Best Castles in Mayo

According to the Irish Times, Westport in County Mayo is the best place to live in Ireland. A favourite of the Irish and foreign tourists alike, it certainly has a lot to offer. Visit its blue flag beaches to swim, sunbathe, and even surf, or head inland to enjoy the natural beauty of rolling green hills and mysterious and haunting bogs.

It was one of the worst-hit areas by the 19th-century potato famine, seeing mass emigration from the area, so you’ve probably met someone from this beautiful country without evening knowing!

Mayo’s history is rich and fascinating, and what better way to learn more about it than through its castles? In this post, we’ll look at five of the most impressive castles in Mayo.

You can also see the map here

4 Castles to visit in County Mayo

1. Ashford Castle

When the Normans built this place more than 800 years ago, it’s doubtful that they had in mind just how grand it would become. The castle was inherited by Arthur Guinness (yes, the one who makes the stout) in 1868, and the medieval castle became a home.

Now, it’s open to the public as a five-star hotel. This fairytale castle is one of National Geographic’s unique lodges of the world, boasting a stunning lake view, fine dining, and several gorgeous suites. It’ll set you back a few euro though!

Where: Cong
When: 13th century
Style: Medieval/Victorian
Open for Visit: The castle is a hotel and opens only to guests using those facilities. Click here for more information.

You might want to check out: The best castles to stay in Ireland.

2. Kinlough Castle

What remains of the tower house of Kinlough Castle can be seen near the town of Shrule. It’s four storeys high and has gables at the end of both the east and west walls.

The original Kinlough Castle is thought to have been constructed as early as the 13th century, but what can be seen now is from the 16th, when Sir John MacOliver Burke remodelled it. Burke added corner fireplaces to the inside and two more storeys to the tower. The tower is worth a visit for birdwatchers as it’s a nesting spot for the common swift.  

Where: Kinlough
When: 16th century
Style: Tower House
Open for Visit: Yes. The castle is a ruin and visitors are free to walk to it.

3. Rockfleet Castle

Also known as Carrickahowley Castle, this tower house is associated with the ‘pirate queen’ and chieftain of the Clan O’Malley. Grace O’Malley (Gráinne Ní Mháille in Irish) is thought to have died here. It looks out towards Clew Bay at the mouth of a small inlet.

Local legend says there is a treasure hidden nearby. However, you have to be brave to search for it, as the spirit of a headless horseman meets anyone who attempts to take said treasure. The castle is no longer open to the public due to safety reasons (not the headless horseman), but it’s still worth driving or walking up to take pictures from afar. 

Where: Newport
When: 16th century
Style: Tower House
Open for Visit: No, public entry is forbidden, but you can look at it from outside.

4. Shrule Castle

Built in 1238 by Richard De Burgo, Shrule Castle was intended to safeguard the lands that had recently been granted to him by Henry II. The Kingdom of Connaught was protected by this 42-foot-high tower, which had a beamed and thatched roof. From here, it provided views of the river and surrounding landscapes.

The De Burgos occupied the castle until it was taken over by William Burke in 1574, who passed it down to his son 36 years later. During the confederate wars, Edmond Bourke ordered his soldiers to kill all of Shrule’s settlers on the bridge in the village. It is known as the Shrule Massacre.

Where: Shrule
When: 13th century
Style: Norman Hall House
Open for Visit: Yes, the castle is a ruin in Shrule town and guests can walk up to it.

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