Best Castles in Ireland

Emerald Isle's top 5 castles.
By: Patty Hodapp

Related To:

Dozens of ancient castles are sprinkled across Ireland’s lush, green countryside in various states of ruin. If you jump in a rental car and start driving, chances are you’ll find one. The trick is deciding which ones to see. These 5 Irish castles will sate your curiosity for all things medieval … and let loose your inner child. Don’t forget your sword.
Sure, thousands of tourists swarm Blarney Castle in southern Ireland every year, but it's still worth a visit. Here, you can kiss the notorious Blarney Stone and, as legend has it, get the "gift of the gab." Climb 10 flights of stairs to reach the stone at the top of the castle's main tower. Grip 2 metal bars, lie backwards and a castle worker will hold your legs while you reach out, upside down, over a sheer 10-story drop to kiss the stone. Don't forget to have someone take your picture. Kissing stone aside, the best part of this castle is its floral gardens, spread over 60 acres. Take time to walk the paths for a 360-degree view of the tower built 600 years ago by Irish chieftain Cormac MacCarthy.
Bunratty Castle
Even before you get to Ireland, book a banquet at Bunratty Castle. This fortress sits on Folk Park, an ancient Viking trading camp dating back to 970 A.D., just 7 miles from Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland. The current castle structure is actually the fourth castle to be built onsite. Due to the violent changing of hands over 200 years between Irish chieftains and English kings, the original castle (and the following 2) were destroyed in battle. Today, it's the best place in Ireland to enjoy a traditional medieval feast. In the banquet hall, women dressed in medieval gowns serve you hunks of pork, potato soup, bread and goblets of mulled mead. You'll sit on a long wooden bench and eat by candlelight, family-style, like the knights would have. The feast is set to the tune of a medieval instrument quartet, and with the cheery ambiance you're sure to become fast friends with strangers around you.
Doe Castle
Doe Castle in County Donegal in northwest Ireland is one of my favorites simply because it architecturally looks cool. It's surrounded on 3 sides by water, and was built on a peninsula with a moat cleaved into the rock of the landward side. In short, Doe Castle looks like it's floating. The best view of this castle is actually from a distance on the wide spot on the Carrigart–Creeslough road about 10 miles from the village of Dunfanaghy. High outer walls and 4 major defense towers ring an interior building with a 4-story tower and keep. While the interior isn't technically open to the public, locals open the castle gates daily so you can meander inside. It's one of Ireland's more rustic castles, so don't expect audio guides and tours. You're on your own here.
Cahir Castle
Because Ireland doesn’t have an aggressive restoration program, many castles are crumbling. Not Cahir Castle. It's one of Ireland’s largest, best preserved medieval fortresses, maintaining the keep, tower and defense structures from its original construction in 1142. It was the former stronghold of the Butler family (former Irish nobility) and is situated on a rocky island on the River Suir in Tipperary County, south central Ireland. Book a 30- to 40-minute guided tour in advance. Afterward, explore the spiral staircases, small side chambers and see the quilt-like Irish countryside from the top of Cahir Tower. Cahir Castle also features a 15-minute movie, Cahir Castle and the Story of Irish Castles, which gives a historical overview of the function of castle fortresses in Ireland.
Ashford Castle
Ashford Castle in County Galway is western Ireland's fairytale castle. This nearly 800-year-old castle was once owned by the Guinness family and kept in spectacular condition. Later it was converted into a 5-star luxury hotel; now you can actually stay the night. Sounds cheesy, I know, but spending a night like nobility in a cozy medieval castle is worth the heftier price tag. Ashford is also one of Ireland's most popular destination wedding venues because of its elaborate gold interior and extensive manicured lawns.
The Perfect Place to Propose
Loading Video...

Next Up

What to Know About Moving to France

Are you about to pack your bags and move to France? Get the information you need before you make the move.

48 Hours in an Irish Castle

Find out what it’s like to spend a weekend in a 12th-century Irish estate.

14 Things to Do in Ireland

Add these 14 things to do in Ireland to your "To Do" list.

Ireland's Top 5 Bed and Breakfasts

Travel Channel's picks for the best bed and breakfasts in Ireland.

Greek Islands Weekend Guide

See the caldera for yourself and enjoy the local food, culture and picture-perfect sights during a weekend getaway to Santorini.

Italy's Most Charming Small Towns

Dive into Italy's off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Explore the Charming French Town of Carcassonne

This under-the-radar town in the south of France is paradise for those who love history, scenery and wine.

5 Ways to Conquer Europe’s Most Active Volcano

Mount Etna towers over the island of Sicily, spewing fumes, ash and lava in a constant reminder that our planet is still untamed. Here’s how you can visit it.

The Ultimate Dublin Bucket List For U2 Fans

9 unforgettable restaurants, cultural hotspots and natural wonders to discover in Ireland's capital.

Europe's Best Castles

From Scotland to France to Germany and beyond, explore our choices of the best castles Europe has to offer.


Trending Now

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Travel Channel in your favorite social media feeds.