Max Sandelin / Unsplash
These famous Irish castles that belong on your travel bucket list.
Ireland is full of rich medieval history
No two castles are alike
There are 10 to choose from, so pick wisely or see them all
Nothing says Ireland quite like rolling hills of lush greenery and beautiful medieval castles. The rich history that is Ireland is sprawled across the country with its ability to preserve and restore the buildings of its past.
When taking a trip to Ireland, it wouldn’t be complete without a visit to at least one of the stunning historical castles that call it home. Some castles in Ireland are better than others, however, so it’s best to know which one to choose before you plan your trip.
Blarney Castle, County Cork
Blarney Castle is over 600 years old and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland. The grounds are full of lush gardens and breathtaking natural rock formations to view. It is also home to the Blarney Stone, which has been used for centuries as a way to obtain good luck in one’s life. People from all over the world traveled to kiss the stone, hoping it would bring them abundance and eloquence.
Lismore Castle, Lismore
The very first owner of Lismore Castle was Prince John, and since then the castle has housed some of the most revered ‘royal bloods’ the world has ever seen. The historic charm that dates all the way back to 1185 has remained uncompromised in its many restorations, so the castle is one of the most interesting and beautiful places to visit in the country. The best part—you can stay overnight.
Donegal Castle, Ulster
The interesting history of Donegal Castle is just part of the reason it’s a great place to visit. A lot of the grounds are in ruins, but in the 90s the castle itself was restored, so it’s the perfect juxtaposition of the history that survived and the remains of the ancient time that didn’t. It was built in Jacobean style, which was a very popular style of Rennaisance architecture. It’s on the smaller side but makes up for it in beauty and historical significance.
Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny
At almost a thousand years old, the Kilkenny Castle is a sight to behold. The classic structure was originally built as a fording point and has stood the test of time, still standing strong in its original birthplace. There are tours available for visitors for less than 10 dollars and the garden and grounds are also open to the public.
Trim Castle, County Meath
Trim Castle was originally used by the Norman administration back when it was built in 1173. Today, the castle offers days tours to the public. Its beautifully built tower walls are breathtaking to see and were modeled in the design of military architecture. A fun fact about Trim castle is that it is highly recognizable because it was used as the set in the movie Braveheart.
— Irish History On Reddit Feed (@HistoryOfEire) November 18, 2019
Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary
This majestic castle is also known as the Cashel of Kings because of its historical significance. The 12th-century castle used to be the sitting place for the High Kings of Munster, but now it’s just one of the most visited castles in Ireland. Tours of the castle cost less than 10 dollars and include a wonderful history lesson of the medieval Kilkenny.
Kylemore Castle, Connemara
Perhaps one of the most beautiful castles in the world, the Kylemore Castle is located along the shoreline of Lough Pollacappal at the base of Druchruach Mountain. The castle was built by a wealthy doctor in the 1800s as a gift for his wife and since has been sold and bought a few times over. It was bought by a monastery in 1920, and since has been open to the public for tours of it’s beautifully restored grounds and gardens.
Malahide Castle, Dublin
Located in the last remaining part of the Malahide Demesne Regional Park, the Malahide Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland. Many of the owners survived the war in the castle, and some even passed away within its walls. It was owned by the Talbot family for most of its life, save 11 years, but is now owned by the state after the last surviving member of the Talbot sold it.
Ashford Castle, County Mayo
This Victorian-style castle was built in 1228 by the House of Burke, but today it stands as a 5-star hotel.
Over the years it has been owned by several people, including affluent Irish families and even the Guinness family, of Guinness beer brewing.
The Guinness family restored and transformed the castle, but ended up selling it to the now owner Noel Huggard.
Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
For travelers that are more into the ruins of a castle than a restored version of what used to be, the Dunluce Castle is a must-see. The medieval castle sits on the coast of Antrim County and has been used in pop culture. It is said that Dunluce inspired the castle in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and it has been used as the set for Game of Thrones.
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
- The 30 most disappointing tourist destinations | Vacation 101
Don’t believe all the travel hype when it comes to these 30 spots.
- A traveler’s guide to Krakow, Poland | Vacation 101
This guide before will maximize your trip to Poland.