With more than 30,000 castles, you won’t go far without spotting a castle in Ireland. The country’s lush green landscapes are peppered with stunning castles from many different historical periods, ranging from fairytale turrets and ornate gardens to striking fortresses and stately homes. Not sure where to begin? Read our Ireland castles guide to discover some of the most beautiful castles in Ireland to visit on your next trip.
Originally built in 1228, Ashford Castle is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Ireland… And you can spend the night here! When you travel Ireland with Trafalgar, we’ll take you on a cruise on the gorgeous Lough Corrib with a Local Specialist, before arriving at the drawbridge to Ashford Castle, one of our best Stays With Stories. You’ll walk in the footsteps of princes, earls, the dynastic Guinness family, and stars like Brad Pitt and Pierce Brosnan as you explore the castle and grounds. You’ll even get to dine like lords and ladies at a lavish dining experience in the evening.
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Blarney Castle is an icon of Ireland and it’s always one of our favourite stops on our Ireland trips. Dating back to 1446, this beautiful castle is famed for its legendary Blarney Stone. It’s said that whoever kisses the stone will be blessed with the gift of the gab, or the gift of eloquence. But it’s not as simple as kissing the stone. You’ve got to climb the ten stories to the top, then lean backwards from the parapet walk and kiss the stone upside down for the legend to come true. Once you’ve smooched the stone, be sure to explore the gorgeous 60-acre garden around the castle.
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Built on the site of a 970 AD Viking trading camp and surrounded by the idyllic Folk Park, Bunratty Castle is as beautiful as it is historic. When you visit Bunratty Castle with Trafalgar, you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in centuries of history in a picture-perfect setting. Explore the authentically restored farmhouses and village streets within the castle walls and enjoy a banquet and medieval entertainment in the great hall of the castle. You’ll even see the court jester along with the musicians of the medieval court for an unforgettable evening.
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Towering over the Nore River, this Anglo-Norman castle is one of the most famous in Ireland. Completed in 1213 by the First Earl of Pembroke, Kilkenny Castle has since been restored and opened to the public. When you visit this incredible castle with Trafalgar, you’ll have the chance to explore the castle, the gorgeous ornamental gardens, and the prestigious Butler Gallery, showcasing the works of Ireland’s best artists.
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This magnificent castle was built along the River Eske in 1474 by the O’Donnell clan, one of the most influential Gaelic families in Ireland. After it was nearly destroyed during the Nine Years’ War, English Captain Sir Basil Brooke rebuilt the castle in a Jacobean style. You’ll have the chance to stroll along the 17th-century boundary wall and admire Donegal Castle when we visit the town of Donegal on our Ireland trips.
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Set among the soul-stirring mountains and loughs of Connemara, Kylemore Castle is absolutely stunning. This 40,000 square foot castle was originally built in 1867 for English Parliament member Mitchell Henry and his family. It contains over 70 rooms, the family mausoleum, a Gothic cathedral, the largest walled garden in Ireland, and Kylemore Abbey, the beautiful Benedectine monastery. We’ll explore all of the treasures of Kylemore Castle on our Ireland trips… And don’t forget to visit the abbey’s craft shop for unique souvenirs like award-winning handmade pottery and chocolate.
King John’s Castle
This formidable castle is one of the best-preserved castles from the Norman period in Europe. Constructed on the orders of the notorious King John in 1200, it was built over a Viking settlement dating back to the 10th century. The castle has since been beautifully restored and you’ll enjoy a fascinating tour of the castle and grounds on our Ireland trips.
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Looking for the best views of Belfast? You’ve got to head to Belfast Castle. Finished in 1870 and built in the Scottish Baronial style, the only thing better than the views is the castle itself. It was reopened in 1988 after a 10-year renovation and you’ll love exploring the stunning grounds and interior of Belfast Castle.
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Dublin is also home to some spectacular castles and you can’t miss Dublin Castle. It was originally built as a defensive fortification in 1204 and was the base of British rule in Ireland until 1922. The castle is now home to conference centres, gardens, cafes and museums. You can take a guided tour to see the medieval Viking excavation site, the former State Apartments, and the Chapel Royal built in a stunning Gothic style.
With its magnificent turrets and leafy gardens, Birr Castle looks like something out of a storybook. It’s home to Brendan Parsons, the 7th Earl of Rosse, and while the residential areas aren’t always open to the public, the stunning grounds are well worth a visit. You’ll see the oldest wrought-iron bridge in Ireland, the “Great Telescope” (once the world’s largest telescope), and what is thought to be the oldest photography darkroom in the world. Dive into the award-winning gardens and you’ll find rare flowers, trees, wildlife and the world’s tallest box hedges. If that’s not enough, you can even get a look inside this 11th-century castle with guided tours, where you’ll see tapestries, furniture and other treasures.
Once a tower house built between the 15th and 16th centuries, the Gothic Revival Dromoland Castle is now a five-star hotel with a golf course and Michelin-star restaurant. You’ll walk among ancient history and modern star power here, as the likes of Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all visited the castle. You’re sure to get plenty of stunning snaps of this castle surrounded by gorgeous garden landscapes.
Another 16th-century tower house, Dunguaire Castle has become one of Ireland’s most photographed castles. The O’Hynes clan built the castle in 1520 on Galway Bay and you’ll marvel at its 23-metre tower and defensive walls. After its restoration in the 20th century by Oliver St. John Gogarty, the castle became a meeting place for literary greats like William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. Today the castle is open to the public and you can even enjoy banquets and entertainment during summer.
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The Rock of Cashel
This massive castle complex has got to be one of the most beautiful castles in Ireland. Set in the lush Golden Vale of County Tipperary, it’s home to some extraordinary ancient treasures and architecture. You’ll find an impressive collection of Celtic art and a 27-metre round tower dating back to 1100. There’s also the 12-century Cormac’s Chapel where you’ll marvel at the best-preserved Irish frescoes from the period.
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What are your favourite castles in Ireland? Let us know in the comments below!