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Ashford Castle, Ireland

There are over 30,000 incredible castles in Ireland scattered across remote moorland, vibrant city centres and coastal havens.

We’ve whittled it down to our top 10 Irish castles that we think you need to visit; from fine feats of architecture to striking cliffside ruins, these Irish Castles are sure to capture the imagination.

Continue reading to discover the 10 best castles in Ireland that you must visit… 

Castles in Northern Ireland

Castles in Northern Ireland can be found sprinkled across rich landscapes and have a wealth of ancient tales dating back 2,000 years. From the striking coast of County Antrim to the countryside setting of County Fermanagh, there are over 40 castles in Northern Ireland to uncover.

1. Dunluce Castle, County Antrim

Dunluce Castle

Explore the dramatic coastal castle of Dunluce during your adventure along the Northern Irish coastline.

The ancient ruins of Dunluce Castle hold a tumultuous history – dating back to 1533 – with indications of settlement from the very first millennium. This Irish castle stands on tall coastal cliffs in a rugged corner of County Antrim, with sensational views of the surrounding seascapes.

Stop and take in the scenery at the Magheracross Viewing Point as you tuck into a homemade picnic. Alternatively, choose to uncover your inner archaeologist as you dig deep around the abandoned town of Dunluce.

2. Belfast Castle, County Antrim

Belfast Castle

Whilst you are in County Antrim, venture over to the iconic grounds of Belfast Castle.

This Irish castle was constructed by the Normans in the latter part of the 12th century, and re-opened to the public in 1988 after an impressive refurbishment, keeping facets of celebrated character throughout.

Meander around a wealth of pretty grounds, encompassed by unmatched views of the bustling city centre and sandstone building work.

3. Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim

Carrickfergus Castle

Our next castle in Ireland is another exceptional Norman design, nestled on the northern shore of Belfast Lough. This historic building is a striking feature along the sparkling coastline of County Antrim.

Enjoy a fascinating castle tour, held between Tuesdays and Sundays; offering an opportunity to admire the display of cannons dating back to the 17th century and preserved medieval structures. Afterwards, breathe in the fresh sea air as you roam around this Game of Thrones-style wonder.

Make sure to get a glimpse of the impressive 360-degree views from the top of the Great Tower. Alternatively, try out one of the awe-inspiring hiking trails around County Antrim to savour even more breath-taking scenery.

4. Enniskillen Castle, County Fermanagh

Enniskillen Castle

Immerse yourself in culture throughout the charming setting of Enniskillen Castle, found at the heart of County Fermanagh.

Gaelic Maguires built this regal Irish castle around 600 years ago, offering noteworthy history and gentle walks around the nearby River Erne.

The grounds feature two museums including the Fermanagh County Museum and The Inniskillings Museum, as well as time-honoured Military Barracks, ideal for history buffs.

Castles in West Ireland

If you are looking for evidence of daily life before the Norman invasion, West Ireland is the place to go. With dramatic battle scars and ancient construction, keep reading to discover more striking Irish castles.

5. Ashford Castle, County Mayo

Ashford Castle

This Irish castle boasts all the themes of grandeur and elegance from a fairy-tale story. Ashford Castle is the spot for a true royal adventure, founded by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family in 1228.

Unearth captivating magic throughout 350 acres of wild woodland, an 18-hole golf course and lakeside views before trying out horse riding, falconry, zip-lining, and clay pigeon shooting.

The castle hotel is Ireland’s first and only Forbes Five Star Hotel, offering luxurious hospitality, which was once home to the Guinness family and has hosted King George V and President Ronald Regan.

6. Bunratty Castle, County Clare

Bunratty Castle

Next on our list of the best castles in Ireland is Bunratty Castle, a 15th-century tower house in the heart of County Clare.

The castle lies on a Viking trading campsite dating back to 970, going on to house four castle structures throughout history.

Today, this authentic Irish castle boasts a popular folk park set over 26-acres of gentle country landscapes. Here, you can experience 19th-century life in the quirky Village Street before heading to the enchanting Fairy Trail. Or visit native Irish animals in the petting farm, home to indigenous breeds, and the Irish Red Deer family.

Castles in East Ireland

Head over to East Ireland, where you will find a plethora of historic landscapes and tales of religion, romance and wars. Discover some of the best castles in Ireland’s east region that are well worth a visit below.

7. Slane Castle, County Meath

Slane Castle

Encompassed by an impressive 1500-acre estate in the attractive Boyne Valley is the imposing Slane Castle. With over 300 years of ancient tales, this beautiful Irish castle rests a few miles upstream from the renowned Battle of the Boyne site.

Enjoy peace around the sweeping grounds overlooking the River Boyne. From here, venture towards quaint parkland for gentle walks in this tranquil setting.

This delightful Irish castle is bookable for wedding parties, gala functions, summer concerts and corporate events.

8. Dublin Castle, County Dublin

Dublin Castle

Recognised as a predominant building in Irish history is the quirky Dublin Castle. Dating back to 1204, this former medieval fortress was the seat of the English up until 1922 following Ireland’s independence.

The colourful Irish castle grounds cover 11-acres of space where visitors can explore the gothic Chapel Royal, Chester Beatty Library, Dubhlinn Gardens, and the unique Revenue Museum. There are also family-friendly guided tours of the Medieval Undercroft and State Apartments.

Be sure to explore this incredible Irish castle before heading into the city centre to sample some traditional Irish cuisine.

Castles in Southern Ireland

Ireland’s southern region is steeped in history and home to some of the best castles in Ireland. From the charming landscapes of County Kilkenny to the majestic marvel of County Cork, our final castles in Ireland will evoke a sense of a time gone by.

9. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle is an impressive structure dating back to the 12th-century. Enveloped by 21-acres of countryside and parkland, this regal building was once the principal seat of the Butlers, marquesses, dukes and earls of Ormond for nearly 600 years.

The Castle Park and Gardens are beautifully presented, offering plenty of space for tourists to explore. Visit the Castle’s Victorian Kitchen, the Rose Garden, children’s playground and access to the Nore River.

If you enjoy exploring these large grounds, why not peek at our Ireland walking guide for even more outdoor adventures.

10. Blarney Castle, County Cork

Blarney Castle

Completing our guide to the best castles in Ireland is the magical Blarney Castle, a world-class landmark immersed in myth and folklore.

The castle was built around 600 years ago and is known for the iconic Blarney Stone. Legend has it that if you kiss the stone, you will be blessed with eloquence and flattery.

The grounds are perfect for jam-packed days out. Take your time admiring the tranquil setting; featuring diverse gardens, the Rock Close landscape, Badger’s Cave, an ancient dungeon, and so many more hotspots that are mystical.

Map of Northern Ireland and Ireland’s Castles

Plan your visit to one of our top 10 Irish castles and get more information about each one by using our interactive map below:

Uncover more Irish gems with our Ireland Travel Guide, where you’ll discover inspiration across breath-taking scenery. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Irish history during your next Irish getaway, take a peek at these Ireland holiday cottages.

Image Credits: Matt McGee(CC BY-ND 2.0); William Murphy(CC BY-SA 2.0); Ryanhuntmuzik(CC BY-SA 4.0)

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