Ireland

Best Castles in Ireland

It’s said that there are more than 30,000 castles in Ireland which is slightly mind-boggling! That’s why we have come up with a list of the best castles in Ireland. These include the most intact and well known such as Dublin Castle and Blarney Castle (home of the Blarney Stone) which simply can’t be missed, plus the most picturesque and interesting castle ruins that are less famous.

32 Famous Irish Castles to Visit

1. Blarney Castle

Castles in Ireland Blarney-Castle

Home of the famous Blarney Stone that you can still kiss, Blarney castle is a magical-looking Medieval stronghold that was built some 600 years ago through a castle has stood on the site since as far back as 1210A.D ensuring plenty of history for you to uncover. Enjoy the 60 acres of gardens and take a walk around Rock Close to witness Mother Nature at her most creative after exploring the castle.

Where: Cork
When:
15th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 9:00 am (10:00 am on 26th December and 1st January). Closed 24th and 25th December.

2. Bunratty Castle

Best Castles in Ireland Bunratty-Castle

This picturesque tower house is impressive by day but looks truly magical when it’s lit up at night, the stone architecture reflected in the river Raite. The 15th-century exterior contains an interior that was beautifully restored in the 1960s, furnished with medieval décor giving visitors the most complete and authentic castle experience in Ireland today.

Where: County Clare
When:
15th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 10:00 am.

3. Cahir Castle

Irish Castles Cahir-Castle

One of the largest castles in Ireland that are well preserved with keep, tower, and original defense structure, Cahir Castle (which means stone fort) boasts stunning views built on a rocky island in the river Suit. Step back in time to discover the history of the castle with an audio-visual show and guided tour.

Where: County Tipperary
When:
13th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 9.30am excluding 24th-31st December

4. Ashford Castle

Famous Castles in Ireland Ashford-Castle

Spanning 800 years of history, Ashford Castle is now an award-winning luxury spa hotel, deemed a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World with stunning lake views and sumptuous interiors. Relax in the Prince of Wales Bar before going through to the George V Dining Room and later, enjoy the elegance of your suite that incorporates many of the castles original features in the décor.

Where: County Mayo
When:
13th century
Style:
Medieval – Victorian
Open for visit:
Only for guests or those using the hotel facilities.

5. Malahide Castle

Best Irish Castles Malahide-Castle

Surrounded by 260 acres of parkland, Malahide Castle has 800 years of dramatic history to show you as you view the riches housed in the private rooms of the noble Talbot family and learn how Malahide castle played its part in Irish politics. If you feel a shiver down your spine when you visit, don’t brush it off as this is one of the most haunted castles in Ireland!

Where: County Dublin
When:
12th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes, by guided tour only. Castle tours available daily from 10.30am.

6. The Rock of Cashel

Castles in Ireland The-Rock-of-Cashel

Otherwise known as Cashel of the Kings or St. Patrick’s Rock, this popular historical site contains a sprawling group of medieval buildings on a limestone outcrop with spectacular scenery all around. The 12th century round tower is a sight to behold as is the Romanesque chapel and restored Hall of the Vicars Choral.

Where: County Tipperary
When:
12th and 13th century
Style:
Hiberno-Romanesque and Germanic
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 9:00 am, closed 24th-26th December.

7. Ross Castle

Best Castles in Ireland Ross-Castle

Located on the edge of Ross Lake within a 120-acre estate stands the grand Georgian country Manor House / Tower House on which a former castle once stood. Today, the historic house known as Ross Castle is a luxury accommodation with many original features for guests to admire such as the vaulted ceiling.

Where: County Galway
When:
15th century
Style:
Georgian
Open for visit:
Only if booking hotel accommodation/facilities.

8. Kilkenny Castle

Irish Castles Kilkenny-Castle

Built to control a fording-point of the River Nore, Kilkenny Castle is a historical country house that has been inhabited continuously over the last 800 years. Today, visitors can admire the exterior with medieval ruins from the grounds before stepping inside to marvel at the 1830’s décor in the Chinese drawing room and the 1860’s décor in the State Dining Room.

Where: Kilkenny
When:
13th century
Style:
Medieval & Victorian
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 9.30am. Closed 24th-26th December.

9. Donegal Castle

Famous Castles in Ireland Donegal-Castle

Having lain in ruin for 2 centuries, Donegal Castle (otherwise known as O’Donnells Castle) can now be seen in almost all of its former glory, the Tower House having gone from ruin to riches with a restoration project in the ’90s that enables visitors to step inside and admire the Persian rugs, and French tapestries.

Where: County Donegal
When:
17th century
Style:
Jacobean
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 10:00 am from mid-March until the end of October.

10. Dublin Castle

Best Irish Castles Dublin-Castle

Built on the site of a Viking Settlement, Dublin Castle has been used for many purposes over the years including a military fortress, prison, treasury, and as the seat of the British government’s administration in Ireland. See the State Apartments, Chapel Royal, and large Undercroft as you learn the history of the turbulent history of Dublin on a guided tour.

Where: Dublin
When:
13th century
Style:
Gothic Revival
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 9.45am unless closed for State Business.

11. Birr Castle

Castles in Ireland Birr-Castle

Home to the 7th Earl of Rosse, Birr Castle is certainly impressive with its 90 rooms on a 1,200 walled estate with views to the Camcor River and the oldest suspension bridge in Ireland. More impressive than the view is the family history as Birr Castle has been in the Rosse family since 1620 – In the grounds you’ll find the Science Centre containing the once largest telescope in the world where the 3rd Earl of Rosse discovered the Whirlpool Nebula.

Where: County Offaly
When:
17th century
Style:
Victorian
Open for visit:
Castle interior open limited days in the Summer. Garden and grounds open daily from 9:00 am excluding 24th-25th December and 1st January.

12. Dunluce Castle

Castles in Ireland Dunluce-Castle

These iconic ruins lie on a basalt outcrop on the Causeway Coast, accessible only by bridge from the mainland. If you think it looks familiar, you’re not having a past life experience, it’s because the castle featured in Game of Thrones as Castle Greyjoy. Take a tour of the ruins to learn the history of the castle that dates back to 1513 or take a GOT tour to reminisce over some epic TV moments!

Where: County Antrim
When:
16th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 9.30am

13. Trim Castle

Best Castles in Ireland Trim-Castle

Located on the bank of the River Boyne, Trim Castle is the largest Norman castle in Ireland and was built over a period of 30 years. It has been used as mint as well as a meeting place for Irish Parliament but more recently featured in the movie Braveheart. Today the grounds of the castle ruins contain a luxury hotel that boasts breathtaking views of the castle walls and keeps.

Where: County Meath
When:
12th century
Style:
Anglo-Norman
Open for visit:
Yes, guided tours of the grounds are available Monday-Friday November-February.

14. Dromoland Castle

Irish Castles Dromoland-Castle

This picturesque castle on a 450-acre estate looks like it came straight out of a fairytale! Once the royal seat of the O’Brien clan who were direct descendants of King Brian Boru, one of Ireland’s last kings, Dromoland Castle is now a luxury castle hotel with golf course and spa allowing guests to live like royalty, if only for a weekend!

Where: County Clare
When:
16th century
Style:
Gothic Revival
Open for visit:
Only for guests using the accommodation or golf and spa facilities.

15. Lismore Castle

Famous Castles in Ireland Lismore-Castle

Home to the 12th Duke of Devonshire today, beautiful Lismore Castle sits on the site of an older 7th-century monastery and was once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh. It has been lovingly restored in the Gothic style with the 13th century round tower still standing. Admire the exterior of the castle from the grounds with a visit to the gardens.

Where: County Waterford
When:
13th century
Style:
Gothic
Open for visit:
Only the castle grounds are open to visitors unless hiring the castle for a special event.

16. Dunguaire Castle

Best Irish Castles Dunguaire-Castle

This beautifully restored small tower house with its 75-foot tower is a must-see, it’s stone architecture reflected in Galway Bay. Built on a 7th-century stronghold, Dunguaire Castle became the centre of Ireland’s 20th-century literary revival so has plenty of history to impart, the interior of the castle giving visitors an insight into life from 1520 up to the present day.

Where: County Galway
When:
16th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes, open daily from 10:00 am -April-September

17. Enniskillen Castle

Castles in Ireland Enniskillen-Castle

This 600-year-old castle is located on the River Erne and was built to guard one of the few passes into Ulster. The impressive turrets of the 17th century Watergate will welcome you as you step inside today to discover the local history with the Inniskillings Military Museum and the County Museum.

Where: County Fermanagh
When:
16th century
Style:
Gothic
Open for visit:
Yes, Open Monday-Friday from 9.30am and weekends from 11:00 am.

18. Belfast Castle

Best Castles in Ireland Belfast-Castle

Built on the slopes of Cavehill Country Park and enjoying views across the city of Belfast and Belfast Lough, a castle has stood on this site since the 12th century, the current building (a house with semi-circular round towers) being finished in 1870. Today, Belfast Castle is a lavish venue for weddings and has 2 eateries but you can still walk in the grounds to admire the castle from the exterior.

Where: Belfast
When:
19th century
Style:
Scottish Baronial
Open for visit:
Yes, if visiting for food – Castle Tavern open from 10am-5pm, Cellar Restaurant open from 12pm-3pm

19. Kylemore Castle Abbey

This building might look like a picturesque castle from the outside, and indeed it was until it became a Benedictine monastery in the 1920s. Complete with a Victorian walled garden, Kylemore Castle Abbey with its lake and woodlands is a truly picturesque place to learn the history of this baronial castle and the later abbey and all that abbey life entailed.

Where: County Galway
When:
19th century
Style:
Baronial / Victorian
Open for visit:
Yes, open daily from 9 am July and August, from 9.30am September-October, and from 10 am November-July.

20. Doe Castle

Castles in Ireland Doe Castle

Surrounded on three sides by Sheephaven Bay stand the proud ruins of Doe Castle with a 15th-century central keep that has survived siege and cannon fire. Said to have sheltered survivors from the Spanish Armada, Doe Castle was later converted into a 19th-century country manor, similar in style to the Scottish tower houses.

Where: County Donegal
When:
16th century
Style:
Scottish Baronial
Open for visit:
Yes, grounds are open from dawn until dusk with the tours of the keep available June-August from 11 am. Closed Monday and Friday.

21. Athenry Castle

Best Castles in Ireland Athenry-Castle

Athenry is one of the most notable surviving medieval walled towns in Ireland and together with its tower house, is a national monument. Parts of the original enclosure wall of the castle survives along with the 13th-century battlements and the large rectangular hall-keep with base-batter.

Where: County Galway
When:
13th century
Style:
Medieval & Romanesque
Open for visit:
Open daily from April-October from 9.30am

22. Blackrock Castle

Irish Castles Blackrock-Castle

This impressive castellated fortification with a circular tower, crenelated parapets, and Watergate was built in 1828 and stands on the site of 2 older castles, some parts of the wall of the latter of the 2 castles still visible today. Today Blackrock Castle contains an observatory and BCO’s Universe; an interactive experience teaching kids and grown-ups about the castle’s battlements, the maritime history, as well as about space and aliens!

Where: County Cork
When:
19th century
Style:
Gothic Revival
Open for visit:
BCO’s Universe open daily from 10 am.

23. Carlow Castle

Famous Castles in Ireland Carlow-Castle

A national monument of Ireland, Carlow Castle was once a military fortress that stood on the banks of the River Barrow. Today it’s a ruin consisting of just two towers and an intervening wall, the building only standing in ruin due to a plan in 1814 to turn the castle into an asylum which saw a local physician demolish far more than he planned for!

Where: County Carlow
When:
11th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes, grounds are open 24/7.

24. Glenveagh Castle

Best Irish Castles Glenveagh-Castle

This beautiful fairytale-like castle is actually a castellated mansion that was built as a hunting lodge. Situated on the shores of Lough Veagh within Glenveagh National Park, you’ll find waterfalls, woodland oaks, and a backdrop of mountains – certainly a picturesque spot to spend the day enjoying nature.

Where: County Donegal
When:
19th century
Style:
Scottish Baronial
Open for visit:
Castle tours are only available in May but you can visit the grounds and gardens all year.

25. King John’s Castle

Castles in Ireland King-John's-Castle

This stunning 800-year-old castle is located on an island of the same name, next to the River Shannon. The island once housed the Vikings but it wasn’t until 1200 that a castle was built. Today the castle allows you to step back into Medieval times with interactive displays that recount the times of siege and warfare.

Where: County Limerick
When:
13th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes, open daily from 9.30am

26. Knappogue Castle

Best Castles in Ireland Knappogue-Castle

This restored Medieval tower house with a beautiful Victorian walled garden invites you inside to take part in a 3-hour Medieval Banquet with dancing, singing, and of course plenty of feasting. Admire the period furniture as you get caught up in a Medieval make-believe world and stay the night surrounded by 15th-century splendor.

Where: County Clare
When:
15th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
The castle is only open for evening visits only as part of a Medieval Banquet experience.

27. Macroom Castle

Irish Castles Macroom-Castle

Built by the Carew family to guard the ford across the river, Macroom Castle is now a shell with just the arched gateway, square tower, and some walls remaining but these are well-preserved rather than complete ruins. Two 18th century navy cannons that were found within the grounds now stand either side of the gate with picturesque river walks nearby.

Where: County Cork
When:
12th – 15th century
Style:
Gothic
Open for visit:
Exterior only as the interior contains new private buildings.

28. O’Brien’s Tower

Famous Castles in Ireland O'Brien's-Tower

As the highest point on the Cliffs of Moher (the UNESCO Global Geopark) the folly that is O’Brien’s Tower boasts stunning views from its stone viewing platform out towards Hag’s Head, Doolin, and sometimes as far as the Aran Islands but only if the weather is in your favor as if there’s a sea mist you won’t see much!

Where: County Clare
When:
19th century
Style:
Gothic Revival
Open for visit:
Yes, open daily from 8 am March-October or 9amNovember-February excluding 24th-26th December.

29. Parke’s Castle

Best Irish Castles Parke's-Castle

This fortified mansion or ‘plantation castle’ is located on the shore of Lough Gill and stands on the site of an older 15th century fortified structure with a curtain wall surrounding it. Beautifully restored, visitors are able to explore the castle rooms whilst learning about life in Medieval times.

Where: County Leitrim
When:
17th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes, open daily from 10 am between late March and Mid September.

30. Rathfarnham Castle

Castles in Ireland Rathfarnham-Castle

Originally an Elizabethan Castle built as part of a chain of castles to defend Dublin from attack, today Rathfarnham Castle is a fortified house that underwent extensive remodeling in the 18th century. The castle is used for cultural events, exhibitions, and lectures with many rooms furnished with pieces from the 18th century.

Where: Dublin
When:
18th century
Style:
Neo-Classical
Open for visit:
Yes, open daily from May until September and Wednesday-Sunday during Winter.

31. Swords Castle

Best Castles in Ireland Swords-Castle

Built as a manorial residence for the first Norman Archbishop of Dublin back in 1200, Swords Castle is considered (despite its name) more of an episcopal palace than a castle. The 800-year-old sprawling complex includes the remains of Constables Tower, the Chapel, the Chamber Block, the Gatehouse, and more all enclosed by the 300-meter long pentagonal curtain wall.

Where: Dublin
When:
13th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Open Tuesday-Sunday from 9.30 am.

32. Leap Castle

Irish Castles Leap-Castle

Famous for being the most haunted castle in the world, Leap Castle (pronounced Lep) has a long and bloody history with numerous people being kept prisoner and then executed at the castle. As you walk around learning the history, be aware if you smell sulphur as one of the ghosts nicknamed ‘It’ – A terrifying creature about the size of a sheep with a decaying face, will be following in its wake.

Where: County Offaly
When:
15th century
Style:
Scottish Baronial
Open for visit:
Open to visitors on request.