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The 20 Most Spectacular Castles in Ireland

14 min read
The 20 Most Spectacular Castles in Ireland

Ireland, a land rich in myth and legends, boasts a remarkable collection of castles that transport visitors back in time. 

Steeped in history, these majestic structures stand as testaments to a bygone era, each with its own unique tale to tell. 

From Kilkenny Castle, with its majestic turrets and sprawling gardens, to the captivating Blarney Castle, where kissing the famous stone is said to grant eloquence, the Irish castles offer a captivating glimpse into the past. 

In the heart of Dublin, the iconic Dublin Castle holds secrets within its ancient walls, once serving as a royal residence and now a hub of cultural events. 

Venturing further, the rugged beauty of Donegal Castle reveals a peek at medieval Ireland, with its towering keep and striking architecture. 

Here’s a guide to the 20 most beautiful castles in Ireland that’ll provide you with a taste of history. Read on to learn more!

Fun Facts About Castles in Ireland

The Rock of Cashel, Ireland, UK.
  • With a history that is steeped in betrayal and murder, Leap Castle is often regarded as the “world’s most haunted castle”
  • Several Irish castles were damaged or destroyed during the Irish Revolutionary period from 1919 to 1923.
  • Dunluce Castle is believed to have inspired C.S Lewis’s children’s fantasy, Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Legend has it that if a person stands at the front gate of the Dunguaire Castle and asks a question, it’ll be answered by the end of the day.
  • It’s estimated that there are around 30,000 castles in Ireland.
  • Most Irish castles were constructed under the Norman occupation.
  • Built in the early 19th century, Adare Manor is Ireland’s youngest castle.

The 20 Best Castles in Ireland

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle, in Ireland, UK.

Built in 1195 for the powerful Butler family to control a fording point of the River Nore, the legendary Kilkenny Castle is one of the best places to visit in Ireland.

This magnificent fortress is home to lavish rooms, including a library, a drawing room, the Victorian Nursery, and the 19th-century Picture Gallery, home to the Butler family’s art collection.

Kilkenny Castle is beautifully surrounded by 50 acres of rolling parkland dotted with mature trees, a rose garden, and an abundance of wildlife. 

The castle is located in the town of Kilkenny, aka the “Medieval Capital of Ireland.” After touring the fortress, take some time to explore the city’s beautiful cobbled streets on foot.

Address: The Parade, Collegepark, Kilkenny, R95 YRK1, Ireland

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Ross Castle

Ross Castle, Ireland, UK.

Ross Castle is located on the edge of Lough Leane, amidst the serene beauty of Killarney National Park.

This stunning fortress was built in the 15th century by the Irish chieftain O’Donoghue Mór, who is said to still inhabit the waters of the lake.

Visitors can explore the castle’s well-preserved interiors, complete with authentic furnishings and atmospheric chambers.

A guided tour will provide you with fascinating insights into the castle’s storied past, including tales of battles, legends, and the infamous ghostly apparitions.

The castle’s location, surrounded by green rolling hills, provides a picturesque setting for a nature walk.

Address: Ross Rd, Ross Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry, V93 V304, Ireland

Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle, Ireland, UK.

Situated just a stone’s throw away from Dublin, Malahide Castle is a remarkable fortress dating back to the 12th century.

It was initially constructed by the Talbot family, an important diplomatic family that sought to establish a stronghold in the area. 

Over the years, the castle has evolved, blending various architectural styles and additions to create a visually stunning structure. 

You can explore the castle’s well-preserved interiors, which showcase an impressive collection of period furniture, intricate oak paneling, vintage Victorian toys, and a superb artwork collection.

The idyllic gardens that surround the garden are home to 5,000 plant varieties, making it the perfect place for a picnic.

Address: Back Rd, Broomfield, Dublin, Ireland

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle, in Ireland, UK.

Blarney Castle is a fascinating place steeped in legend and mystique. Located in the countryside of County Cork, this medieval castle was built over 6 centuries ago by Cormac MacCarthy to protect the area against invaders. 

The castle’s most popular highlight is the famous Blarney Stone. Legend says that those who kiss this block of Carboniferous limestone will be bestowed the gift of eloquence.

Blarney Castle’s lush gardens, spanning over 60 acres, are also a must-see. They’re filled with natural rock formations, and several poisonous plants such as wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin, and opium.

Address: Monacnapa, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle, Ireland, UK.

Located in the heart of Dublin, Dublin Castle encapsulates centuries of Irish heritage. 

The fortress was built in the 13th century by King John of England on the site of a Viking settlement to represent English power and assert control over the Irish capital 

Visitors to the Dublin Castle can see the fortress’ commanding Medieval Tower, one of the oldest parts of Dublin to survive today. 

It’s also possible to tour the castle’s majestic state apartments, adorned with lavish decorations and ornate furnishing.

Address: Dame St, Dublin 2, Ireland

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle, Ireland, UK.

Bunratty Castle stands in a history-filled area that served as a Viking trading camp in 970. 

The present structure was originally built by the powerful MacNamara family around 1425 but by 1475 it had become the stronghold of the O’Briens, the largest clan in North Munster.

Today, visitors can step back in time as they explore the castle’s restored interiors, which furniture, tapestries, and works of art dating to around the 1600s.

One of the highlights of a visit to Bunratty Castle is the chance to see the Bunratty Folk Park. 

Located adjacent to the castle grounds, this open-air museum is set on 26 acres of unspoiled countryside and boasts over 30 buildings that recreate a 19th-century Irish village.

Address: Bunratty West, Bunratty, Co. Clare, Ireland

King John’s Castle

King John's Castle, Ireland, UK.

King John’s Castle is a commanding fortress perched on the banks of the River Shannon, on King’s Island in Limerick.

It was built in the 13th century by King John, the infamous King of England, to protect the city from the Gaelic invasions to the west and from any rebellion by Norman lords to the east and south.

The fortress is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Europe, and while visiting it, you’ll see the battlements, towers, and courtyards that stood the test of time.

Some of the castle’s highlights include the stunning Great Hall, where royal banquets were held, and the towers that offer panoramic views of Limerick’s skyline.

Address: Nicholas St, Limerick, Ireland

Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle, in Ireland, UK.

Tucked away in the picturesque countryside of County Mayo, Ashford Castle stands as a luxurious retreat with a rich history that dates back to the 13th century.

The castle stands on a spectacular 350-acre estate and was originally built as a defensive stronghold for the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family.

It has since been transformed into a stunning five-star hotel that effortlessly hosted countless notables over the years, including The Prince of Wales (who later became King George V) and President Ronald Reagan.

Visitors to Ashford Castle can explore the estate’s opulent interiors, adorned with elegant furnishings, intricate tapestries, and ornate chandeliers.

The castle’s grandeur is further enhanced by its breathtaking surroundings, with manicured gardens, serene woodlands, and the shimmering Lough Corrib stretching as far as the eye can see.

Address: Ashford Castle Dr, Leaf Island, Cong, Co. Mayo, Ireland

Trim Castle

Trim Castle, Ireland, UK.

Built by Hugh de Lacy and his successors in the course of 30 years, the beautiful Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland.

Located on the south bank of the River Boyne, the castle has an area of 30,000 m2 and encompasses a monumental three-story keep.

There are walkways that allow visitors to look down over the interior of the 20-sided keep and witness the size and thickness of the mighty castle walls.

Film enthusiasts may recognize Trim Castle from its appearance in the movie “Braveheart,” adding an extra touch of intrigue and cinematic charm to the site.

Address: Trim, Co. Meath, Ireland

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Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle, Ireland, UK.

Cahir Castle is one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles. Nestled on a rocky island on the River Suir, the castle was built in the 13th century by the powerful Butler family as a strategic fortification.

Today, visitors can step into the past as they explore its formidable stone walls, defensive towers, and majestic courtyards. 

The castle’s interiors are beautifully preserved, offering a glimpse into medieval life through the display of period furniture, intricate tapestries, and ornate fireplaces. 

One of the highlights of a visit to Cahir Castle is the opportunity to climb to the top of its tower.

Panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the picturesque River Suir will unfold before your eyes, and leave you in awe.

Address: Castle St, Townparks, Cahir, Co. Tipperary, E21 P652, Ireland

Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle, Ireland, UK.
Photo Credit: Rob Crandall/Shutterstock

Donegal Castle was built by Red Hugh O’Donnell his personal fortress in the 15th century.

Rising over the River Eske, in the heart of Donegal Town, the castle served as the of the O’Donnell clan during the Gaelic chieftain era.

The fortress fell into ruin in the 20th century but was restored to its former glory in the 1990s.

Stepping inside, you’ll find yourself immersed in beautifully restored interiors showcasing intricate stone carvings, ornate fireplaces, and a magnificent banquet hall adorned with tapestries and artifacts.

Outside, the scenic grounds invite you to take a leisurely stroll along the riverbank and admire the castle’s picturesque setting.

Address: Saint Helenes, Castle St, Milltown, Donegal, Ireland

Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle, Ireland, UK.

Dromoland Castle is one of the most famous Baronial castles in Ireland. Nestled amidst the lush countryside of County Clare, it was the ancestral home of the O’Brien clan, descendants of the High Kings of Ireland.

Built in the 16th century, the castle was bought by United States citizen Bernard P. McDonough in 1962 and converted for use as a luxury hotel.

Visitors can take an historical walking tour of Dromoland with historian, Dr Jane O’Brien, which is a member of the castle’s ancestral O’Brien lineage.

As you explore the Dromoland Castle, you’ll be captivated by its ornate halls, magnificent drawing rooms, and cozy libraries filled with books and artifacts that reflect centuries of noble heritage.

The castle’s manicured gardens and pristine grounds provide a serene setting for leisurely walks or relaxing moments amidst nature’s beauty.

Address: Dromoland, Newmarket on Fergus, Co. Clare, V95 ATD3, Ireland

Birr Castle Demesne

Birr Castle, Ireland, UK.

Nestled in the charming town of Birr, was built by the Parsons family in the 17th century, and remains their ancestral home to this day.

As you step onto the castle’s grounds, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of enchantment.

You’ll see Birr’s award-winning gardens, home to the famous Great Telescope, once the largest in the world, as well as a collection of rare trees and flowers.

The castle itself offers glimpses into the lives of its inhabitants, with elegant interiors, ornate ceilings, and a stunning collection of artwork and antiques.

One of the highlights of a visit to Birr Castle is the opportunity to explore the Science Centre, which showcases the castle’s rich scientific legacy.

From astronomy to botany, visitors can delve into the innovative discoveries made by the Parsons family, who were pioneers in various fields of science.

Address: Townparks, Birr, Co. Offaly, Ireland

Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire Castle, Ireland, UK.

Dunguaire Castle is as a picturesque medieval stronghold that takes you back in time. Perched majestically on the shores of Galway Bay, in the charming village of Kinvara, this castle dates back to the 16th century.

Built by the Hynes clan, Dunguaire Castle served as a defensive fortress and a symbol of their power and authority.

In 1924 Dunguaire was bought and repaired by surgeon Oliver St. John Gogarty, a famous literary figure.

The castle then became the meeting point of several literary revivalists such as W.B. Yeats, his patron Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Martin, and J.M. Synge.

The castle’s imposing 75-foot tower and its defensive wall have been restored, and the grounds are open to tourists during the summer.

From April to October, Dunguaire Castle hosts its famous banquet. Visitors can enjoy a four-course dinner on the majestic shores of Galway Bay while taking in the essence of Ireland’s medieval heritage.

Address: Dunguaire Castle, Dungory West, Kinvarra, Co. Galway, Ireland

Leap Castle

Leap Castle, Ireland, UK.

Considered the world’s most haunted Castle, Leap Castle stands as a hauntingly beautiful testament to Ireland’s turbulent history and enduring legends.

The castle is tucked away in the mystical landscape of County Offaly, the castle, and is believed to have been built in the 15th century by the O’Bannon clan.

Leap Castle has witnessed gruesome events and brutal atrocities throughout the years and has been visited several by paranormal investigators.

The claims of paranormal activity include the existence of several ghosts such as the Red Lady and an “elemental spirit” associated with Mildred Darby.

One of the highlights of a visit to Leap Castle is the famous “Bloody Chapel,” which is said to be haunted by a priest’s spirit.

Address: R421, Leap, Roscrea, Co. Offaly, Ireland

Doe Castle

Doe Castle, Ireland, UK.

Located on the rugged coastline of County Donegal, Doe Castle stands as a timeless fortress with a rich history and breathtaking views.

The fortress was built in the 1420s, and for almost 200 years it served as home for several MacSweeney chiefs.

Today, visitors can explore the castle’s ruins and immerse themselves in the echoes of its past. You’ll see the carved and ornamented MacSweeney grave slab, dating from 1544, which is on display inside the tower house.

There are also panels onsite that chronicle the castle’s history in fascinating detail.

One of the castle’s highlights is undoubtedly its stunning location, providing panoramic vistas of the dramatic coastline and the wild beauty of the Atlantic Ocean.

Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle, Ireland, UK.

Lismore Castle is the Irish home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their family. Located in the town of Lismore, and dating back to the 12th century, the castle belonged to the Earls of Desmond, and subsequently to the Cavendish family from 1753. 

The castle is currently an exclusive-use residence, now available to rent, in its entirety only. Throughout the years, this beautiful property has welcomed guests from Fred Astaire and Lucian Freud to John F. Kennedy.

Visitors can explore the property’s idyllic gardens, which cover 10 acres and are one of the oldest in Ireland.

Address: Lismore Castle, Lismore, Co. Waterford, Ireland

Kylemore Castle

Kylemore Castle, Ireland, UK.

Nestled in the picturesque Connemara region the Kyllemore Castle was built in the late 19th century, as a private residence for Mitchell Henry and his wife, Margaret.

This lavish 40,000 ft2 castle took 100 men four years to complete and initially had more than 70 rooms and a 142 feet wide granite facade

Today, Kylemore Castle is home to a Benedictine community of nuns who established a school and have preserved the estate for over a century.

Visitors to Kylemore can explore the castle’s exterior and admire its neo-Gothic architecture, with its striking turrets and sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.

The castle features 33 bedrooms, 4 sitting rooms, and several other rooms. Visitors are allowed to only see 6 rooms – the Outer Hall, Inner Hall, Drawing Room, Community Room, Dining Room, and Rear Hall.

The highlights of a visit to Kylemore Castle include strolling through the enchanting gardens, dotted with vibrant flowers, serene lakeside paths, and a charming Gothic church.

Address: Kylemore Abbey, Pollacappul, Co. Galway, Ireland

Minard Castle

Minard Castle, Ireland, UK.

Tucked away along the rugged coastline of the Dingle Peninsula, Minard Castle is a picturesque ruined fortress that dates back to the 16th century.

Visitors can explore the castle’s ruins, which sit on a hill overlooking a tiny bay with views across the Irish Sea to the Iveragh Peninsula.

As you wander through its grounds, you’ll also discover traces of the castle’s surrounding defensive structures, adding to its historical allure.

Minard Castle encapsulates the rugged beauty and rich heritage of Ireland’s west coast. It offers visitors a chance to step back in time and immerse themselves in the dramatic landscapes that have shaped its history.

Address: Kilmurry, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Blackrock Castle

Blackrock Castle, Ireland, UK.

Built in the 16th century on the banks of the River Lee, Black­rock Cas­tle is the old­est sur­viv­ing struc­ture still in use in the city of Cork.

The castle was erected to Castle protected the city of Cork from potential invaders. Over the centuries, it has been renovated and repurposed, and today it stands as a unique space where science, technology, and heritage intersect.

Blackrock Castle is home to an observatory that houses an interactive astronomy center, open to the public,

The observatory has a state-of-the-art telescope, allowing visitors to gaze at the night sky and learn about celestial objects.

Another highlight of a visit to Blackrock Castle is the panoramic views of Cork City and the River Lee from the castle’s tower.

The breathtaking vistas offer a unique perspective of the surrounding area, capturing the essence of both the historic and contemporary aspects of Cork.


How many castles are there in Ireland?

It’s estimated that there are around 30,000 castles in Ireland

What is the most historic castle in Ireland called?

Blarney is one of the most famous and historic castles in Ireland, thanks to the myth surrounding the Blarney Stone.

What is Ireland’s oldest castle?

Castlegarde is the oldest continuously inhabited in Ireland built circa A.D. 1190 by the O’Briens.

What is the most preserved castle in Ireland?

Cahir Castle is one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles.

What is the name of the Irish castles?

The best castles in Ireland are:

  • Kilkenny Castle
  • Ross Castle
  • Malahide Castle
  • Blarney Castle
  • Dublin Castle
  • Bunratty Castle
  • King John’s Castle
  • Ashford Castle
  • Trim Castle
  • Cahir Castle
  • Donegal Castle
  • Dromoland Castle
  • Birr Castle Demesne
  • Dunguaire Castle
  • Leap Castle
  • Doe Castle
  • Lismore Castle
  • Kylemore Castle
  • Minard Castle
  • Blackrock Castle

What is the most visited castle in Ireland?

Blarney Castle is the most visited castle in Ireland.

What is the castle between Galway and Dublin?

Ashford Castle is the castle located between Galway and Dublin.

Which country has the most castles?

It is often said that Wales has the highest density of castles in the world per capita.

Why did Ireland have so many castles?

Ireland has a significant number of castles primarily due to its tumultuous and complex history, characterized by frequent invasions and political conflicts.

Does Ireland have more castles than Scotland?

Yes. Ireland has more than 30,000 castles and castle ruins known, whereas Scotland has just over 2,000.

Where is Ireland’s largest castle?

Located in Trim, County Meath, Tim Castle is the largest castle in Ireland. It measures 30 000 square meters.

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