History with a sprinkling of royalty and a generous helping of fantasy - this is what Ireland's castles give to you. These top 10 best, imposing, and charming castles (including the ones in ruins) contribute much to Ireland’s famous tourist attractions. Have fun, live the fantasy life, and have a tryst with royalty as you wander around these castles and enjoy the beautiful and lush landscape of Ireland. Here are some castles that absolutely cannot be missed.
10. Rathfarnham Castle
Initially built as a residence for Archbishop Adam Loftus, this Elizabethan era Castle was converted into a Georgian manor house in the 18th century. It was designed by the prominent architects of the age, Sir William Chambers and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart. Open to public visits from May to October, the castle is in a continual process of conservation.
9. King John’s Castle
King John’s Castle in Limerick is popular both for its interesting history and spectacular location. Dating back to the 10th century King John’s Castle is named after King John whose tyrannical rule led to the revolt and consequent signing of Magna Carta. It is believed that the castle was constructed over a pre-existing Viking settlement on King’s Island, a central area of Limerick. Today it is one among the best-preserved castles of the Norman period in Europe.
8. Kilkenny Castle
Created primarily to fortify and to consolidate Norman power in Ireland, the Kilkenny Castle is an imposing structure built in 1195 by the First Earl of Pembroke. Now owned by the Irish government, the castle underwent substantial restoration in the 20th century. Kilkenny Castle currently houses the esteemed Butler Gallery where an extraordinary collection of art by Ireland’s renowned artists like Louis le Brocquy and Jack Butler Yeats is showcased.
7. Malahide Castle
Set in the suburbs of Dublin, Malahide Castle is a 12th-century castle built by the Talbot family. The family which arrived from England as a consequence of the Norman Conquest paid particular attention to the Castle gardens which they landscaped over 22 acres. Even after Malahide Castle was sold in 1975 to the Irish state, these ornate gardens with over 5000 different varieties and species of plants, continue to stay the major attraction.
6. Cabra Castle
Inspired by Norman architecture, Cabra Castle is a 19th-century castle. Today it has been modernized into a luxury hotel. The scenic location of the castle in the rustic county of Cavan attracts tourists as much as the castle. Offering the benefits of both plush and natural surroundings, the castle and its grounds are coveted for many public functions including weddings.
5. Dublin Castle
Centrally located in Dublin, Dublin Castle was under the British rule till 1922. The castle houses two cafes, two museums, two gardens and an international conference center. A guided tour of the castle interiors is recommended after you are done with scouring the castle grounds.
4. Dunguaire Castle
Set in the quaint port of Kinvara on the southeast shore of Galway Bay, Dunguaire Castle is a 16th-century tower house. It was built by the O’Hynes clan and restored later in the 20th century by the eminent literary activist St. John Gogarty. It acted as the venue of meetings of literary personalities like George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats. Today the castle is under the ownership of the Ireland Government and is open for visitors through the year. In summers there is the added attraction of extravagant banquets and local entertainment.
3. Ashford Castle
Built first in 1228, Ashford Castle was expanded in the 19th century by the Guinness family. It was then sold in 1939 to the Irish state and today it has been converted into an opulent five-star hotel. This star hotel has housed international guests like Pierce Brosnan and Brad Pitt. Ashford Castle had a shot at stardom when it was used as a location for the John Wayne starred ‘The Quiet Man’.
2. Trim Castle
Renowned to be the largest Norman castle to be built in Ireland, Trim Castle was built by Anglo-Norman nobleman Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter. It served as an administrative center under the governance of King Henry II. Trim Castle is also popular as a filming location and features in Mel Gibson’s Scottish Epic ‘Braveheart’.
1. Ross Castle
Dating back to the 15th century, Ross Castle stands on the shores of Lough Leane. The Killarney National Park, within which the castle is set, accounts for the lure of the castle and its scenic environs. The castle has gone down in history as the one among the strongest in Ireland to withstand the conquest of Oliver Cromwell till the latter part of the 17th century. Tourists have the charming choice of staying at the nearby Ross Castle B&B.
Revisit history, live your royal fantasy or make your fairy tales come true at these castles of Ireland. Once you are done, you are sure to want to turn the clock back!