Ireland is a land of an ancient past full of captivating secrets. From its rolling, emerald-green hills to its charming history, it’s easy to see why this country has fascinated so many. Few trips to Ireland are complete without a visit to its enchanting castles, which have been standing for centuries and carry with them stories of the past. Whether you’re looking for a romantic castle getaway or a trek to uncover the secrets of an ancient fort, Ireland has something for everyone. Explore Ireland’s captivating castles and embark on an unforgettable journey that you won’t soon forget.
1. Ireland’s Enchanting Castles
Are you looking for a perfect destination to explore enchanting castles in all of their fairy-tale glory? If so, Ireland should be at the top of your list. With over 30 stunning castles, there’s plenty to explore throughout the beautiful, green landscape.
Here are a few examples of Ireland’s captivating castles:
- Dunluce Castle: This medieval fortress is set on the edge of a rugged coastal cliff-face and overlooks the North Atlantic. The castle’s jagged and gaping sea-facing archway provides visitors with picturesque views.
- Blarney Castle: Located near the magnificent Blarney town, this castle has been delighting visitors since the 1400s. However, the tourist attraction that brings them here isn’t the building itself but the legendary Blarney Stone which is located in the castle’s parapet.
- Lehenagh Castle: Set amongst the picturesque hillside of County Cork, this majestic stone castle dates back to the 15th century. The three-story building is surrounded by lush gardens and makes for a memorable experience.
- Ashford Castle: This Gothic Revival castle founded in 1228 exudes luxury and grandeur. Its opulent interiors and exquisite gardens bring visitors back in time to an era of wealth and splendor.
No matter which one you choose to explore, Ireland’s captivating castles are sure to make your stay in the Emerald Isle an unforgettable experience.
2. History and Legends Behind Ireland’s Castles
Ireland’s castle history is so old that it is impossible to get an accurate timeline of their creation. Although some of the ancient stone structures were likely built for protection, others were built out of a desire to create grand and captivating estates. Today, some of these Norman, medieval, and Georgian castles attract visitors from around the world for their historical importance and their tales full of mystery and romanticism.
If you’re interested in discovering more about Ireland’s castles, here are some of the most impressive and captivating:
- Blarney Castle: Built in the 15th century and surrounded by lush gardens, this is certainly one of Ireland’s most famous historical sites. According to legend, kissing the “Blarney Stone” located in the castle’s tower grants those who kiss it the gift of eloquence.
- Dublin Castle: This structure, originally built in the 13th century, is located in the center of the historic city of Dublin. It has witnessed centuries of rulers and is closed to the public except for guided tours.
- Cahir Castle: Found in County Tipperary, this impressive tower has been in place since at least 1142 and retains much of its original structure. It was featured in the movie Excalibur, and today it is among the best-maintained castles in Ireland.
- Trim Castle: This Norman castle was built in 1172 by Hugh De Lacy and featured in the movie Braveheart. It is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland.
From Dublin Castle to Cahir Castle, all of these stunning sites hold a certain degree of mystery and romance. And no matter which castle you explore, you will be sure to recognize how each of these iconic landmarks played an important role in the development of Ireland’s modern culture.
3. Touring Ireland’s Castles
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Ireland is known for its captivating history and its stunningly beautiful castles. There are numerous castles from the 12th and 13th centuries scattered throughout this nation, many of which are well-preserved and able to be toured and explored. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a multi-week tour, Ireland is a great destination to explore and experience its unique and diverse castle culture.
- Trim Castle — One of the best examples of an early Norman castle in Ireland, this castle, located in County Meath, is one of the largest and most stunning medieval castles in Europe. It definitely shouldn’t be missed on your tour of Ireland.
- Blarney Castle – Another iconic castle, located in County Cork in southern Ireland, this castle is world-famous for its legendary stone, said to bestow the power of eloquent speech upon those who kiss it.
- Kilkenny Castle — Located in Kilkenny City, this Norman castle was built in 1195 and is renowned for its intricate medieval architecture. It stands proudly as an icon of the city and is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
- Carlingford Castle – Built in the early thirteenth century, this castle is located in the Cooley Mountains of County Louth. It overlooks the Irish Sea and is a perfect spot to enjoy the breathtaking views.
Whether you’re looking to explore Ireland’s many hazy castles or spend a day visiting only a few of them, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience. Ireland’s castles have stood the test of time and are sure to take your breath away with their beauty and charm.
4. Captivating South East Castles
The southeast region of Ireland is steeped in rich history. Explore the enchanted walls of some of the country’s most captivating castles and learn about the battles, triumphs and tragedies that have taken place within their walls.
Dungarvan Castle: This 13th-century Norman castle stands proudly on the banks of the Colligan Estuarylet. The castle walls are adorned with musket holes, showing the damage sustained during the 16th and 17th centuries from military attacks. It was unsuccessfully held by Confederate forces during the Irish Confederate War and fell to surprise attack in 1645. Take a tour and be prepared to be awed by the grandeur and resolute nature of the castle.
Waterford Castle: This 15th-century castle is set on its own island and is beautifully surrounded by a lake and woodland. Originally built as a defense against raiding Scots, it was later used as a meeting place for merchants and castle owners. In 1997, it was converted into an exclusive 15-bedroomed hotel. Take a tour and be enchanted by the luxurious interior and picturesque views.
Tintern Abbey: An Augustinian monastery first established in 1361, it was plundered and destroyed during the turbulent 17th century. Only a few ruins now remain which include the tower and cloister. This abbey has particular historic relevance as it was recorded and renown by none other than English poet, Wordsworth, in his work “Tintern Abbey”. Visit and let your imagination run wild with the possibilities of what this abbey held during its heyday.
Leighlinbridge Castle: This 12th-century castle has been expertly renovated to a condition that twice belies its age. It was once a place of refuge for the bishop of Ferns Diocese, as it is surrounded by a large expanse of marshland and flooded by the river Barrow. Explore the fortified walls, and you’ll be transported back in time as you envision the strategic defenses in place.
Jerpoint Abbey: Located in Thomousborough, this 12th-century Cistercian monastery is set in the rolling plains south of Kilkenny. This enchanting abbey has an impressive array of ornamental carvings and it has been carefully preserved to bring to life the history of the ancient building. Take a tour through the ruins and revel in the mystic atmosphere.
- Dungarvan Castle
- Waterford Castle
- Tintern Abbey
- Leighlinbridge Castle
- Jerpoint Abbey
Explore the captivating castles located in Ireland’s southeast region and uncover a history full of battles, triumphs and tragedies. From Dungarvan Castle to Jerpoint Abbey, you’ll be exposed to impressive structures dating back centuries. Wander around the walls for timeless enchantment and a great photo opportunity. Let your imagination run wild with tales of the past as you transport back in time to days of old.
5. Revealing the Secrets of the West’s Castles
- Cahir Castle:
- Blarney Castle:
- Kilkenny Castle:
- Trim Castle:
- Doonagore Castle:
Located in County Tipperary, Cahir Castle stands tall, a beacon of history to the island’s rich past. Built by the O’Brien Clan in the 12th century, the castle features a large courtyard surrounded by walls eight feet thick that winds through ancient stone towers. Step back in time and explore the storied castle of Irish royalty.
Perched upon the stunning Blarney estate in County Cork, Blarney Castle is home to the legendary Blarney Stone. This daring feat requires visitors to be hoisted in the air to reach the stone, granting them the “gift of gab” - the ability to talk smoothly and persuasively. Don’t miss the castle in countryside that offers numerous outdoor activities.
This grand building is both the town’s and Ireland’s most recognized castle. Situated on the banks of the River Nore, the Kilkenny Castle is one of the oldest and most beautiful castles in Europe with a surrounding walking trail. Its Great Court is available to explore historical relics and artifacts as well as its expansive grounds.
This is one of the largest and best preserved castles in Ireland. Trim Castle stands majestically in County Meath with its fourteen towers and 80ft high walls. The castle provides stunning and panoramic views of the tranquil Boyne Valley. It’s truly a must-see for anyone interested in the history of the West of Ireland.
Built in the 16th Century, Doonagore is situated on the cliffs of County Clare overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Not too far away is the prominent Cliffs of Moher, offering sweeping views of the spectacular Irish countryside. Be sure to explore Doonagore Castle for an unparalleled experience.
6. Discovering Ireland’s Storied Northern Castles
Northern Ireland is filled with captivating castles each with their own unique charm. From the ruins of Dunluce Castle to the walls on the Mourne Mountains, there’s a rich history just waiting to be discovered. Here are six of the most storied castles to explore in and around the region:
- Dunluce Castle – The ruin of Dunluce Castle is a prominent site against the dramatic cliffs of the Antrim Coast. Built in the 1500s by the MacDonnells, it portrays the rich history of Clandeboye.
- Inch Abbey – Located near the town of Downpatrick is Inch Abbey, founded by John de Courcy in 1180. It was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538 but remains an important ruin in the area.
- Mourne Mountains – Home to eight castles, the Mourne Mountains of County Down boast one of the highest concentrations of castles in Ireland. The mountains are steeped in history, and visitors can explore the ruins in the footsteps of those who lived there previously.
- Enniskillen Castle – Situated on the shore of Lough Erne, Ennekillen Castle dates back to the 16th century. It has served as both a military outpost and a place of royal residence over the centuries.
- Dunseverick Castle – Situated on the North Coast near the Giant’s Causeway, Dunseverick Castle predates the age of the Vikings. It was renovated by Edward I in the 13th century and is now an iconic ruin.
- Donegal Castle – Spanning over 600 years of history, Donegal Castle is nestled in the centre of Donegal Town. Constructed in the 15th century and modified in the 17th, the castle used to be a royal residence and now houses an historical centre.
These six castles provide a window into the past, offering a unique glimpse into centuries of Irish history and culture. No visit to the north of Ireland is complete without a stop at one of these iconic monuments.
7. Exploring the Islands of Ireland’s Castle Heritage
1. Dromburg Castle
Dromburg Castle is an attractively perched castle on the riverside of Connacht, proudly overlooking the River Boyle. A prime example of a castle with stone walls, the fortress is 500 years old and features a spectacular four story keep, a historic belfry, and a dynamic courtyard. An iconic castle, it is a top visited attraction in Connacht by locals and tourists alike.
2. Blackrock Castle
Blackrock Castle is a 16th century fortification perched on the bank of the River Lee in Cork City. It features a classic keep and a star-shaped enclosure as well as a moat and drawbridge. Inside, the walls are lined with a multitude of artefacts and weapons, making it a popular site for history buffs and visitors alike.
3. Carlingford Castle
Carlingford Castle is a majestic fortress situated in the town of Carlingford in County Louth. It features a grand entrance gate with a long ditch in front of it, surrounded by limestone walls, all of which look down upon the town below. Visitors can explore the ancient walls, view the old harbour, and take in the beautiful views of the Irish landscape.
4. Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle is a centuries old castle situated in the town of Kilkenny in County Kilkenny. It was built during the Anglo-Norman Invasion and features a large tower that looms over the city. Along with a beautiful garden area, this grand building features a variety of artefacts, stories, and historical curiosities, making it a popular tourist attraction in the area.
Dundrum Castle is a late-medieval castle situated on the edge of Dundrum Bay in County Down. It overlooks breathtaking views of the Irish landscape and sea, and still stands proudly despite its age. Adjacent to the castle is a museum housing a collection of medieval artifacts, making the castle a popular attraction in the area.
6. Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey is one of the oldest abbeys in Ireland, located in the town of Bannow in County Wexford. It stands as a testament to the religious history of the country and has been a place of worship for nearly a thousand years. Visitors can explore the Abbey’s ancient stone walls, and pay respects to the fallen who served in wars.
7. Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions, located in the village of Blarney in County Cork. The 15th century castle features an interesting curved stone walkway, a beautiful garden, and views of the impressive Irish countryside. Of course, visitors come for one thing in particular - the famous Blarney Stone, a piece of grey limestone that is said to bestow the gift of eloquence upon all who kiss it.
8. A Few of Ireland’s Most Historic Castles
1. Blarney Castle, County Cork
One of Ireland’s most iconic castles, Blarney Castle is a grand medieval castle built in 1446. Visitors love to climb to the top of the castle to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. That is said to give the gift of eloquence to all who kiss it!
2. Dunguaire Castle, County Galway
This historic castle, also known as the “Castle of Kings,” is perched on the edge of Galway Bay. Built in 1520, it is painted white and has the atmosphere of a fairytale. Visitors can attend banquets here with tasty medieval-style dishes being served.
3. Trim Castle, County Meath
A large and impressive castle, Trim Castle is a Norman-style castle which dates back to the 12th century. One of the largest and best-preserved castles in Ireland, it still stands tall and mightly commanding its surroundings.
4. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny
Probably Ireland’s most visited castle, Kilkenny Castle offers something for everyone. With a long history dating back to the 12th century, it has seen many changes – from its use as a fortress to a home for a powerful family, to its current role as a museum.
5. Cahir Castle, County Tipperary
The most well-preserved castle in Ireland, Cahir Castle is truly spectacular. Visitors can explore the different rooms and take a guided tour to learn more about the castle’s history and see some of its amazing architecture. From the rolling green hills to the windswept landscapes, Ireland’s captivating castles are an enchanting way to explore the Emerald Isle’s storied history. Spend time wandering through hallowed grounds and dig deeper into this land of myths and legends; discover the unique stories and secrets held within the most beautiful castles in Ireland.