Delve into history and relive the adventures of ancient Irish warriors in ages gone by. Check out the ten best castles in Ireland, ranked.
Castles have captured the imaginations of human beings for centuries. In books, in artwork and on screen we’ve seen stories unfold around these mysterious sites.
Due to its long history, Ireland has some of the most beautiful and well-maintained stone fortresses in the world. Wondering which one to visit first? Allow us to lend a hand with our list of the 10 best castles in Ireland, ranked.
10. Glenarm Castle – the Downton Abbey of Ireland
The Glens of Antrim are well known as a site of magnificent natural beauty, but nestled within them, lies a site of man-made beauty too.
The Glenarm Castle has been compared to the ‘Downton Abbey’ of television fame, and has been occupied as the family seat of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim for 400 years.
Address: 2 Castle Lane, Glenarm, Ballymena BT44 0BQ
9. Bunratty Castle – live the medieval life
Ever wondered what life would have been like in the 15th century? Take a step back in time at Bunratty castle. First open to the public in 1960, the building sits on a 970 AD ancient Viking trading camp.
Enjoy a historic tour and take part in a traditional medieval feast, where you’ll be served medieval dishes by people dressed in clothes from the bygone era.
Address: Bunratty West, Bunratty, Co. Clare, Ireland
8. Ashford Castle – for a luxurious nightcap
Have you dreamed of staying in an Irish Castle? Now you can! Ashford Castle is the ideal spot for a luxury getaway within historical walls.
This beautifully maintained five-star hotel was built way back in 1228 and has hosted some pretty high-profile names such as US President Ronald Reagan and John Lennon.
Address: Ashford Castle Estate, Cong, Co. Mayo, F31 CA48, Ireland
7. Malahide Castle – for the history buffs
Malahide Castle, just north of Dublin, is a magnificent example of a castle built in the 12th century. A tour of the stunning Oak Room and Gothic Great Hall, complete with a substantial collection of paintings, are sure to satisfy any history buff.
Afterwards, treat yourself to a relaxing walk around the castle’s substantial grounds or pop into the beautiful nearby Talbot Botanic Gardens.
Address: Malahide, Co. Dublin, Ireland
6. Trim Castle – for fans of Braveheart
Construction of the beautiful Trim Castle began in 1174, but today it holds the title of Ireland’s largest Cambro-Norman castle.
You might recognise the stunning site from the film Braveheart. Choose to explore the three-story keep on an excellent guided tour or wander the several surviving structures in the grounds.
Address: Castle St, Trim, Co. Meath, C15 HN90, Ireland
5. Carrickfergus Castle – the darker side of Irish history
If you can stomach a bit of the darker side of Irish history, Carrickfergus Castle remains one of best castles in Ireland to visit. The site is one of the best preserved remnants of Norman times still standing today, having been built by Norman Knight John De Courcy in 1177.
Additionally, it also has the notability of being the only Norman castle in Ireland that has been continually used since it’s coming into existence.
Address: Marine Hwy, Carrickfergus BT38 7BG
4. King John’s Castle – one of the best castles in Ireland
Now well known as a hot-spot for outdoor concerts and events, King John’s Castle in County Limerick is one of the best castles in Ireland to visit.
Containing a rich 800 years of history, this site provides stunning views of the River Shannon. Despite being badly damaged in the 1642 Siege of Limerick, it still remains worth the visit.
Address: Nicholas St, Limerick, Ireland
3. Dunluce Castle – for stunning sea-views and the best Instagram
Every year the Causeway Coastal Route is enjoyed by thousands of tourists. If you’re one of them, you just might come across the striking ruins of Dunluce Castle. Set on the edge of a dramatic cliff, this historic landmark dates back to the year 1500.
Due to its unusual setting, the castle can only be accessed by a bridge, but the views once you reach it are second to none.
Address: 87 Dunluce Rd, Bushmills BT57 8UY
2. Rock of Cashel – the site of ancient kings
Once the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years, the Rock of Cashel was built circa 1100.
The site houses a cathedral, a graveyard and a chapel, among other structures. It is steeped in Irish mythology and the legacy of Irish patron saint, St. Patrick.
Address: Moor, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
1. Blarney Castle – for the gift of the gab
If you grew up in Ireland, you’ll most likely have heard of the phrase “kiss the blarney stone”. The Blarney Stone is a block of Carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle.
According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). Consistently ranked as one of the best castles in Ireland, the site is absolutely not to be missed.
Address: Monacnapa, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland
We hope that this list will get you started in your exploration of the historical castles in Ireland, but why stop there? Ireland is fortunate enough to have thousands of years of rich history, just waiting to be discovered. Delve headfirst into it today.