireland really is amazing! 

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10 Destinations For A Long Weekend Getaway In Europe

Posted: November 18, 2023 | Last updated: November 18, 2023

  • Dublin, Ireland: A historic city with lively pubs and castles. Perfect for a short flight and a weekend of exploring Guinness Storehouse and St. Patrick's Cathedral.
  • Paris, France: Art and culinary delights await in this world-class city. Dine at top restaurants, visit the Louvre, and have a picnic under the Eiffel Tower.
  • Lisbon, Portugal: Affordable and walkable, Lisbon offers colorful streets and delicious food. Explore the Belém Tower and indulge in local seafood.

A long weekend getaway in Europe from North America can be a reality when travelers know where to go. Choosing destinations in Europe that are located in the Western part of the continent makes it easier to hop across the pond for just a few days thanks to shorter flight times (usually 6–8 hours from the East Coast of Canada and the United States).

These destinations in Western Europe offer the convenience of being walkable cities, so there is no need to rent a car for the weekend. Simply use public transport and explore the highlights in three days.

Book flights for long weekend getaways as far in advance as possible to avoid paying heightened fares. Also, consider using websites like to bundle flight and hotel bookings to save more.

Related: 10 Destinations For A Long Weekend Getaway In The Caribbean

Dublin, Ireland: Pubs And Castles

Ideal european weekend trip destination for travelers who want to immerse themselves in a historic city with lively nightlife.

The Irish capital, Dublin , makes the perfect long weekend getaway from North America, especially for travelers who want as short a flight as possible.

Three days is long enough to spend an evening doing a pub crawl, tour the Guinness storehouse, and visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

  • Country: Ireland
  • Top Attraction In The City: Guinness Storehouse
  • Best Months To Visit: June to September

Paris, France: Art And Culinary Delights

Fantastic for travelers with an appreciation of the fine arts and world-class restaurants.

Paris is well known as a tourist destination around the world, but for a long weekend getaway, it’s great for travelers who might not have the budget to do a larger European trip and still want to see one of the most talked-about cities on the continent.

On a long weekend, visitors to Paris can dine at world-class restaurants, take in the incredible artwork at the Louvre, and have a picnic under the Eiffel Tower.

  • Country: France
  • Top Attraction In The City: Eiffel Tower and The Louvre
  • Best Months To Visit: May or September

Related: 10 Best Destinations For A Long Weekend Getaway In Canada

Bath, United Kingdom: History And Charm

Superb for travelers seeking relaxation and a dose of roman history.

Travelers headed to Europe for a long weekend who are seeking rest and rejuvenation might want to skip busier capital cities and opt for the serenity of Bath instead.

This city in the United Kingdom is famous for its historic Roman Baths but offers other attractions like Bath Abbey and Pulteney Bridge as well.

  • Country: England
  • Top Attraction In The City: The Roman Baths
  • Best Months To Visit: June or September

Lisbon, Portugal: Colorful Streets And Delicious Food

Ideal for travelers with a love of all things food and walkable cities.

Lisbon, the capital by the sea , is a great choice for travelers who are on a budget since it is more affordable than other cities in Western Europe.

Also, a short flight from North America (compared to destinations in Central or Eastern Europe), Lisbon offers walkable streets, excellent local seafood, and architectural beauty.

  • Country: Portugal
  • Top Attraction In The City: Belém Tower

Related: 10 Best Destinations For A Long Weekend Getaway In South America

Madrid, Spain: Museums And Hidden Gems

Best for travelers who want to delve deeper into an underrated european capital.

While many travelers think of Barcelona as the ultimate destination to visit in Spain, it’s worth spending a long weekend in Madrid, the enchanting Spanish capital .

This lively, massive city is full of interesting museums and locally owned restaurants; plus, it has beautiful green space to enjoy in El Retiro Park.

  • Country: Spain
  • Top Attraction In The City: El Retiro Park
  • Best Months To Visit: May to October

Porto, Portugal: World-Famous Wine And Waterways

Best for travelers who appreciate wine tasting and beautiful landscapes.

Another great long weekend getaway option in Portugal is the city of Porto . Located north of Lisbon, there are direct flights to Porto from major hubs in the United States and Canada.

It’s a scenic destination for wine lovers who want to try port wine at the source.

  • Top Attraction In The City: Luís I Bridge
  • Best Months To Visit: April to October

London, United Kingdom: From Big Ben To Buckingham Palace

Ideal for travelers who enjoy large cities with lots of world-famous attractions all in one place.

The British Capital, London , is a popular travel destination for North Americans visiting the United Kingdom and Europe, largely because it’s so accessible.

There are affordable direct flights to London from major airports across Canada and the United States, and there are also lots of London hostels or luxury hotels to choose from, depending on the budget.

  • Top Attraction In The City: Big Ben
  • Best Months To Visit: May or October

Belgium: Brussels To Bruges

Best for travelers who want to take a mini interrailing trip.

Three days in Belgium is the perfect amount of time to explore the highlights of this small European country. Fly into Brussels and spend a night exploring Grote Markt and visit the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert. The next morning, hop on a short 40-minute train ride to neighboring Ghent for a full day of exploring top sites like the Ghent City Center, Gravensteen, and St. Bavo's Cathedral.

Spend one night in Ghent and then board a train to Bruges (25 minutes) for another exciting day in this gorgeous, medieval city with canals and cobblestone streets. Take the train back to Brussels on the last morning for a flight home.

  • Top Attraction: Grote Markt in Brussels

Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Cafés And Bicycles

A wonderful destination for travelers who like to be active, social, and caffeinated.

A long weekend getaway to the Dutch capital of Amsterdam is always a good idea. Coffee lovers will adore the Dutch coffee culture in Amsterdam’s many cafes.

Rent a bicycle or simply stroll through picturesque neighborhoods like Jordaan and Negen Straatjes.

  • Country: Netherlands
  • Top Attraction In The City: Rijksmuseum
  • Best Months To Visit: April or October

Copenhagen, Denmark: Plus A Jaunt Into Sweden

Fantastic for travelers who want to see two countries in one weekend.

See two new countries in just one long weekend by flying into Copenhagen, Denmark. Spend two days exploring top attractions like the colorful homes in Nyhavn or Tivoli Gardens. On the third day, take a quick train ride (40 minutes) to neighboring Malmo, Sweden.

Visit pastry shops and quaint cafes for an afternoon (be sure to experience Swedish Fika) and then journey back to Denmark for dinner.

  • Countries: Denmark and Sweden
  • Top Attraction In The City: Nyhavn, Copenhagen

10 Destinations For A Long Weekend Getaway In Europe

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