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A Local's Guide to 25 of the Best Castles in Ireland

Discover the best castles in Ireland. Explore the best castles near Dublin, best castle hotels, and best ruined castles to explore in Ireland.
What do you think of when you think of Ireland? The pictures of Ireland in my mind include rolling green hills and steely gray castles. 

I lived in Dublin for 12 years and during that time I had the chance to explore Ireland on a wide range of road trips. Our travels included visits to many of Ireland's most iconic castles.

Come with me as we explore some of the best castles in Ireland. We'll look at everything from ruined castles to castles where you can stay like a king across Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

This Ireland castle guide aims to give you a brief overview of each castle ("fast facts") and reasons to visit. Use this post for inspiration in planning your Ireland itinerary.

Best Castles in Ireland: Castle Roche

Map of the Best Ireland Castles

Click on the image of the map below to open up an interactive version in Google Maps to help you plan your visit to some of Ireland's castles. 
Map of the Best Castles in Ireland

Best Castles Near Dublin

Let's start by taking a look at castles in Dublin City and within day trip distance of the capital. 

1. Drimnagh Castle

Best Castles in Dublin: Drimnagh Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Drimnagh harkens back to the Norman period with the first recorded owners dating back to 1216.
  2. In the early 20th century, the castle was taken over by dairy farmers to graze their cattle.
  3. Drimnagh was a ruined castle brought back to life in the 1980s when it was lovingly restored using Medieval techniques

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Drimnagh is the only castle in Ireland that still has a flooded moat. 
  2. The 17th Century French-style walled garden is a real gem.
  3. The craftspeople who restored the Medieval castle to its former glory carved their likenesses into the busts in the great hall.
Tips for visiting: Drive from Dublin City or take Dublin Bus. 56a and 77a will take you from Grand Canal Dock to Drimnagh Castle in about 45 minutes. Drimnagh Castle is open limited hours so check the website or give a ring to confirm they are open before you head out there. There is a small fee for the guided tour (9 EUR at the time of writing).

2. Trim Castle

Ireland Castles: Trim Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Trim Castle was built in the 12th century over a 30 year period by Hugh de Lacy.
  2. Trim masqueraded as the walled city of York in Mel Gibson's Braveheart.
  3. The garrison at Trim was occupied by the army of Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century after the sacking of Drogheda in 1649.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Trim is the largest Cambro-Norman castle in Ireland.
  2. Trim Castle presents a moody vibe that fluctuates with the weather. 
  3. The grounds are incredibly atmospheric especially when bathed in an early morning fog.
Tips for visiting: Trim Castle sits squarely on the Dublin day trip circuit. Book yourself onto an organized tour of the Boyne Valley

You could also incorporate Trim into a road trip to Carlingford Lough if you prefer to drive.  Take a self-guided tour of the castle grounds for free or pay 5 EUR for a guided tour of the castle keep.

3. Dalkey Castle

Dalkey Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Dalkey was originally a Viking settlement.
  2. Dalkey Castle (much like other castles of the period) has a "murder hole" where boiling liquids could be poured on invaders. 
  3. Dalkey Castle has a Medieval toilet where inhabitants hung their clothes so that the ammonia would kill any lice and 'clean' the clothing.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. You may spot a celebrity on the way. Dalkey is famous for being Bono's home and this tends to attract other celebrities. Matt Damon, Russell Crowe, and Pierce Brosnan have all been spotted in Dalkey Village over the years.
  2. The Living History Experience is positively magical. Learn about the history of Dalkey Castle via skilled actors in period costume.
  3. Experience seaside Dublin and village life at its finest.
Tips for visiting: Take the DART train along the coast from Dublin City Centre to Dalkey. You can walk to Dalkey Castle from the Dalkey DART station in about 5 minutes. The Living History Tour costs 13.95 EUR at the time of writing.

4. Ardgillan Castle

Ireland's Ardgillan Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Ardgillan Castle is not actually an Irish castle, but rather a large country house. 
  2. Ardgillan was originally called "Prospect House" and construction began in 1738. 
  3. Ardgillan remained in the Taylor family for over 200 years until 1962. In exchange for rights for the train to pass over their land, the Taylor's could hail any passing train and hop on for free.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. The sweeping demesne with views over the Irish Sea.
  2. Tour the big house which is decorated with period details.
  3. Indulge in afternoon tea in the elegant drawing room on the last Saturday and Sunday of each month. 
Tips for visiting: Ardgillan Castle is most easily accessed by car. Hailing down a train or trying to get a train to stop as it passes by is a thing of the past! A one hour tour of "The Big House" cost 5.00 EUR at the time of writing.

5. Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. For over 700 years, Dublin Castle was the seat of English (and ultimately British) rule over Ireland.
  2. Dublin Castle was originally built as a Medieval fortress.
  3. Dublin Castle stands on the grounds of an old Viking settlement.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. It's free and convenient to stroll the grounds. There is a lovely courtyard and garden to explore.
  2. There are often exhibits or lectures happening at the Printworks Event and Exhibition Centre on the castle grounds.
  3. The Chester Beatty Library (one of my top picks of Dublin hidden gems) is located on the grounds of Dublin Castle. Chester Beatty Library features displays of ancient religious texts.
Tips for visiting: Walk to Dublin Castle from points around Dublin City. Dublin Castle is conveniently located behind Dame Street in Dublin City Centre.

6. Malahide Castle

Castles in Dublin: Malahide Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. King Henry II gifted Malahide and the associated harbor to Richard Talbot in 1185.
  2. Malahide Castle was occupied by the Talbots, for over 800 years.
  3. Malahide Castle was originally a wooden fortress, but was eventually upgraded and strengthened.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Malahide Castle has a butterfly garden in a greenhouse on the property.
  2. Commune with nature by taking a walk in the walled garden and through the forested fairy trail.
  3. The demesne (immense lawn) hosts a summer concert series.
Tips for visiting: Malahide Castle is easily accessible on the DART train from Dublin. There is also ample parking if you prefer to drive. 

Pay 8 EUR to access the walled garden, butterfly garden, west lawn, and fairy trail. Buy a combo ticket for a classic castle tour with garden access for 14 EUR per person.

Best Castles Beyond Dublin

Now let's take a look further afield at of the best castles in Ireland outside of Dublin's sphere of influence.

7. Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Cork

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Blarney Castle was built over 600 years ago by Cormac McCarthy, one of Ireland's greatest chieftains.
  2. Legend suggests that the Blarney Stone was one half of The Stone of Scone given by Robert the Bruce to Cormac McCarthy for supplying reinforcements at the Battle of Bannockburn in the 14th century.
  3. Inhabitants escaped from Cromwellian forces via underground caves leading to Cork, Kerry, and a nearby lake.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. To kiss the Blarney stone! Climb to the top of the tower, lean over backwards, and kiss the rock believed to give the gift of eloquence.
  2. Blarney Castle features a fascinating poison garden. Watch your kids and pets as the deadly plants are not protected from curious creatures.
  3. Blarney Castle is probably the most famous castle in Ireland. Just a 15 minute drive from Cork City, it's is a convenient day trip by car.
Tips for visiting: A General Admission ticket costs 18 EUR per adult at the time of writing. Blarney Castle is most easily accessed by car. However, you could take the train from Dublin to Cork and catch a taxi out to Blarney Castle (estimated fare: 20-25 EUR). 

8. Kilkenny Castle

Best Castles in Ireland: Kilkenny Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Kilkenny Castle is over 800 years old.
  2. The castle you see today is based on a stone fortress designed by William Marshall, the 4th Earl of Pembroke in the 12th century. 
  3. Kilkenny Castle was home to a huge cast of colorful characters, many descended from the powerful Butler Dynasty.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Kilkenny Castle anchors one end of the atmosphere Medieval Mile and is one of my top picks of things to do in Kilkenny.
  2. Kilkenny Castle features a large, open demesne which is great for picnics
  3. You'll find miles of forested trails to explore on the grounds for free.
Tips for visiting: Take the train from Dublin to Kilkenny. You can do the trip as an ambitious day trip or spend the weekend and enjoy the legendary Kilkenny craic. Pay 8 EUR for a self-guided visit to Kilkenny Castle or 12 EUR per person for a guided tour.

9. Bunratty Castle

Best Castles in Ireland: Bunratty Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Bunratty Castle is a 15th century tower house.
  2. Technically, Bunratty Castle is in County Clare, but the closest population center is Limerick.
  3. Bunratty Castle was used over the ages to guard the Shannon Estuary from attacks by Irish rebels.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Bunratty Castle features an extensive folk park to explore featuring traditional homes from across Ireland.
  2. You can partake of a Medieval Banquet here.
  3. Bunratty Castle has resident wolfhounds! I've never beheld a more majestic dog.
Tips for visiting: Bunratty Castle is accessible from Limerick City via public transportation. Admission to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park costs 15.25 EUR at the time of writing.

10. King John's Castle (Limerick)

King John's Castle in Limerick

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. King John's Castle is located on "King's Island" in Limerick's Medieval Quarter.
  2. The first permanent base on King's Island was established by the Vikings, namely Thormodu Helgason in 922, ultimately laying the foundation for the city of Limerick.
  3. King John, namesake of the castle, was known to be vengeful and treacherous. This behavior is what catalyzed the signing of the Magna Carta. 

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. King John's Castle is one of my top picks of things to do in Limerick.
  2. Historic meets modern with some pretty impressive local street art nearby.
  3. Meet costumed guides and play Medieval courtyard games.
Tips for visiting: Take the train from Dublin to Limerick City to access King John's Castle. Entrance tickets to the castle cost 13 EUR at the time of writing.

11. Dungarvan Castle

Dungarvan Castle in Co. Waterford

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Dungarvan Castle is an Anglo-Norman fortification built in the late 12th century.
  2. Inside the castle wall, you'll find a 2 storey 18th century military barracks which was in use by the British Army until 1922. 
  3. During the Irish Civil War, Dungarvan Castle was destroyed by the IRA before being rebuilt as the headquarters of the local police (Garda Síochana).

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Dungarvan is a quaint seaside town and one terminus of the Waterford Greenway.
  2. There are tables for a picnic just outside the castle walls.
  3. Dungarvan is a small, walkable town. You can walk into town for a bite or a pint very easily after you finish your tour of the castle.
Tips for visiting: The castle grounds are free and open to visitors. Dungarvan is most easily accessible by car as part of a Waterford and Wexford road trip.

12. Athlone Castle

Athlone Castle in Ireland's Midlands

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Athlone Castle was built for King John of England by Bishop John De Gray of Norwich in the early 13th century.
  2. Williamites overcame the Jacobites here in 1691 in a face-off that became known as the Great Siege of Athlone.
  3. Free State troops took the castle in 1922 and flew the Irish tricolour flag during the Irish Civil War.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Athlone Castle overlooks the River Shannon and you can avail of sweeping views.
  2. Athlone Castle is just across the road from Sean's Bar which lays claim to the title of Oldest Pub in Ireland.
  3. You'll find a museum with local artifacts on the premises.
Tips for visiting: It costs 10 EUR per adult to visit Athlone Castle. Visit Athlone by car as part of a broader road trip through Ireland's Midlands, or take the train from Dublin.

13. Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle in Tipperary

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. The castle is situated on an island overlooking the River Suir.
  2. Cahir Castle dates back to the 13th century and was a stronghold of the Butler family.
  3. Cahir Castle was believed to be impregnable until it fell to the Earl of Sussex in 1599.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Cahir Castle is one of the largest castles in Ireland.
  2. Cahir Castle is a good place to stop and stretch your legs on a Dublin to Tipperary road trip.
  3. Cahir Castle is one of Ireland's best preserved castles.
Tips for visiting: Cahir Castle costs 5 EUR for a general admission ticket at the time of writing and is most easily accessible by car.

Best Castle Hotels in Ireland

Now let's explore Irish castles that you can stay in. Here are my top picks of Ireland castle hotels.

14. Ashford Castle

Best Castle Hotels in Ireland: Ashford Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Ashford Castle was founded by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family in 1228 and was their main stronghold in Ireland.
  2. Ashford Castle is the former home of the Guinness family.
  3. Actor Pierce Brosnan got married at Ashford Castle.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Ashford Castle is situated on a 350 acre estate with plenty of activities for guests to partake in.
  2. You can cruise Lough Corrib and visit Inchagoill Island which is home to ruins that date back to the 5th century and the time of St. Patrick.
  3. You can avail of 5 star hotel treatment and experience how the rich and famous live. It will cost you a mininum of 600 EUR for the privilege though.
Tips for visiting: If you don't want (or can't afford) to spend the night at Ashford Castle, you can still pay a small 5 EUR fee and access the lush grounds. You could also consider staying at the Ashford Castle Lodge. Ashford Castle is most easily accessible by car as part of a broader Galway to Connemara road trip.

15. Kilkea Castle

Best Castle Hotels in Ireland: Kilkea Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. The original castle was built in the late 12th century for Sir Walter de Riddlesford. 
  2. Kilkea Castle was occupied by many colorful characters in the FitzGerald family over the years including Silken Thomas who denounced King Henry VIII and led an early rebellion against the English in Ireland. 
  3. Legend has it that The Wizard Earl disappeared after demonstrating some of his magic for his wife Mabel. It is said that Gerald the Wizard Earl will return to Kilkea Castle on the 7th day of the 7th month of every 7th year riding a white steed with silver shoes. 

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Room prices are reasonable and start from about 150 EUR in the off-season.
  2. Kilkea is a great home base from which to explore South Kildare by car.
  3. The Kilkea Castle grounds and gardens make for a relaxing stay.
Tips for visiting: Kilkea Castle is easiest to get to by car. It's not worth visiting unless you plan to stay overnight.

16. Dromoland Castle

Best Castle Hotels in Ireland: Dromoland Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Dromoland has been a defensive stronghold since the early 11th century.
  2. Donough O'Brien, son of Brian Boru (High King of Ireland) controlled Dromoland at that time.
  3. The O'Brien's lived and ruled from Dromoland Castle for 900 years.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Dromoland Castle features a prominent golf course and some beautiful walking trails.
  2. You'll find atmospheric Medieval suits of armor inside.
  3. Dromoland Castle is easily accessible from Limerick City.
Tips for visiting: Dromoland Castle is easiest to reach by car and is located about 30 minutes from Limerick just over the border in County Clare.

17. Clontarf Castle

Best Castle Hotels in Dublin: Clontarf Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. There has been a castle in Clontarf since 1172. 
  2. The current castle hotel dates back to 1837 and is one of the most unique places to stay close to Dublin City Centre.
  3. The grounds of Clontarf Castle were confiscated from George King in the 17th century after he took part in the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Clontarf Castle is a great place to have an atmospheric pint.
  2. The tower is decked out with period decorations.
  3. Check out nearby St. Anne's Park after your visit to the Castle.
Tips for visiting: Take the local DART train to Clontarf from Dublin City.

Best Ruined Castles in Ireland

There is something so atmospheric about visiting castle ruins. Wondering where to find the best castle ruins in Ireland? Read on for my top picks based on my personal experience visiting these places.

18. Maynooth Castle

Ruined Castles in Ireland: Maynooth Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Maynooth Castle was founded in the early 13th century and became the locus of power for the earls of Kildare. 
  2. The original keep, built around 1200 was one of the largest in Ireland at the time. 
  3. Ireland was governed from Maynooth Castle by Garret Mór in the name of the king for a period of about 30 years in the 15th-16th century.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Maynooth is a fantastic university town. See Maynooth Castle and then explore the campus and soak in the academic atmosphere.
  2. Maynooth Castle is situated in the middle of town and offers dramatic photo opportunities.
  3. Find a cozy spot under a tree to read or have a small picnic.
Tips for visiting: Maynooth is one of the best places to visit in Ireland by train. Hop on an Irish Rail commuter service from Connolly station and arrive in Maynooth in about 45 minutes. Maynooth Castle is free to visit.

19. Carlingford Castle

Best Castles in Ireland: Carlingford Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Carlingford Castle is also known as King John Castle. As you can tell from reading this post, King John had a lot of castles named after him in Ireland!
  2. The Magna Carta was agreed in 1215 at Carlingford.
  3. Carlingford Castle was fired on by the Jacobites in 1689 and used as a Williamite Hospital before the Battle of the Boyne.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Carlingford Lough is one of the most idyllic places in Ireland
  2. You can nip over to Northern Ireland on the ferry and visit the land that inspired C.S. Lewis to imagine Narnia.
  3. Carlingford is one of the most quaint and colorful Villages in Ireland.
Tips for visiting: Rent a Tesla with UFO Drive in Dublin and drive up to Carlingford for a weekend. You can charge the car at Ghan House, a lovely boutique hotel.

20. Castle Donovan

The Ruins of Castle Donovan in West Cork

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Castle Donovan was believed to have been built by Donal of the Hides starting in 1560.
  2. The tower was damaged by Oliver Cromwell's soldiers in the 1640s.
  3. Castle Donovan is now an abandoned castle and has been uninhabited since it was blown up in the 17th century.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Castle Donovan is incredibly Instagrammable.
  2. Castle Donovan is a good stopping off point on the way to Macroom.
  3. Experience what it's like to drive on the extremely narrow roads of rural West Cork.
Tips for visiting: Castle Donovan is a good spot to stop and stretch your legs on a West Cork road trip between Bantry and Macroom.

21. Ballinskelligs Castle

Ballinskelligs Castle on the Ring of Kerry

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Ballinskelligs Castle was built in the 16th century by the MacCarthy Mórs.
  2. The castle was believed to have been built to protect Ballinskelligs Bay from pirates.
  3. The narrow promontory on which Ballinskelligs Castle is perched is subject to heavy erosion.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Ballinskelligs Castle is located near Waterville on the iconic Ring of Kerry.
  2. You can combine your visit to the ruins with a sunrise walk on the beach.
  3. Explore Ballinskelligs Abbey in addition to the castle (it's just up the beach).
Tips for visiting: Take a detour to Ballinskelligs Castle on a road trip around the Ring of Kerry. You'll need a car to get here.

22. The Black Castle

The Black Castle ruins near Wicklow Town

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Henry II granted lands on the east coast of Ireland to Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke in the mid-12th century.
  2. de Clare in turn granted the land to Baron Maurice FitzGerald on the condition that he build a series of castles along the coast.
  3. The Black Castle was under constant attack from local Irish Chieftains.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. You could easily add The Black Castle to a Dublin day trip itinerary.
  2. The ruins of Black Castle are within walking distance of Wicklow Town.
  3. Black Castle is incredibly picturesque with a stunning backdrop of the sea.
Tips for visiting: Drive down to Wicklow Town and Black Castle from Dublin for a fun day out. Don't have a car? You could consider hiring a GoCar for the day.

23. Castle Roche

Best Ruined Castles in Ireland: Castle Roche

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Castle Roche was believed to have been built in the 13th century by Lady Rohesia de Verdun.
  2. Supposedly Widow de Verdun promised her hand in marriage to the architect who would build a castle for her at Roche.
  3. When the architect went to claim her hand, she had him thrown from what has since become known as the murder window.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Castle Roche is incredibly picturesque and rises above nearby farms.
  2. You'll likely have the ruins of Castle Roche all to yourself. It really is a hidden gem.
  3. Castle Roche is just an hour from Dublin by car.
Tips for visiting: Bring your nerves of steel. The roads leading to Castle Roche are very narrow. There is no dedicated parking. Leave your car at the side of the road and enjoy a brief hike around the grounds. It's free.

Castles in Northern Ireland

Now we'll head north and check out a couple of castles in Northern Ireland to finish our round-up.

24. Belfast Castle

Best Castles in Northern Ireland: Belfast Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. The first Belfast Castle was built by the Normans in the 12th Century.
  2. A second castle, made partially out of wood was constructed in 1611. It burned down nearly 100 years later.
  3. Today, Belfast Castle is a popular venue for weddings and events.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Belfast Castle has a lovely garden with a cat motif.
  2. You'll find a cafe onsite for coffee and a snack. 
  3. Enjoy sweeping views over Belfast City.
Tips for visiting: Drive to Belfast Castle or take the bus for 20 minutes to Strathmore Park and then walk the rest of the way (about 15 minutes). The castle grounds are free and open to the public. Belfast Castle is one of my top picks for things to do in Belfast.

25. Dunluce Castle

Best Castles in Northern Ireland: Dunluce Castle

3 Castle Fast Facts

  1. Dunluce Castle was built in the 15th century.
  2. The castle kitchen fell into the sea on a stormy night in 1639.
  3. Dunluce Castle is rumored to be haunted by a banshee.

3 Reasons to Visit 

  1. Dunluce Castle is one of the most breathtaking castles on the island of Ireland.
  2. The castle ruins are easy to combine with a visit to Derry and the Antrim Coast.
  3. You can take the opportunity to hike along the dramatic cliffs.
Tips for visiting: A visit to Dunluce Castle costs 6.00 GBP at the time of writing.

Summing Up The Best Castles in Ireland

As you can see, Ireland has a rich castle tradition. Make sure to include at least one castle on your Ireland itinerary. 

Take the time to steep in a long history filled with colorful characters, violence, and intrigue. You won't regret it. You can read more about the castles covered in this post on the Heritage Ireland website.

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A Local' Guide to Castles in Ireland A Local's Guide to Ireland Castle Ruins

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: A Local's Guide to 25 of the Best Castles in Ireland
A Local's Guide to 25 of the Best Castles in Ireland
Discover the best castles in Ireland. Explore the best castles near Dublin, best castle hotels, and best ruined castles to explore in Ireland.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog