Incredible but true – there are more than 30,000 castles, ruins and palaces in Ireland . From the simple ruin, consisting of only a few rubble left to magnificent, well-preserved castles and stately palaces, there is something for every taste. Discovering and exploring this beautiful country is a lot of fun, especially with children.
Each of Ireland’s castles and palaces is home to centuries of history, captured by massive, cold stone outer walls. They all witnessed powerful dynasties, bloody battles, and reverential ceremonies. We can still feel the magic of these testimonies today when we stroll through the dark, enchanted corridors of the ancient walls. We take you on a journey to restless castle ghosts, diabolical legends and magical stones. Here is our collection of the best castles in Ireland for you:
The medieval Ashford Castle is picturesquely situated on Lough Corrib. The magnificent castle was built in 1228 before it passed into the possession of Benjamin Guinness and his son Arthur Guinness in 1850. Benjamin Guinness was one of the richest men in Ireland at the time. Thanks to his fortune it was easy for him to buy and restore the magnificent property. After the Guinness family gave up their residence at Ashford Castle, Noel Huggard converted it into a five-star hotel. Since then, the castle has welcomed a number of famous people: Rod Steward, Brad Pitt and even John Lennon, front man for the Beatles, have settled on the banks of Lough Corrib. Even the famous Irish poet Oscar Wild is said to have visited Ashford Castle during his lifetime.
Surrounded by the wild Connemara countryside, Ballynahinch Castle slumbers peacefully on the banks of a river. The delightful nature and the splendid sight of the property make the castle a coveted postcard motif. Even if Ballynahinch Castle is now an upscale hotel, its history will not be forgotten. The famous Irish pirate Grace O’Malley is said to have resided in the property from time to time and from there, contrary to the will of the English, ruled over large parts of the Irish west. Today visitors can spend an unforgettable stay in the historic walls or explore the 180 hectare property on foot, by bike or on horseback.
Immerse yourself in the 400 year history of Blackrock Castle and the bustling city of Cork. You will not only learn many interesting facts about the royal rulers of the city, but you will also go on a journey of discovery through the universe. The fortress, built in 1582, once served to protect the city of Cork. But today it houses a science museum and the popular “Cosmos at the Castle” exhibition. In Blackrock Castle, let yourself be carried away into foreign dimensions and worlds light years away.
Although Blarney Castle, built in 1446 at the gates of Cork, impresses with its majestic keep and extensive, lovingly landscaped park, people from all over the world make pilgrimages to the castle for far different reasons. The legendary Stone of Eloquence is located high up in the stately main tower of Blarney Castle. This magic stone is said to give the power of eloquence to those who are able to kiss it. As soon as the lips touch the cool Blarney Stone, the kisser should never be short of words again. See for yourself whether the magical stone of Blarney Castle will give you this gift!
The Castle of Cahir in County Tipperary has an eventful history. As early as 1142, the castle was built by the Prince of Thomond, Donough O’Brien. Almost 200 years later it passed into the hands of the English when King Edward III was a member of the O’Brien clan. the fortress as a sign of his loyalty. Irish rebels took the castle in the 16th century before it became the scene of one of Ireland’s most famous sieges. The siege of Cahir lasted only a few days, but Cahir Castle was considered the most difficult fortress in Ireland to take. The rebels, in turn, were able to regain the castle months later, until they finally lost it to the troops of the British general Oliver Cromwell.
Hardly any other castles in Ireland carried the words of so many great men through its halls as Carrickfergus Castle. English kings, French and German military leaders and Irish nobles resided within the walls. The Carrickfergus Castle changed hands regularly due to its strategic location on Lough Belfast. Since its construction in 1177 it has served as the administrative seat of the English, as an escape-proof prison for prisoners and as a base for the military. The castle was even used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War. Since its inception, Carrickfergus Castle has been besieged, conquered and rebuilt time and again. Today, visitors to the castle can immerse themselves in the history of great battles.
The medieval Dunguaire Castle is picturesquely situated on Galway Bay. Its history dates back to the 7th century when the Tower House served as a fortress. It was not until 1520 that the O’Hynes clan had the dun converted into a castle. The origin of the ancient walls can be traced back to King Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin, who was known more for his hospitality and generosity than for his rule. Legend has it that his right arm was much longer than his left because he used it to distribute so many gifts. Whether it was the magic of generosity that resides in the old walls or the sight of it itself: numerous literary personalities were impressed by Dunguaire Castle.
The Castle of Dunluce in Northern Ireland is one of the largest castles in Ireland, althouth it is in ruins. The medieval castle once watched over the seas high on a basalt rock. Until, according to legend, the roar of the waves was too loud for the last owner. Another tradition tells that the castle’s kitchen suddenly slipped into the sea – along with the staff. Fearing for their lives, the residents left their home by the quickest route. Whether these legends are believed or not, Castle is an impressive structure that is still owned by the MacDonnells today.
This colossal castle, situated on the banks of the River Erne, played an important role in the fight of the Irish rebels against the English crown. She made a vital contribution to the survival of the people of Enniskillen. As early as 1567, the Lord of Fermanagh had the first components of today’s castle built. However, only around 30 years later, it was captured and rebuilt by the British. Today, the walls reflect not only important acts of Irish and British history, but also a variety of architectural styles. Inside Enniskillen Castle, visitors can also tour the Fermanagh County Museum, which brings the county’s culture to life for centuries and not only the remarkable castles of Ireland.
In 1929 a large part of Glenarm Castle was destroyed by fire. The fire came about for curious and heartwarming reasons: the housekeeper of the property owned a featherless parrot. In her bedroom she made a fire to warm the poor animal. Today there is no evidence of this deed in the castle that was built in 1636. The owners themselves reside in the property, but also offer guided tours for visitors. You can marvel at a magical tea room and the impressive gardens. By the way, a castle was built on the grounds of the castle as early as the 13th century, making Glenarm Castle one of the oldest properties in the country.
The castle, also known as the Castle Of Butlers, is a castle with many faces, maybe the most within the castles in Ireland. Over the centuries, a large number of complex renovations contributed to the fact that the imposing property is a fusion of the most varied of architectural styles. The Norman castle has its origins in the 12th century, before the Butler family established their residence in Kilkenny Castle in 1391. The family lived on the property until 1935, before handing it over to Kilkenny City and then to the State of Ireland. Visitors can admire a National Art Gallery in the castle or take a stroll through the 21 hectares of parkland.
The Castle of Leap in County Offaly is best avoided late at night. Because this castle is one of the most haunted places in the world and among the top castles in Ireland. The Red Lady is said to still roam the halls of the walls together with other lost souls whose blood flowed into the floor of the Leap Castle. And many people had to lose their lives for this castle over the past centuries. It has been besieged, looted, captured, and finally burned down countless times. The Castle has been restored since the mid-seventies and should be completely rebuilt.
The Talbot family resided in the enchanting castle for 800 years. From the remarkable round towers they looked day after day over the lush green park and the magnificent botanical garden. They looked after rare pieces of furniture from the 18th century and gave royal banquets in the Great Hall, which with its precious portraits and paintings provided an impressive backdrop. They didn’t seem to live alone in their imposing property. According to legend, the ghost of the court jester Puck is said to be up to mischief in Malahide Castle. He once fell in love with Lady Elenora Fitzgerald, which tragically became his undoing. After a knife rammed through his heart, Puck vowed to haunt the property as a ghost forever. He has always been spitting through the magnificent halls of the palace.
Rock of Cashel
Hundreds of years ago the devil was about to take a bite out of the Slieve Bloom Mountains when he saw Saint St. Patrick build a church in the Golden Vale. Disgusted by this act, he spat out the rock, which ended up in Cashel. It has always risen around 60 meters from the ground and watches over the surrounding area. King Brian Ború had a fortress built on the rock in 980, which a few years later was supplemented by the church with a Gothic cathedral. For more than 700 years now, the fortress built on the Rock of Cashel and the cathedral have offered people a place of refuge and reflection.
The Castle of Ross slumbers peacefully on the picturesque Lough Leane in Killarney National Park and hardly gives an idea of the resistance its residents once had to put up against the English crown. The 15th century castle was not destroyed, however, as its owners, the O’Donoghues family, surrendered to Cromwell’s troops before the fighting broke out. Even if the castle gradually fell apart under the English leadership, the spirit of the original owner O’Donoghue Mór remains tied to the castle. Every seven years he climbs out of Lough Leane and rides a magnificent white horse over the idyllic island of Ross Iceland. Every now and then he should stick his head out of the water to look for his former possessions.
The impressive Trim Castle is the largest Norman castle in Ireland and one of the largest in Europe. According to a legend, the giant Fionn McCumhaill once lived on the bank of the walls, who is also said to have created the Giant’s Causaway. Fionn should prepare the salmon of knowledge for his master Finnegas, with which he would gain infinite wisdom. But the giant burned his thumb in his clumsiness, which he then sucked off. So Fionn was the first to taste the salmon, which gave him unlimited knowledge. Whether inspired by the legend or the imposing sight of the castle, Trim Castle, which dates back to the 12th century, served Mel Gibson as the backdrop for his classic Braveheart.
The idyllic Tullynally Castle in County Westmeath is not only known for its impressive construction but also its no less than 120 rooms. One of the most beatiful castles in Ireland, the picturesque property is surrounded by 12 hectares of land, which are used for magnificent gardens and parks, man-made forests and fantastic lakes. Various events take place in the beautiful gardens at any time of the year. Talented Irish artists also perform regularly in the property’s imposing Great Hall. Henry Pakenham received Tullynally Castle in 1665 and passed it on to his grandson Thomas, the first Earl of Longford. To this day, the fairytale property is owned by the Pakenhams, making it the largest privately owned houses in Ireland.