The beautifully maintained Ardgillan Castle is home to one of the best parks in Dublin.
Located between Balbriggan and Skerries and easily accessed off the M1 Motorway, Ardgillan Castle and Demense is one of our favourite day trips from Dublin.
Especially as you can combine a stroll here with the tour and then a visit to the likes of Donabate Beach or Skerries for a bite-to-eat.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from the Ardgillan Castle history and its cafe to the parking situation and more.
Some quick need-to-knows about Ardgillan Castle
Although a visit to Ardgillan Castle and Demense is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
32km north of Dublin City, Ardgillan Castle and Demesne sits between Balbriggan and Skerries and is easily accessed off the M1 Motorway. Bus route number 33 from the City Centre will drop you at The Lady’s Stairs, a pedestrian footbridge that will lead you to a Demesne entrance.
2. Opening hours
The Park Gates open at 09:00, the Ardgillan Castle playground opens at 09:30, and the Castle opens at 10:00 all year round. Closing times differ according to the time of year and can be a bit confusing. Take it that the playground closes 45 minutes before the Park Gates shut and the Castle and tearooms close an hour before.
There’s lots of free parking on-site, and if you can, park at the top of the car park and walk down to enjoy the views of the ocean spread out before you. There are two car parks, one near the entrance and another beside the Castle, with restrictions on Sundays and Public Holidays.
4. A fine spot for a stroll
Ardgillan is home to one of the most overlooked walks in Dublin. The sea views, the extensive grounds and the numerous spots for coffee (there are coffee trucks as well as a cafe) make it the perfect place for a weekend ramble.
About Ardgillan Castle and Demense
Although Ardgillan Castle is widely regarded as one of the finest castles in Dublin, it’s technically a large house and not exactly a castle.
The house was built in 1738 by Robert Taylor, a surveyor who came to Ireland with Cromwell and was later castellated in 1807 by the Rev. Edward Taylor.
The word Ardgillan means High Wood in Gaelic, and the heavily wooded land had to be cleared before work on the house could begin.
Soldiers and itinerant workers were paid a penny a day, one meal, a bed, and a tot of Bushmills whiskey, for clearing the woods. Views from the Castle are stunning, out over the Irish Sea, Barnageera Beach, and Balbriggan.
The Taylor family sold Ardgillan in 1962 to Herr Henrich Potts, who, after 20 years, sold it to Fingal County Council. Fás workers renovated the house, and the ground floor and basement are now open to the public.
The Demesne is a haven for many animal and bird species, with the woods providing safety from surrounding farms. The Castle is open for guided tours, there’s a fantastic children’s
Things to do at Ardgillan Castle
So, there’s plenty to see and do in and around Ardgillan Castle and Demense, from coffee and cakes to the tour, orienteering and more.
There’s also a fairy trail, the Ardgillan Castle playground and plenty to see and do in and around the grounds.
1. Grab a coffee from the Tea Rooms and explore the grounds
The Tea Rooms can be your first stop before exploring the grounds. The Park is crisscrossed by 5 miles of walking and cycling paths, along which you can stop and enjoy the panoramic views. The wildflower meadow is also worth viewing—26 acres in existence for 20 years attracts a huge variety of wildlife.
During renovation works in 1985, the Ice-House was discovered. This was the original refrigerator. Ice was collected during winter and packed into the underground space to provide a cold store for meat and dairy products and any other perishables required for the coming year.
2. Take a tour of the Castle
There are three guided tours a day, but you can also take a self-tour and explore at your own pace. At €5 for adults, it’s excellent value. You will have a map to guide you through the warren of rooms and secret doors.
The tour lasts about an hour and takes you through life as generations of the Taylor family lived it right up to the sale of the property in 1962.
If you’re taking the guided tour, the volunteer guides are knowledgeable and friendly as they bring to life an eighteenth and nineteenth-century style of elegant rural living.
3. Head off on the fairy tree trail
The Fairy Tree Trail, like the playground, is provided free of charge by Fingal County Council. You can find it in the Walled Garden, and as you wander, you can find out about the various trees growing at Ardgillan.
There are lots of information panels about the trees, and you can also pick up a map and a quiz at Reception to play as you explore.
Watch out for the fairies living in the trees! The team behind the creation of the Fairy Tree Trail is hoping to attract lots of new fairies to the fairy houses dotted along the trail.
4. Tackle the Orienteering Course
Combine running or walking with navigation as you use a map to guide you along a selected route. There are eight separate orienteering courses in Ardgillan, one to suit all levels of ability.
First-timers can choose one of 3 Short Course maps and follow the map from start to finish. The route consists of posts with code letters and numbers which must be matched to those on the map. It is a race, so the winner is whoever completes the route in the shortest time.
Things to do near Ardgillan Castle
One of the beauties of a visit here is that, when you finish up, you’re a short spin away from some of the best things to do in Dublin.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Ardgillan (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Skerries (13-minute drive)
Skerries in North Dublin is a small fishing town with two beaches and a surprising number of sights to see. Views from the l beach at St Patrick’s Bay stretch to Shenick Island and the Martello Tower.
2. Newbridge House And Farm (27-minute drive)
Newbridge House is Ireland’s only Georgian mansion which is fully furnished with its original furniture and artifacts. A short 30-minute drive from Dublin’s City Centre, it is also well served by bus and rail. Wander around the Park, take a guided tour of the Castle, and discover the animals at the farm.
3. Malahide (30-minute drive)
Malahide is a pretty village with cobbled streets to wander and traditional shop fronts to admire. There are plenty of things to do in Malahide and there’s plenty of great restaurants in Malahide, too!
FAQs about Ardgillan Castle and Demense
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What mountains can you see from Ardgillan Castle?’ (The Mournes) to ‘Who owns Ardgillan Castle?’ (Dublin Council).
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Ardgillan Castle worth visiting?
Yes. This is a stunning park that’s a joy to stroll around. The sea views are stunning and it’s a wonderful place for a leisurely stroll.
Is there much parking at Ardgillan Castle?
There’s a decent bit of parking at Ardgillan Castle and Demense. However, it often fills up fast on sunny weekend days, so try and arrive early.
Is it free into Ardgillan Castle and Demense?
It’s free to enter the grounds. If you want to see inside and learn about the Ardgillan Castle history, it’s around (prices may change) €5.