Spectacular sunrise at Kinbane Head with the ruins of Kinbane Castle on the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland.

Stunning Irish Castles To Visit – And Book

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Make your next Irish jaunt a regal one

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The Emerald Isle has been inspiring visitors and writers for millennia. Most recently, tourists have been attracted by Ireland’s Game of Thrones filming locations – but Ireland‘s plethora of castles is a timeless draw. If you’re a fan of castles – from ancient ruins to restored historic monuments to functioning castle hotels – Ireland is almost certainly the place for you, with an estimated 30,000 castles dotted across the isle. (For comparison, there is an estimated 2,000 castles in Scotland.) So, if you’re travelling to Éire and you’re seeking a regal excursion, we’ve rounded up the best Irish castles to visit, from restorations to ruins, as well as beautiful Irish castles that you can stay in for the loftiest of holidays.

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Irish Castles To Visit

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dublin castle

Dublin Castle

If you find yourself in the Irish capital, make sure you swing by its castle. As well as being beautiful, Dublin Castle houses a lot of Irish history, stretching from the days of King John, the first Lord of Ireland to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Today, it is a major government complex, but tourists are welcome to visit and take tours. dublincastle.ie

Image (c) J.-H. Janßen via Wikimedia Commons.

Blarney Castle Ireland

Blarney Castle – County Cork

According to folklore, anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone is bestowed with the gift of flattery and eloquence. The likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Stan Laurel, Ronald Reagan, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Mick Jagger, Katherine Jenkins, Eddie Redmayne, James Nesbitt and Joe Manganiello have made the pilgrimage to Blarney Castle for the pleasure.

Visitors flock to Blarney Castle, the mediaeval home of this stone – built by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty in the 15th century – to join them. Visitors can also take a tour of the castle and stroll through the pretty gardens. blarneycastle.ie

Image (c) Ryanhuntmuzik via Wikimedia Commons.

King John's castle reflected on the River Shannon, Limerick, Ireland

King John’s Castle – County Limerick

Located on King’s Island next to the River Shannon, King John’s Castle is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Europe. Built in 1200 – by the orders of King John – the site dates back to a Viking settlement of the year 922. Today, guests can step inside and absorb over 800 years of local history with a modern, computer generated edge. kingjohnscastle.ie

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Built soon after the Norman conquest in 1195, Kilkenny Castle was originally built to control the fording-point of the River Nore and several other routeways. Rebuilt, extended and adapted over a period of 800 years, the castle is now largely Victorian and welcomes visitors into the castle and to the surrounding 50 acres of rolling parkland year-round. kilkennycastle.ie

Image (c) psyberartist via Wikimedia Commons.

Mullaghmore, Sligo, Classiebawn Castle. Summer in Ireland. One of the many highlights in County Sligo

Classiebawn Castle – County Sligo

A relatively young castle (but no less beautiful), Classiebawn is a fairy-tale like structure built in the late 19th century. Today a cliffside country home, visitors cannot enter Classiebawn, but it is worth a drive-by detour – or even a stroll across surrounding parkland – if you’re in the region.

Irish Castle Ruins To Visit

Dunluce Castle – County Antrim

Dunluce Castle is ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland.

Game of Thrones fans: you might recognise this romantic ruin on the Antrim coast as the House of Greyjoy. Surrounded by steep drops on all sides and accessible only by bridge, a major 2011 archaeological dig found evidence of a ‘lost town of Dunluce’ on the grounds surrounding Dunluce Castle, destroyed in the 1641 Irish uprising. Today, the castle stands dramatically against an ocean backdrop – but visitors can also venture inside to learn about the long history. discovernothernireland.com

Clough Oughter Castle – County Cavan

clough oughter castle

(c) Kent Wang via Flickr.

A ruined circular castle on a small island on Lough Oughter – a complex maze along the River Erne of waterways, islands and 90 small lakes – Clough Oughter Castle adds a dramatic, medieval edge to a naturally beautiful landscape brimming with wildlife. Only accessible by boat, the ruins can be visited by Cavan town.

Kinbane Castle – County Antrim

Thi is Kinbane Castle which was built on a small peninsula of sea cliffs that protrude into the Atlantic Ocean close to the town of Ballycastle in Northern Ireland.

Situated near the small village of Ballycastle (meaning ‘town of the castle’) on the northeastern-most tip of Ireland and the Antrim Coast (and the popular Causeway Coastal Route), Kinbane Castle was built by Colla MacDonnell in 1547. It passed through a number of towns before it reached the largely-ruined state it exists in today. The craggy headland location combined with jutting bricks and ruins makes Kinbane a stunningly rugged sight.

Irish Castles To Stay In

Dromoland Castle Hotel – County Clare

Dromoland Castle

Dromoland is the ancestral home of the O’Briens, whose lineage dates back a thousand years to Brian Boru, one of the last High Kings of Ireland. This historic Irish castle hotel has been welcoming guests since the 16th century – today, they are treated no less regally. Tuck into the finest Irish produce cooked up by talented chefs after a long day loafing in the sumptuous spa or gazing (or walking) across the expansive grounds. There’s also an 18-hole championship golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, walled gardens and nature trails to explore, and go karting for the kids. dromoland.ie

Waterford Castle – County Waterford

Set on a 310 acre private island accessible only by a ferry over the King’s Channel, Waterford brings the fairytale quality to Irish castles. With just 19 bedrooms, head here for an intimate, regal getaway – or opt for one of the newer, modern lodges for a nature retreat. There’s also an 18-hole golf course and the Munster Room Restaurant with 2-AA Rosettes. waterfordcastleresort.com

Ballynahinch Castle – County Galway

Ballynahinch hotel

Set across 700 riverside acres, Ballynahinch is most famous due to Seamus Heaney’s poem, ‘Ballynahinch Lake’, written during his stay here. It is rugged luxury in the simplest, least pretentious terms: nature trails abound with expert guides, alongside salmon fishing, stunning backdrops, and an elegant restaurant. ballynahinch-castle.com

Lisheen Castle – County Tipperary

Fancy an Irish castle all to yourself? Head to County Tipperary where the once-ruined Lisheen Castle has been a luxury rental property since 2000. Hunker down in the cosy rooms and living spaces, loaf on the expansive grounds, or use Lisheen as a base to explore the rest of Ireland. There’s a package for the latter, featuring sightseeing Ireland’s iconic sights, with breakfast and dinner and all transport included, with Lisheen as the luxurious base to return to in the evening. lisheencastle.com

Featured Image: Sunrise at Kinbane Castle, County Antrim (c) Getty.