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12 Castles in Ireland You Cannot Miss!

Rock of Cashel sits majestically above the city, Cashel, Ireland. It is a stunning fortress full of history dating back to the 12th century. Though it is still standing tall, the fortress is exactly what you would imagine when thinking of a medieval fortress in ruins.

Did you know there are at least 30,000 castles in Ireland?! That is a lot of castles! And way too many to explore during one trip. So I have gathered 12 of the best castles in Ireland that you cannot miss. Each one is spread throughout the country and has some unique history behind them. Some are iconic, have been featured in TV, almost in complete ruins or even turned into a hotel. Nevertheless, exploring these Irish castles will be some of the best highlights of your entire trip on the Emerald Isle.

Best Castles in Ireland

Here is a list of 9 castles in 7 different counties of Ireland. A few have been restored to attract tourists with guided tours, whereas others you may explore on your own. There are also unique castles where you can kiss a wet stone or visit a famous abbey. Each castle is visually stunning, historical and unique. Furthermore, they are all easy to locate during a road trip throughout Ireland.


Malahide Castle

Dublin County 

Malahide Castle is only 15 minutes from Dublin airport, which makes it an easy castle to visit as soon as you land! There is also a beautiful garden and Fairy Trail to enjoy for all ages. Guided tours of the castle is also offered daily.

If you are flying into Dublin, Malahide Castle is the easiest and fastest castle to visit in Ireland. It is only a 15-minute drive from the airport and a great way to start any Ireland trip. Moreover, visiting Malahide Castle is definitely one of the best things to do in Dublin. The Malahide Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland which dates back to at least the 12th century. It was home to the Talbot family for over 800 years. Today, it is a tourist attraction for visitors to explore the castle and its garden. The 45 minutes guided tour takes visitors through four main reception rooms and bedrooms – the Oak Room, the small and large drawing rooms and the Great Hall. After the tour, make sure you take the time to stroll through the beautiful gardens and find clues along their new Fairy Trail.


Dunluce Castle

Antrim County in Northern Ireland 

Dunluce Castle sits dramatically along the coast of Northern Ireland. If this castle looks familiar to Game of Thrones fans, it is because it's the castle used to represent the house of Greyjoy. Truly an amazing castle to see in Ireland.

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you do not want to miss this Castle. Dunluce Castle was used to create the Greyjoy Castle (or House of Greyjoy) on Pyke Island. When you visit Dunluce Castle, you will understand why it was chosen as the castle for Pyke Island because it sits on a dramatic edge of a basalt cliff. It is truly a stunning sight to see and a great castle to explore as it is almost in ruins. In addition, visitors can also find archaeological digs which show the Dunluce Townโ€™s street grid system. The adventure does not end there – the castle also has an amazing sea cove beneath the castle known as the Mermaid Cave that you must take the time to see. Just follow the steps down to the right of the Dunluce Castleโ€™s gatehouse.


Dunguaire Castle

Galway County 

Dunguaire Castle is a beautiful castle along the Wild Atlantic Way. You can even enjoy dinner and entertainment in their banquet halls every night. It is a beautiful castle in Ireland you should not miss.

Photo courtesy of Flickr (Robert Lindsell)

Dunguaire Castle is a visually stunning castle that sits on the shore towering over the bay. The castle has a magnificent defensive wall with a 75 ft. tower to oversee the bay. It dates back to the 16th century and is roughly restored today to allow visitors to explore within the castle walls during from April through September. Furthermore, Dunguaire Castle also hosts year-round medieval banquet dinners. The banquet dinners not only serve a four-course meal but also has fun entertainment to showcase the Irish culture.


Kylemore Abbey

Galway County 

Kylemore Abbey, also known as Kylemore Castle is one of the most beautiful and iconic castles in Ireland. It sits along a long in Connemara National Park.

Kylemore Abbey is one of the most iconic and photographic sights in Ireland due to the beautiful landscape surrounding the castle. It is also widely known as the home for the Benedictine Nuns. The Kylemore Castle and Estate sit on 13,000 acres and was built in 1867 for Mitchell and Margaret Henry. The castle boasts 33 bedrooms, 4 sitting rooms, and countless other rooms. Today, visitors are allowed to only see 6 rooms – the Outer Hall, Inner Hall, Drawing Room, Community Room, Dining Room, and the Rear Hall. Each room has been redesigned with the original furniture to portray the true ambiance of its history as the famous Benedictine Abbey. In addition, visitors can also explore the Victorian Walled Gardens, Neo-Gothic Church and Old Mausoleum. The entire estate of Kylemore Abbey can be explored on your own or with a guided tour.


Blarney Castle

Cork County

Blarney Castle is one of the most iconic castles in Ireland due to the famous Blarney Stone. Inside the castle you can hang upside down and enjoy a wet, cold kiss on the Blarney Stone, to receive the gift of eloquence. Blarney Castle is also the most fun to explore out of all the castles we visited in Ireland.

Blarney Castle is one of the most famous castles in Ireland due to the legendary Blarney Stone. Visiting Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone is definitely one of the best things to do in Cork. Moreover, people all over the world travel near and far to kiss the Blarney Stone to receive the “gift of eloquence”. It is a fun experience that you will laugh and cherish for a lifetime. In addition to kissing the Blarney Stone, the castle itself is so much fun to explore. There are so many levels within the castle with several little nooks and crannies. In fact, you could play a great game of hide-n-seek inside Blarney Castle. Needless to say, Blarney Castle should definitely be high on your Irish bucket list


Ross Castle

Kerry County 

Ross Castle is a 15th-century tower house castle fortified by a defensive wall located within Killarney National Park on the edge of Lake Lough Leane.

Ross Castle is a 15th-century tower house castle fortified by a defensive wall located within Killarney National Park on the edge of Lake Lough Leane. It was the ancestral home of the O’Donoghue clan and is known to be one of the strongest and more fortified castles in Ireland. Thus, Ross Castle was one of the last castles to surrender from Cromwellโ€™s forces in the 1650s. Today, Ross Castle has been restored and visitors can explore the grounds on their own or take a guided tour inside the castle (for a fee). Furthermore, it is one of the most picturesque castles in Ireland and can easily be visited while driving on the Ring of Kerry.


Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny County

Kilkenny Castle is a beautiful restored castle in Ireland. The castle gives guests the opportunity to visit countless rooms including the magnificent picture gallery wing.

The Kilkenny Castle was built in the 13th century for William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke. Then it became the residence of the Butler family for almost 600 years. Depending on the time of the year, visitors can either enjoy a guided tour of the castle or take a self-guided tour using an informational pamphlet. Unlike other castles in Ireland, Kilkenny Castle offers visitors the opportunity to visit countless rooms including the Medieval Room, several bedrooms, library, drawing room, picture gallery wing and more. The most stunning room to see has to be the picture gallery wing which is adorned with portraits hanging on a bright red wall.


King John’s Castle

Limerick County

King John's Castle is located in Limerick City and offers visitors a great interactive and informative exhibit. You can also climb up to one of the battlements and get a great 360 panorama view of the city.

One of the more visitor-friendly castles in Ireland is King John’s Castle. It is located in the heart of Limerick and has an engaging experience for visitors to enjoy. Before you make it to the castle’s courtyard, visitors walk through an exhibit that showcases the history of the castle which dates back to the 13th century. The exhibit features touchscreen technology, 3D models, animated projections and an activity room for children. Furthermore, the castle grounds are fun to explore. We found shields, helmets, and swords to wield in addition to shaming ourselves in a guillotine. You can also climb up to one of the battlements and get a great 360 panorama view of the city. Needless to say, a visit to Kong John’s Castle boasts a lot of historical information and fun for all ages.


Rock of Cashel

Tipperary County 

Rock of Cashel sits majestically above the city, Cashel, Ireland. It is a stunning fortress full of history dating back to the 12th century. Though it is still standing tall, it is the perfect place in Ireland to explore medieval ruins.

Photo courtesy of Flickr (Warren LeMay)

The Rock of Cashel is technically a fortress, but it is so spectacular I had to include it on my list of castles in Ireland. Trust me, it is definitely a sight you do not want to miss. The fortress towers above the city of Cashel in a grand presence that is truly a sight to behold. The fortress is enclosed by fortified walls containing buildings that were all built in different centuries. There is a complete 11th century round tower, a 12th-century Romanesque chapel, a 13th-century Gothic cathedral and a 15th century Hall of the Vicars Choral. Whereas around the fortress is a dramatic Gothic graveyard with beautiful Celtic high crosses. When Adam and I visited it was very foggy and the entire atmosphere felt climactic – I hope you discover the same. Or maybe you will get lucky and come across a mythical legend, a Celtic leprechaun!


Castle Hotels in Ireland

To say Adam and I love castles would be an understatement. In the seven days we were in Ireland, we stayed in 2 castles and enjoyed a luxurious afternoon tea in another one. After reading these three luxurious castle hotels, I am sure you will be tempted to book your stay with at least one of them!


Lough Eske Castle

Donegal County 

Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa is not only a beautiful, five-star castle hotel, but also one of the best spas in Ireland. It is located in Donegal, Ireland tucked away in the woods.

Looking for a romantic spa getaway tucked away in the woodlands of Ireland? Then Lough Eske Castle Hotel and Spa is where you want to be! Lough Eske Castle Hotel and Spa is one of only two five star hotels in the Donegal county. So expect nothing less than perfection. The castle was originally a mansion back in 1621 and then turned into a castle in 1861. The castle hotel has 96 different guest rooms that range from a standard courtyard room to a presidential suite. The award-winning spa, Spa Solis, has continuously been ranked as one of the best in Ireland because of their amazing Thermal Suite inside a beautiful Victorian Glass House. Lough Eske Castle Hotel and Spa has it all!


Ashford Castle

Mayo County 

Ashford Castle is not only the most stunning castle in Ireland, but also one of the best hotels in the entire world. If you get the opportunity, staying here or enjoying their luxurious afternoon tea is a must!

There is no greater luxury in Ireland that at Ashford Castle. It is not only one of the best castles in Ireland, but it is also one of the best hotels in the world! In 2017, it was ranked 59th in Travel and Leisure Worldโ€™s Best Hotels. Before it was a luxury five-star hotel, Ashford Castle was built during the 12th century and was home to the famous Guinness Family for 87 years. When Lord Ardilaun inherited Ashford Castle, he created the tradition of afternoon tea which not only became a legacy, but a daily event that remains today. If you do not have the opportunity to spend a night at Ashford Castle, I highly encourage you to at least enjoy their luxurious afternoon tea experience. It includes unlimited teas from around the world, scrumptious sandwiches and decadent desserts.


Dromoland Castle

Clare County 

Dromoland Castle is not only a gorgeous castle in Ireland, but also one of the best castle hotels in Ireland. It is a beautiful five-star hotel with fine dining options and an array of fun outdoor activities to enjoy. A few favorites are falconry, clay shooting, golf, archery and more.

Photo courtesy of Flickr (Jeremy Polanski)

Dromoland Castle is another fantastic and luxurious castle hotel to stay during a trip to Ireland. The original structure of Dromoland Castle was built during the 15th century, but the castle standing today was built in 1835. There is so much to enjoy inside and out of the castle. Inside the castle, guests can enjoy a flawless dining experience with a five or eight-course tasting at the Earl of Thomond. Outside of the castle walls, guests can enjoy an array of activities including playing golf on a world-class course, archery, fishing, horse riding, pony and trap ride, falconry, clay shooting, tennis and more. Adam and I tried our hand at falconry and clay shooting and had the time of our lives. Needless to say, I highly recommend both activities and spending at least one night at Dromoland Castle.


Of course, there are more amazing castles in Ireland that are worth visiting, but this list should be a great start to see some of the best the country has to offer. Please let me know in the comments if I missed any castles worth mentioning!





  • Ambuj Saxena

    Such a nice post showing all the castles in Ireland! I wasnt’ aware that there are so many picturesque castles in Ireland! I liked the Ross castle the most due to its landscape and amazing outer walls! Thanks for the share!

    • oursweetadventures

      My pleasure, glad you enjoyed the post. I did not realize there were so many either until we went! I am sure I have more to find ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Follow My Anchor

    I definitely need to take a road trip around Ireland. Your post is very original and the castles look stunning. I have never watched Game of Thrones but among the ones you have listed Dunluce Castle is my favorite anyway. Its location right on top of the cliff makes it so beautiful.

    • oursweetadventures

      Thank you for your kind words. Dunluce was absolutely stunning. Very dramatic and romantic along the cliffs. I hope you are able to take a road trip in Ireland and see it for yourself.

  • kasia

    I’m not sure if this makes it easier or harder to choose, because I want to see them all! This is a def a great round up and thank you for including the castles you can stay at! I think I would start with that ๐Ÿ™‚

    • oursweetadventures

      Staying at a castle hotel is probably one of the best experiences you can enjoy in Ireland. There are quite a few of them too. I only listed the ones that we experienced ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Elizabeth

    Goodness there are a lot of castles in Ireland! I want to visit them all! The medieval dinners at Dunguaire Castle sound really cool ๐Ÿ™‚

    • oursweetadventures

      We were only able to visit Dunguaire Castle outside of the walls, but wish we could have enjoyed their medieval banquet dinner. Next time ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Medha Verma

    I was in Ireland earlier this year and visiting the castles was actually the highlight of my trip. Kylemore Abbey was absolutely spectacular, and I loved Blarney Castle as well. I was supposed to have high tea at Malahide Castle but couldn’t make it. Rock of Cashel stole my heart when I saw it from a distance, while driving towards it. Such a spectacular structure and settings!

    • oursweetadventures

      It sounds like you had a wonderful trip as well! So many castles, so little time. We would love to return to see more or visit Scotland to see their castles. Rock of Cashel and Blarney Castle were also our favorite places to see. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anna Schaeffer

    Just got back from Ireland! Got to see Ross Castle, Blarney Castle, and the Rock of Cashel! And we were lucky enough to stay in Ashford Castle AND Dromoland Castle! Both absolutely wonderful <3

    • oursweetadventures

      Ahhhh I love hearing that! Did you enjoy any activities at Ashford and Dromoland? We did falconry and clay shooting at Dromoland and afternoon tea at Ashford. LOVED every experience.

  • Heather W

    When I saw the picture of Dunluce Castle I immediately said: That is what the Game of Thrones Castle looks like in my head! I have never watched the show, so it is even more uncanny that they used it for the show! I have big plans of cycling around Ireland one day… and will definitely look forward to visiting the castles you have listed here. Thanks for the info!

    • oursweetadventures

      Wow cycling around Ireland sounds amazing! I know you will love it. I delighted to hear you enjoyed my post and found it helpful for your trip!

  • Jennifer

    Iโ€™ve always wanted to visit Ireland and see the castles! This is a great list and one Iโ€™m saving for 2020!

    • oursweetadventures

      I am delighted to hear that!

  • Yana

    Gorgeous castles. Thank you for the post. I’m definitely going to add some of this to my list when I visit. The Dunluce castle is my favorite!

    • oursweetadventures

      I am delighted to hear that! Dunluce Castle is spectacular. You will love your trip.

  • leanne

    Im dying to get to Ireland, these castles look incredible! Great article ๐Ÿ™‚

    • oursweetadventures

      Thank you. I hope you get to visit soon!

  • April

    What a fantastic and timely post! I’m finally heading to Northern Ireland this summer and I can’t wait. I haven’t started to research it yet so this article will come in handy. There are a few castles on this post that I can’t wait to see in person. And, I’m so tempted to try to get accommodation in a castle. Talk about a dream, but doubt I’ll be able to afford it. Thank you for sharing!

    • oursweetadventures

      There are more castle hotels Ireland! Even an AirBnB I believe. I have a lot of other Ireland posts, including a Northern Ireland itinerary from Dublin that may help you ๐Ÿ™‚ please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. You will love Ireland and Northern Ireland!

  • Alexander Popkov

    Why they all look that empty? Is it really so, that there are no tourists hanging around? ๐Ÿ™‚ If so, they do have a special atmosphere ๐Ÿ™‚

    • oursweetadventures

      Haha we our patient when taking our photos and we also went in the spring when there are not as many tourists. It was an incredible trip ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jennifer

    Great article. Currently, I am in Ireland and I will definitely go to check out these castles. I have bookmarked it for future references. Thanks for sharing.

    • oursweetadventures

      That’s awesome – enjoy Ireland!

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