Best Castles in Cork

Often regarded as the heart of Ireland, Cork is an enchanting city, with its winding, narrow streets and artistic hipster scene, there is a real buzz about it; expect to find cosy corner pubs with a true sense of tradition, as well as enticing live-music and wholesome meals, as well as a welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

In addition to Cork’s fantastic city centre, there is also a multitude of historic castles that are dotted about its outskirts; this list will highlight the best castles near Cork and their key points of interest:

The best Castles to visit in Cork

1. Blarney Castle   

Located in the small town of Blarney just outside of the centre of Cork, lies the impressive and historic Blarney Castle.

The castle’s early history dates back to the 11th century, though the castle that stands today was constructed in the year 1446 after it was built by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty, who was a cadet branch of the Kings of Desmond.

Today, the castle is predominately a tourist attraction, and many visitors travel there for the day from Cork; there are many traditions present at the site, such as the Blarney Stone, where visitors must hang upside-down to kiss it. There is also a garden that contains many poisonous plants.

Where: Blarney

When: 1446

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

2. Barryscourt Castle

Barryscourt Castle is an impressive historic castle that is located in County Cork, in the scenic town of Carrigtwohill.

The grounds in which the castle is built has been inhabited for well over a thousand years; however, the first modern fortification is thought to have been built in the 12th century, after it was given to the de Barry family.

The castle has changed shape over the years, having been rebuilt and renovated on several different occasions; the castle that stands today dates back mainly to the 16th century, and it is built in a traditional medieval architectural style. It is today open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction.

Where: Carrigtwohill

When: 12th century

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 10:00am – 16:30pm

3. Blackrock Castle Observatory

Blackrock Castle is a fantastic fortification that is located just outside of the city centre of Cork, upon the banks of the scenic River Lee.

The castle was originally constructed in the late 16th century after the local citizens requested it to be built under the decree of Queen Elizabeth I, as a fort to defend them against invading pirates and such.

Today, the castle is open to the public, where there is a visitor centre and a restaurant; it also houses an amazing observatory.

Where: Cork

When: 16th century

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:30pm

4. Charles Fort

Charles Fort – Situated on the edge of the water in the scenic village of Summer Cove in the Kinsale harbour of County Cork, lies the impressive and historic Charles Fort.

The castle was originally constructed in the year 1682, and it was built as the ‘new fort’, in contrast to the ‘old fort’, or James Fort, which was built in the early 17th century on the other side of the same harbour.

The fort played a critical military role throughout the centuries that it was active, until the year 1921, following the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

Today, the castle is open to the public, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions near Cork.

Where: Summer Cove

When: 17th century

Style: Military

Open for visit: 10:00am – 18:00pm

5. Desmond Castle

Desmond Castle is an impressive and historic tower house that is located in the County Cork town of Kinsale and has a fantastic heritage.

It was originally constructed in around the year 1500 after it was built as the Customs House for Kinsale; it continued this function until the year 1641 before it was converted into a naval prison.

Throughout the following centuries, it changed its function again, ranging from a town gaol to a workhouse.

Today, the castle is open to the public and houses an International Museum of Wine, which makes for a fun and exciting day out from Cork.

Where: Kinsale

When: 1500

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 10:00am – 17:00pm

6. Kanturk Castle

Kanturk Castle is an amazing historic, ruined mansion that is situated just outside of the scenic market town of Kanturk, in County Cork.

The castle is believed to have been built in around 1609, by Dermot MacDonagh MacCarthy though it is believed to have never been completed, and it remained without a roof.

There are some stunning architectural features, such as the grand Renaissance-style entrance, and some impressive Gothic-style windows.

There are also several famous legends attached to the castle, such as the legends surrounding the seven stonemasons that constructed the castle.

Where: Kanturk

When: 1609

Style: Renaissance

Open for visit: 10:00am – 17:00pm

7. Belvelly Castle “De Barrà”

Belvelly Castle is an impressive historic tower house that is located in the village of Belvelly; it was initially built in the 14th century, by and for the Hodnett family, who was a prominent Anglo-Norman family; however, it was later captured by the De la Roch and De Barra families.

Up until the 19th century, the castle played a primarily military role, particularly in the midst of the Irish Confederate Wars; in the 19th century, the castle fell into ruin, until it was renovated in the 21st century.

Where: Belvelly

When: 14th century

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 10:00am – 16:30pm

8. Kilbrittain Castle

Famous for being the oldest castle in the entirety of Ireland, Kilbrittain Castle was first constructed in the year 1035; it was built by Cian, who was the grandson of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru.

Since its origins, it has also been visited by and resided in by several other famous and important families, such as the De Courceys, the Stawell’s, and the McCarthy.

Today, the castle is a luxury hotel, and guests are charmed and enticed by the charming interiors and staying in a piece of history.

Where: Kilbrittain

When: 1035

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: Not open to the general public.

Find here, more castle hotels to stay in Ireland.

9. Mallow House

Longueville House, or Mallow House, is a fantastic Georgian country house that dates back to approximately 300 years ago and is situated in the scenic Blackwater Valley, in the north of Cork.

Though not open to the general public, this grand estate is an impressive luxury country house, offering fantastic dining options; it is a great place to escape to if you are a foodie.

Where: Blackwater Valley

When: 18th century

Style: Georgian

Open for visit: Not open to the general public.

10. Ballyhooly Castle

Ballyhooly Castle is a beautiful 17th-century manor house that is situated in the north of County Cork; one of the main reasons in which the castle is famous is for the ‘Ballyhooly Massacre’, which occurred during the Irish Civil War, even though just one person was killed.

Today, the castle is open to the public; many visitors are attracted to the peaceful atmosphere of the village and the beautiful scenery.

Where: Ballyhooly

When: 17th century

Style: Gothic

Open for visit: 10:00am – 15:00pm

11. Kilcrea Castle

Kilcrea Castle is an impressive 15th-century tower house that is located near to Kilcrea Friary in County Cork; though it is in a ruined state, it looks nonetheless gorgeous with the surrounding landscape.

The castle ruins are open to the public to this day, and many visitors enjoy exploring the original features that are still intact after centuries, such as the castle battlements, inner castle courtyard, and the railway line that runs through it.

Where: Ovens

When: 15th century

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 10:00am – 17:00pm

12. Ballincollig Castle

Built after the Norman Invasion of Ireland in the 12th century, Ballincollig Castle has a truly rich and fascinating history.

During its peak, it was inhabited by the Barrett family, who was a prominent Irish clan that originated from the Normans; this family were incredibly influential in the local area and wielded a lot of power.

However, though the castle was inhabited for centuries and played a critical military role, it was left to abandonment in the year 1690; it was not until 1857 when it was renovated by the Wyse family, who restored it back to its former glory.

Where: Ballincollig

When: 12th century

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: This castle is always accessible to the public.

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