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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...
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