Top 5 Castles in Ireland

Castles, castles, castles. The abundance of historic castles scattered throughout Ireland is arguably one of Ireland’s biggest draws—next to the country’s beautiful scenery and world-famous culture, of course. But how many castles are there in Ireland? According to reports, Ireland has over 30,000 ‘castles’, which includes restored and still functioning castles, fortified walls and ruins, as well as castles that are open to the public and those that are privately owned and turned into hotels.

Ranging from medieval period to late 19th-century residences, each castle tells its own unique story, and we have picked these 5 fascinating Irish castles for those looking to explore! All of these castles are situated in the Republic of Ireland, and some are within driving distance of Dublin. So, without further ado, here are some of the best castles in Ireland:

1. Blarney Castle

Old, but still standing castle with circular tower

Arguably Ireland’s most famous castle and built nearly 600 years ago, Blarney Castle continues to attract millions of tourists to this world landmark. Located 8 kilometres from Cork’s city centre, the castle’s biggest attraction is the Blarney Stone. The famous Blarney Stone invites visitors to kiss the limestone rock in the hopes that they’ll receive the ‘gift of the gab’, also known as the skill of flattery. So pucker those lips, prepare to hang upside down over the sharp drop and get ready to get intimate with the castle’s main attraction from 1446!

2. Dublin Castle

the beautiful round tower of Dublin Castle with a bed of dark red flowers in front

Located in Dublin’s city centre adjacent to City Hall, Dublin Castle is a must-see for those visiting Dublin. Built in the early 13th century, the castle was used as the headquarters for the English, then British, administration until 1922. Visitors can walk around the grounds free of charge, but if you wish to take a peek inside the more splendid areas, you’ll need to pay for a guided tour.

3. Malahide Castle

View of Malahide castle from the front, large stain-glass windows and old timey turrets

This beautiful 12th-century Irish castle lies close to the village of Malahide, 14 kilometres north of Dublin’s city centre. Along with amazing walls, the castle’s gardens also offer guests a magnificent medieval experience and a perfect day out from busy Dublin. With options for couples, the castle and its grounds are also very family-friendly. Collins Day Tours offers a half-day tour daily from Dublin’s city centre, perfect for those on a tight schedule!

4. Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny castle sitting prominently on the River Nore overlooking the city

 

One of the most visited castles in Ireland, Kilkenny Castle was once the home of a powerful Irish family for nearly 600 years. Now open to the public, visitors can enjoy the historic castle gardens and admire the stunning interior of this magnificent landmark. The castle was built in 1195 as a way to control the connecting waterways around the River Nore, as it had a spectacular vantage point for seeing incoming ships and protecting against potential threats.

Take a day tour from Dublin to Kilkenny and travel across the spectacular Wicklow mountain range to Glendalough. Glendalough means ‘valley of the two lakes’ in Irish and is also home to a 6th-century monastic settlement. Guests will also discover medieval Kilkenny and the famous castle on this tour and find out why it’s also dubbed one of Ireland’s most cosmopolitan cities.

5. Dunluce Castle

The grey ruins of Dunluce Castle perched cliffside

Sitting atop a basalt cliff edge in Bushmills, County Antrim, this now-ruined castle was once witness to a long and turbulent history. The earliest recorded mention of the castle was in 1513, but it has more recently lurched into fame because of its starred appearance in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. It was used in the programme as Castle Greyjoy and has certainly cemented its place in the list of Ireland’s must-see castles. Take a day tour from Dublin to visit this wonderful castle and experience many more wonderful things on the way!

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