Across Ireland, you are able to find beautifully charming castles filled with history. Whether you are looking to stay overnight in a luxury castle formerly home to royalty, or for science centers and outdoor excursions, each castle offers visitors a unique experience.
Built in 1832 by John d’Arcy of Clifden Castle, Abbeyglen Castle was leased to the local parish priest and then later bought by the Irish Church Mission Society. For many years, the beautiful castle served as a home for orphans and was supported by local donors. In the 1960’s, after years of abandonment, the castle was purchased and restored to its original glory as a working hotel.
Now, Abbeyglen Castle Hotel is one of the most prestigious hotels in the Connemara area, located just a short 2-minute drive from Clifden center.
The luxury property has comfortable and classic styled rooms and suites, a restaurant, a pub and a spa to kick back and relax. The private grounds are spectacular and offer guests unobstructed views of Clifden Bay and the town center.
While visiting Abbeyglen Castle, make sure you take advantage of some of the outdoor activities the area has to offer. Renting bicycles for the whole family and riding one for the many cycle loops is a great way to see the area. Or, head to Cleggan Beach Riding Center for the unique opportunity to ride horses on the beach.
A stay at the 800 year old Ashford Castle makes you feel like a royal who has stepped back in time. The castle is the former home of the Guinness family. Ashford Castle has had many famous guests over the years including King George V and former President Ronald Reagan.
The 350-acre estate is located on the waterfront in County Mayo, just 27 miles from Galway. The hotel offers amazing views and plenty of space for guests to enjoy time outside.
On-site activities range from horseback riding, fishing, archery, and shooting to cycling, kayaking, and golfing. For those wanting to try one of these classic country activities for the first time, there is no need to worry. Guided tours and lessons are available with the hotel’s trained staff.
After a long day of exploring the property and surrounding area, relax with traditional afternoon tea at Ashford Castle’s The Connaught Room. Or plan dinner at one of the hotel’s five other restaurants, all with a distinct atmosphere and menu.
Ballynahinch Castle is in Connemara, just over an hour from Galway City. The surrounding area has beautiful views of the 12 Ben Mountain Range, access to the sea and is in close proximity to local villages.
The historic castle dates back to 1546 when it was built by Donal O’Flaherty, the husband of the infamous Irish Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley. Originally only a small castle, the current building was finished in the 18th century as an inn. Since its completion, Ballynahinch Castle has been visited by many honored guests like Ranjitsinhji, Former US President Gerald and Betty Ford, and Irish President Higgins & Mrs. Higgins.
Today, the castle is home to luxury guest rooms in the main house, and Lettery Lodge and Owenmore Cottage for those wanting a private home on property. The estate offers ample space for guests to picnic, fish, and walk over 10 miles of river and lake paths.
Take a short drive to Roundstone Bay to explore the abandoned Inishlacken island. You will find white sand beaches, wildlife and remnants of stone walls.
Birr Castle Demesne is located in the small town of Birr in County Offaly, just an hour from Kilkenny. Here you will find rich history dating back to medieval times along with gardens, local wildlife and a science center.
Since the 12th century, the castle has been inhabited by a number of powerful families. In the early 1600’s, James I granted the castle to the Parsons family who lived in the area and controlled much of the land until the 18th century. The area now known as Birr was even called Parsonstown because of the family’s influence.
In the 19th century, William Parsons’ building of the Great Telescope turned the castle into a place of science. Now, visitors can explore the castle’s science center to learn about early photography, engineering and astronomy.
During your visit, you can also book an hour-long guided tour to learn about the history of the castle, the influence of the Great Telescope, and view the property’s spectacular gardens. After a walk through the castle, be sure to discover the award-winning gardens and magnificent Giant’s Grove.
By Aimee Stephens of Snap Happy Travel
Blarney Castle is easily one of the most famous castles in Ireland, attracting over 200,000 visitors every year. It is located in the quaint little village of Blarney, just under a 15 minute drive from Cork City. The castle itself dates back to 1446 and was in fact built by one of Ireland’s most notable Chieftains.
At the top of the castle lies the Blarney Stone and legend has it gives those who kiss it ‘the gift of the gab’. Locals will tell you that a witch saved from drowning cast this spell on the stone. To kiss the stone one must lie down, lean back while a staff member holds your legs. Not for the faint-hearted! The castle grounds are just as stunning as the castle itself and other attractions within the grounds include the Wishing Steps, The Witch’s Cave, and the Druid’s Circle.
There are several excellent restaurants in Blarney village including The Lemon Tree and The Square Table. Unfortunately, you cannot stay overnight at Blarney Castle but the 5-star Hayfield Manor is just a 15 minute drive away and is one of the most luxurious hotels in Cork.
To get to Blarney Castle from Cork City you must catch the 215 bus. If you’re self-driving follow the N20 motorway, there is free parking available at the castle.
By Faith of XYUandBEYOND
Cahir Castle is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Ireland. Located in Tipperary it is a short trip from the Rock of Cashel.
Cahir village is a unique Medieval town with the astoundingly beautiful Cahir Castle situated on a tiny island in the River Suir. It was built in the 1100s and is one of the largest and best-preserved castles in Ireland.
Cahir was purchased by the State and became a national monument in 1964. The castle was beautifully restored and houses some lovely pieces of medieval furniture. This is one of the largest and most striking of Ireland’s Castles, with features such as a working portcullis, cannons, and beautiful crenelations. The lower levels of Cahir Castle contain a variety of exhibits from Medieval Women to the 1916 Irish Rebellion.
The castle at Cahir was a Butler castle for six hundred years. Until 1650 when Oliver Cromwell arrived and the Butlers surrendered the castle but 12 years later gained control over it again.
Cahir is a lovely traditional Irish village with great pubs. Stay at Cahir House Hotel, which replaced the Castle as the ancestral home of the Butlers.
The five star Dromoland Castle dates back to the 16th century, and was the home of the O’Briens of Dromoland. Their ancestor Brian Boru was one of the last High Kings of Ireland, so the castle really is fit for royalty.
The castle is a 30-minute ride from Limerick center and is an even shorter drive from Shannon International Airport. The location lends itself to amazing activities both on the 450-acre estate and off.
The whole family can take part in archery lessons, tennis, horse drawn carriage rides, and falconry, all offered right on property. A popular option is booking a round of golf at the hotel’s 18-hole championship golf course which wraps around the estate.
The hotel’s landscape also has many trails where you might be able to catch a glimpse of local wildlife like deer, pheasants or ducks.
Guests can venture into downtown Limerick for a day of shopping and visiting historic sites. The city center is home to historic churches, renowned museums, and a wonderful view of River Shannon.
By Vanessa Gordon of East End Taste
Kilkea Castle, originally established in 1180, is located one hour south of Dublin in Castledermot in County Kildare. The castle encompasses a rich, magnificent lineage as the former medieval stronghold of the FitzGerald’s, Earls of Kildare. It is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Ireland.
Inside are beautifully appointed bedrooms and suites. This includes the FitzGerald Suite at the very top of the Castle in the Round Tower. Carriage rooms and self-catering lodges are also available for booking.
Kilkea Castle is a golfer’s paradise and is home to an 18-hole golf course, putting range, shop, and an on-site clubhouse with a bistro.
The culinary offerings at the castle include a diverse reflection Irish cuisine with hints of international inspiration. The cuisine at the resort reflect key relationships Kilkea Castle has with the local farmers and suppliers.
The culinary team partners with artisan producers from across Ireland. For instance, their yogurt and butter are sourced from Glenilen Farm. For smoked salmon, they source from Duncannon Smokehouse in Wexford. Crabs are sourced from CS Fish in Doonbeg.
The castle is a well-known destination for hosting weddings, concerts, and festivities throughout the year.
Nearby, visit the famous Irish National Stud & Gardens, open seven days a week from February to November. You may also take the train to either Dublin or Kilkenny for the day from the Athy railway station. The railway station is a short ten minute’s drive from Kilkea Castle.
By Jorge & Cláudia of Travel Drafts
Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 in Kilkenny in the South of Ireland for defense purposes after the Norman invasion. Initially, it was done out of wood and later on rebuilt in stone. It was owned by Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, and passed to his descendants. In 1391 the Castle was bought by the Butler family and remained in the family until 1967 when they sold it to the Castle Restoration Committee for a symbolic value of £50.
Despite having several misfortunes, being abandoned until becoming completely run down, Kilkenny castle is still one of the most famous landmarks in Ireland. It is restored and made into a museum that is possible to visit with a guided tour. The castle is impressive, decorated in a Victorian style, with a remarkable collection of paintings. Several of its rooms are stunning, like the three reception rooms, the Ante Room, the library, and the drawing-room. It is well worth the visit, plus it is a good opportunity to learn about Ireland’s history.
Kilkenny Castle is about 1h30 from Dublin, thus perfectly located for a nice day trip from the Irish capital. You can easily reach Kilkenny by car or public transportation.
You may also choose to stay in the city of Kilkenny. The city has several options of great hotels like the exceptional Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel. The town also has plenty of options to grab a bite to eat.
Lough Eske Castle
By Luke and Roxy of Wild About BC
Lough Eske Castle in Co. Donegal sits on the edge of Lough Eske and near the beautiful Bluestack Mountains. The 5-star hotel is built in the restored ruins of a castle dating back to the 17th century.
It was originally associated with the O’Donnell clan, famous around Donegal, but it has changed hands many times over the years. It operated as a hotel in the early 1900s before a fire in 1939 reduced it to charred remains. In 2007, it reopened as a 5-star hotel and spa.
Lough Eske Castle is just a 10-minute drive from Donegal town center and is just over a 3-hour drive from Dublin. While visitors can enjoy dining in the award-winning Cedars Restaurant in Lough Eske Castle you can also make the short drive to Donegal Town to try the Olde Castle Bar & Red Hugh’s Restaurant or the Blueberry Tea Room and Restaurant.
Lough Eske is also close to Slieve League, some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, and Rossnowlagh Beach which is one of the prettiest stretches of golden sand on the west coast.
Staying overnight in Lough Eske Castle is an experience not to forget. With beautiful scenery, large and luxurious rooms with 4-post beds and access to the amazing on-site spa, you’ll enjoy an indulgent stay.
If you are looking for one castle to visit in Dublin, it should be Malahide Castle. Imposing and romantic at the same time, its tour is a walk through 800 years of history. Throughout nearly all that time the Talbot family called the castle home. Its founder Richard Talbot had been a knight of Henry II and received the lands in repayment.
A visit to Malahide Castle will take you on a tour throughout the entire castle. Most of the decor is Victorian. Rooms that are particularly stunning are the Great Hall, Oak Room, and Drawing Room. Outside the castle, there are a vast range of walks, and more attractions in the botanical garden and butterfly house.
Malahide Castle is found in north Dublin in the pretty seaside town of Malahide. It is located about 20 minutes from the city center using Dublin’s light rail system, the DART. The town is famous locally for its restaurants and seafood, but the Avoca restaurant in the castle is as far as you’ll need to go for a great lunch.
The Grand Hotel is a luxurious choice to stay the night nearby, with views overlooking the Malahide estuary.
Just 20 minutes from Sligo, you will be able to find Markee Castle located right on the Wild Atlantic Way. The 17th century castle was won by the Cooper family in 1662, soon becoming one of the largest landowning families in all of Ireland. The castle was owned by the Copper family until the 1980’s when it was sold and transformed into the Markree Castle hotel.
Markree Castle has become an elegant wedding venue and vacation destination. Filled with charming luxury bedrooms, the castle also offers unique private suites, and a cottage called The Potting Shed. On property you will also find a classic dining area serving dinner, and traditional Sunday lunch and afternoon tea.
The 500-acre property has endless space to explore on your own or during hotel activities like Hawk Walks or stand-up paddle boarding. Sligo is known as the surfing capital of Ireland, so it is the perfect place to book lessons.
By Anisa Alhilali of Two Traveling Texans
Inside Killarney National Park on the edge of Lough Leane, you will find the picturesque Ross Castle. It’s believed to have been built in the late 15th century by one of the O’Donoghue Ross chieftains.
According to a local legend, O’Donoghue still sleeps deep under the waters of Lough Leane. Every seven years on the morning of May 1st, he rises from the lough on a white horse. Catch a glimpse of him and you will have good fortune for the rest of your life.
The castle is furnished in the style of the 16th and 17th century and guided tours are available from March to November. While you can’t spend the night at Ross Castle, you can get a luxurious experience at the nearby Killarney Royal Hotel. The hotel has been in the Scaly family for more than three generations.
To get to Ross Castle from Killarney town, look for the sign on N71 marking the right turn. Alternatively, it’s a leisurely scenic 2.6km walk or bike ride southwest of the St Mary’s Cathedral pedestrian park entrance. It could be romantic to take a boat across the serene lough to the castle.
Located in the Boyne Valley of County Meath, the Slane Castle has been the Conyngham family home since 1703. The castle is just down the river from the site of the historic battle of Boyne and is rich with its own history. The current generations’ great-great-great-great grandmother, Elizabeth, lived in the castle during her famous romance with King George IV. There is still the King’s Room where he was known to stay when in residence.
An hour outside of Dublin, the castle is the perfect place to stop for a guided castle tour or for a visit to their on-property distillery. Here, you will have the chance to taste test the castle’s signature triple cask blend, Slane Whiskey.
Slane Castle has, in its recent history, become a popular venue for famous bands to perform. Their outdoor space has hosted concerts for artists like Metallica, David Bowie, Queen and the Rolling Stones. U2 has returned to the castle three times to perform.
Additional reporting by Kaitlin Tracy.