The Best Castles in Ireland
With more than 30,000 of the best castles to visit in Ireland, it’s almost for visitors to see them all. At Ireland Private Travel we have put together a list of the greatest castles you can find on the island. Our list includes the former homes of aristocracy scattered throughout the country. Unfortunately, many of the castles were abandoned and now are only ruins. Some, however, have been restored to their former glory and are explored by visitors in huge numbers. Some castles even welcome overnight guests.
Irish history is as sprawling as its Atlantic coast with notorious events and turbulent times – from Vikings to the Norman Invasion. Evidence of the times gone by can be found throughout the country in the magnificent structures left behind. Castles in Ireland vary from Medieval to late 19th-century residences, and each is worth exploring.
1-The Rock of Cashel
High above the town of Cashel, this impressive castle towers over the green Tipperary pastures and is one of the main focal points in the surrounding scenery. The Rock of Cashel takes your breath away at first sight. The fortress used to be the seat of kings and churchmen who ruled over the region for more than 1000 years.
According to the legend, this is where Aenghus the King of Munster was converted to Christianity by St. Patrick in the 5th century. The oldest part of The Rock of Cashel is also the tallest – the round tower is 28 meters high and dates back to approximately 1100.
It rivalled Tara as a centre of power in Ireland for almost 400 years. Entered through the 15th-century Hall of the Vicars Choral, its impervious walls guard an awesome enclosure with a complete round tower, a 13th-century Gothic cathedral and the most magnificent 12th-century Romanesque chapel in Ireland.
One of the most visually beautiful buildings within the complex is the Cormac’s Chapel with its vaulted ceilings and wide arches. It is possible to walk through the castle and admire the beautiful medieval architecture that makes the Rock of Cashel one of the most visited sites in Ireland. Entry is free, but tickets must be reserved online.
Bunratty Castle is a well-preserved square tower in West Ireland in County Clare that rises high above the rest of the nearby settlements. Dating back as far as 1425, Bunratty Castle is one of the most authentic and complete medieval fortresses in Ireland. Now restored to its mostly original condition, it houses one of the most extensive collections of medieval furniture in Ireland. Visitors can check out the antiques from the 15th and 16th centuries and imagine what life would have been like when it was built by the powerful MacNamara family.
There is a wonderful Folk Park on the castle grounds. Explore a 19th-century living village including 30 buildings that imitate what life in Ireland was like in the 1800s. Family-friendly and well suited for children, who can wander through the farmhouses and village streets and buildings with a backdrop of Irish music. Inside the castle walls, a medieval banquet invites you to take part in an evening of food, dance, and music (it runs once a day).
3- Ashford Castle
For those who wish to spend the night in a castle, Ashford Castle should be high on the list of castles to visit. This Victorian castle been converted into one of Ireland’s leading luxury hotels. Ashford Castle in the North-West of Ireland and surrounded by beautiful landscape.
The castle dates back to the 1200s and the turbulent times in the area. Its fortified walls were expanded over the centuries as fierce battles were waged outside its walls. AAfter peace ensued, the castle eventually became a hunting lodge and was snapped up by the the Guinness family in 1852.
Nowadays the castle is a combination of medieval and Victorian architecture that can be seen behind layers of ivy. The hotel rooms and suites inside embrace the noble history of the castle, and offer a stay that is the definition of kingly.
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4- Kilkenny Castle
Easily one of the most beautiful castles in Ireland, Kilkenny castle lies only an hour’s drive from Dublin. Kilkenny Castle has a grand place in history, formerly a symbol of the Norman occupation, the building of the castle began at the very end of the 12th century. Few buildings in Ireland can boast a longer history of continuous occupation than Kilkenny Castle. The Castle was privately owned for hundreds of years until the mid-1960s, when it became the property of the city of Kilkenny.
It remains one of the finest examples of castle architecture in the country. You can walk the stairs below the Rose Garden Terrace to the castle’s medieval foundation, and see how the structure winds through the ground floor. Kilkenny Castle is open to visitors all year round and is largely a Victorian remodelling of the thirteenth century defensive Castle. Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to see this grand country house and walk through its fifty acres of rolling parkland with mature trees and an abundance of wildlife.
5- Dublin Castle, One of the Best Castles in Ireland located in the Capital.
One of the most significant symbols of power in Ireland is Dublin Castle. Built on a Viking settlement this 13th-century castle served as the government complex for the English occupation of Ireland. When Ireland gained independence in 1922, the castle was ceremoniously handed over to Michael Collins, the leader of the Irish Rebellion. It now serves as a tourist destination for visitors to the castle.
Discover extensive decorative arts in the form of formal portraits of rulers and royalty, and view the beautiful period furniture. Also make sure to check out the Chapel Royal, a Gothic Revival chapel, which has been at Dublin Castle since 1242.
As one of the largest castles in Ireland, Cahir Castle maintains much of its original structure and stonework. The castle was built on solid rock on the River Suir and appears to shoot up out of the water. Located in County Tipperary, the castle was built by the O’Brien family in the 13th century.
It is notable because of its preservation Cahir Castle is one of the few castles in the country with a working portcullis! If you want to see and experience authentic, original elements of a castle then the Cahir Castle should be on your list. In 1599 it was heavily damaged by cannon fire after a three-day siege. It was besieged again in the 17th century during Irish Confederate Wars. It provides the perfect chance to learn about the history of the surrounding town too.
There are guided tours that take about an hour and an audio-visual show that chronicles the castle’s long history.
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