10 Irish Castles
Posted by Neil Hand on the 20th of February 2015 at 09:05:11
One of the main attractions for tourists visiting Ireland in 2015 and for many decades prior are the wonderful array of castles. In all shapes and sizes, and found in every county on the island, almost 1,000 castles dot the countryside, in various states of repair. Some have been punished by the passage of time, and now stand as overgrown ruins in open fields. Others, however, have been upgraded, restyled, and have moved with the times. Whilst none remain in use for their original primary purpose of defence, many still serve as strong, powerful structures in which you can be pampered, fed, watered and sleep on feather-down beds.
This is a popular post from 2013 with some updated information which was very popular with visitors to our site back then. I hope you enjoy it:
Across the Irish landscape, grassy mounds and ancient ruins hold the secrets of Ireland’s past – stoic keepers of long lost secrets and stories. But alongside these neglected ruins – decimated by the ravages of wars and the cruelty of time, they are many wonderful castles that allow us a glimpse into the Ireland of yesteryear, whose histories and stories have been kept and remembered for another generation to enjoy and embrace.
Here are my favorite castles in Ireland – in no particular order or preference –places that I have been and which have struck a chord with me – some because of their sweeping romantic locations, others because of their intriguing history and some just because!
Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin – located in south county Dublin (and just 5 mins from my place!) dates to the 16th century. It has a long and colourful history –it was built to defend Dublin from attacks at the hands of the Irish clans who were based in the Wicklow Mountains. Today, the castle enjoys a more sedate life and the rejuvenation of the castle has been a labour of love and superbly done. Currently housing an exhibition of 18th and 19th clothing it well worth a visit.
Parke’s Castle, Leitrim – dating to the early 17th century, Parke’s Castle is located on the banks of Lough Gill and is an excellent example of a plantation era castle. It has been lovingly and carefully restored using the techniques of the 17th century so that the feel and look of the castle is very much of the 1600’s. The guides are enthusiastic and informative and really add to the whole experience. Finish off a visit to the castle with a boat-trip along Lough Gill.
Dunguaire Castle, Galway – On the shores of Galway Bay and was built in 1520 by the O’Hynes Clan. It offers a wonderful insight into how people lived and worked in the Ireland of the 16th century and with the option of a castle banquet complete with wine, food, music and storytelling – all with the back-drop of the wonderful Galway Bay, this is one memorable experience!
Tullynally Castle, Westmeath – while you cannot tour the house itself, as the family are still in residence - the gardens of this wonderful 17th century caste are certainly worth a visit! There are 30 acres of gardens and parkland containing Chinese and Tibetan gardens, 200 year old yews, walled gardens, a Kitchen Garden (with grapes and peaches), a Gingerbread House and an ornamental lake. Stunning!
Lough Rynn Castle, Leitrim - this 19th century castle is now a luxury hotel set in 350 acres of breath-taking scenery on the shores of Lough Rynn. It is a mix of old-world charm and style with all the comforts of today. For me the hotel strikes the perfect balance between old and new - and is warm, comfortable and utterly charming.
Cahir Castle, Tipperary – one of Ireland’s largest castles, it was built in 1142 by the powerful Butler family. Today, it has retained its tower, keep and most of its original defensive structure. Standing on an island on the River Suir, it has a beautiful setting and intriguing history. Afterwards, why not walk along the river bank and pay a visit to the historic Swiss Cottage, situated just a couple of miles away?
Cabra Castle, Cavan – a firm wedding venue favourite due to its beautiful architecture and furnishing, Cabra Castle is set amidst manicured parkland and gardens. This 19th century castle is just gorgeous! Stay a night here and embrace the romance!
Castle Leslie, Monaghan – standing on the site of an earlier structure (from the 1600’s) the present edifice dates from 1870 and was built in the Scottish Baronial style. It stands on an 1,000 acre estate with activities available on-site such as horse-riding and pike fishing. A striking castle in any season, this is a must see!
Dunluce Castle, Antrim – set along the stunning Antrim coast, Dunluce was once a an epic-center of power, prestige and influence in the area and while today it is little more than a ruin, once can still see glimpses of its epic past. Dating from the 13th century, it is surrounded by steep cliffs and accessed by a bridge from the mainland. Windswept and stunning, this is one castle that will call you back again and again.
Markree Castle, Sligo – another gorgeous hotel, it has remained in the Cooper family for nearly 4 centuries. Located in the heart of Sligo, the county that inspired Yeats, it enjoys a wonderful setting in gorgeous grounds with some lovely walks and gardens to explore. Secluded and beautiful, a stay here is like stepping back in time.
So whether you want to enjoy a luxurious, romantic stay or to wander around the ruins of a once great dynasty, I am sure you will find a castle amongst my favorites. Have a look at our Castle's of Ireland 8 Day Self Drive Tour, which features some more great Irish castle stays and visits and include some of my castles on your tour of Ireland! Contact us today!