Best Castles in Clare, Ireland

Best Castles in Ireland Knappogue-Castle

Well known and loved for its picturesque tower houses, rather than traditional stone castles, County Clare is awash with these fortified structures which date back to the 15th century.

Learn the tales of the powerful clans who built these Medieval tower houses and called them home as you discover more about Ireland’s history.

10 beautiful castles to visit in County Clare, Ireland

1. Ballinalacken Castle

The ruins of this two-stage tower house are today, the backdrop to an exclusive country hotel. Built on the site of an older 10th-century fortress by the O’Connor clan, Ballinalacken Castle passed to the noble O’Brien clan (descendants of Brian Ború, the High King of Ireland) in the middle of the 16th century along with the control of West Concomroe.

Saved from the demolishing of castles that happened in Connaught and Clare simply because it was not on the list of castles to destroy, Ballinalacken Castle Tower has been the backdrop of the O’Callahgan family-run hotel since 1938.

Where: Doolin
When:
 15th-16th century
Style:
 Medieval
Open for visit: 
Hotel guests only.

2. Bunratty Castle

Located within the 26 acre Folk Park which lets visitors experience Ireland as it would have been 100 years ago, Bunratty Castle stands tall and proud, this being the most complete and authentic medieval castle to survive in Ireland.

Founded in 1425, the picturesque tower house is impressive by day but looks truly magical when lit up at night, the stone architecture reflecting in the river Raite. Inside, visitors can admire the restored medieval décor with 15th and 16th-century furniture, tapestries, and artworks on display.

Where: Bunratty
When:
 15th century
Style: 
Medieval
Open for visit: 
Yes. Open daily from 10 am.

3. Carrigaholt Castle

Founded by the MacMahon clan in 1480, this extremely slim 5 story tower house has witnessed a turbulent history with 1 unsuccessful and 2 successful attempts to besiege the castle between the 16th and 17th century, passing from the MacMahon Clan to the O’Brien’s, and back to the MacMahon’s before becoming home to the Burton family who lived here until the end of the 19th century.

Though inaccessible to visitors today, the tower house is visible from the fishing port – When standing admiring the view of the castle ponder being Teige Caech, an inhabitant of the castle, who in September 1588 looked out of the window and saw 7 ships from the Spanish Armada anchored in the Shannon Estuary!

Where: Carrigaholt
When: 
15th century
Style: 
Medieval
Open for visit: 
No, private property

4. Doonagore Castle

Perhaps the most beautiful tower house in the county, a castle has stood on this site since the 14th century with the fairytale-like round tower seen today founded in 1580 by Donald O’Brien and shortly afterwards, taken by the MacClancy (Clancy) clan.

Falling into ruin but restored in the 19th century and again in the 20th century, today the tower house is a private holiday home belonging to the O’Gorman family so public access is denied however if you pass nearby at sunset you’ll witness an incredible photo opportunity.

Where: Doolin
When: 
16th century
Style: 
Medieval
Open for visit: 
No, private holiday home.

5. Dromoland Castle

Situated on a 450-acre estate, this fairytale-like castle was once the royal seat of the O’Brien clan who were descendants of Brian Ború, the High King of Ireland.

Originally built as a fort, with at least 3 houses existing on this land over the centuries, the castle seen today dates back to 1822 when it was rebuilt for Sir Edward O’Brien.

It is one of the most famous baronial castles in the whole of Ireland and today is a luxury castle hotel with restaurant, golf course, and spa.

Where: Newmarket on Fergus
When
: 16th century / 19th century
Style: Gothic Revival
Open for visit: Only for hotel guests or those using the golf or spa facilities.

Check here for more beautiful castle hotels in Ireland.

6. Dysert O’Dea Castle

Sometimes shortened to O’Dea Castle, this so-called castle is actually a 5 storey fortified tower house built in the castellated Gaelic style using grey stone. Founded by Diarmuid O’Dea in 1480, this was the home of the O’Dea clan until 1692.

Today, the restored tower house contains the Dysert O’Dea Castle Archaeology Centre with a selection of artefacts and exhibitions inside the tower’s 10 rooms along with access to a wall walk and 25 original field monuments located on the 4km archaeological trail which includes a round tower, 2 Medieval forts, and 2 Romanesque churches.

Where: Dysert, Corofin
When: 
15th century
Style: 
Medieval
Open for visit: 
Yes, open daily 10 am-6 pm May-September and by appointment at other times of the year.

7. Knappogue Castle

Founded in 1467 by Sean MacNamara, this tower house became home to the MacNamara clan who were the Earls of West Clancullen. In 1641 it was home to Donagh MacNamara who led the Irish rebellion, Oliver Cromwell’s troops later taking the castle.

Later returned to the MacNamara’s, the family sold it to the Scots in 1800 at which point it was extended. Today the Medieval tower house has been restored with 15th-century furnishings and welcomes visitors as part of a 3- hour Medieval banquet with optional overnight accommodation.

Where: Knopoge, Ennis
When: 15th century
Style: Medieval
Open for visit:
 Open only as part of an evening Medieval Banquet experience.

8. Leamaneh Castle

Founded in 1480 as a 5 storey tower house by the King of Thomond, Turlogh O’Brien, Leamaneh Castle was later surrendered to Henry VIII by Turlogh O’Brien’s son who became the 1st Earl of Thomond.

The castle was extended in the mid 17th century with a mansion house added by Mary McMahon, wife of Conor O’Brien, who is better known as Mary Rua or Red Mary, the woman who is said to have gone on to marry 24 times after the supposed death of her first husband.

Abandoned in 1705, the tower and mansion today stand in ruin but Red Mary is still said to haunt the castle.

Where: Leamaneh North, Kilnaboy
When: 
15th and 17th century
Style: 
Gothic Revival
Open for visit: 
No, only visible from the road.

9. Newtown Castle

This tower house was built in the 1550s for a line of the O’Brien clan in a unique cylindrical shape that rises from a pyramid-shaped base. Soon passing to the O’Loughlins (aka O’Lochlainns) who were the most powerful clan in the area, there ancestors owning this tower house right through until the 19th century.

Falling into ruin after the last inhabitants left, Newtown Castle was restored in the late ’90s as an exhibition centre for nearby Burren Art Collage. Today a popular venue for weddings, visitors can take a guided tour around the tower house to learn more about its history.

Where: Newtown
When: 
16th century
Style: 
Medieval
Open for visit: 
Open Monday-Friday 10am-6pm

10. O Brien’s Tower

Situated at the highest point on the iconic Cliffs of Moher, the folly that is O’Brien’s Tower boasts stunning views from its stone viewing platform so long as the sea mist doesn’t come rolling in!

O Brien’s Tower was built in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien, the landowner, solicitor, and magistrate who is remembered for looking after his tenants during the Great Famine, as a way to develop tourism in the area and was never actually used as a stronghold.

Where: Lislorkan North
When: 
19th century
Style: 
Gothic Revival
Open for visit:
 Yes, open daily from 8 am March-October and from 9 am November-February

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