There are some magnificent castles in Limerick.
And, although the likes of King John’s Castle tends to get much of the attention from tourists, this is far from a one-horse county!
Below, you’ll discover the best castles Limerick has to offer, from romantic ruins to once impenetrable structures.
Our favourite castles in Limerick
The first section of our guide is packed with what we think are the best castles in Limerick City and beyond.
Below, you’ll find everything from the mighty King John’s to the often overlooked Carrigogunnell Castle.
1. King John’s Castle
King John’s Castle is arguably one of the most impressive castles in Ireland, alongside the likes of Trim Castle in Meath and the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary.
The construction of King John’s Castle was ordered by King John at the beginning of the 13th-century. Its purpose? To protect the City of Limerick from possible invasions.
To the west of the city, the risk of attack from Gaelic Kingdoms was ever present. To the east and south, there was the threat of invasion from the Normans.
The castle suffered considerable damage during the first Siege of Limerick and was subsequently occupied during the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
Today, it’s one of the more popular places to visit in Limerick and the immersive tour is well worth taking.
2. Adare Castle
This castle is located on the edge of the little town of Adare. Desmond Castle was constructed on the site of an ancient Ringfort in 1202 by Thomas Fitzgerald – the 7th Earl of Desmond.
The castle holds a strategic position right on the banks of the River Maigue and it was constructed in the Norman style. In its heyday, Desmond Castle had towering battlemented walls and a large moat.
Thanks to its position, the castle allowed its owners to control the traffic coming in and out of the busy Shannon Estuary.
If you’re visiting Adare, it’s worth visiting the town’s heritage centre, first, and then either driving to the castle or taking an organised bus from the heritage centre.
Fun fact: There are several castles in Limerick that go by the name ‘Desmond’. You’ll find them in Newcastle West, Adare and Askeaton.
3. Castle Desmond
Castle Desmond is located in Askeaton and can be reached with a 30-minute drive from Limerick City. This castle was built in 1199, under the order of William de Burgo.
After 1348, the structure became the stronghold of the Earls of Desmond who held possession of the castle for over 200 years.
During your visit, don’t miss the imposing Great Hall dating back to the 15th-century and the Medieval garden situated on the opposite side of the bawn.
You can only enter the castle with a guided tour as there are ongoing conservation works currently taking place.
4. Carrigogunnell Castle
Carrigogunnell Castle is a bit of a pain to get to, as you’ll discover here, but it’s worth the effort.
You’ll find it perched on a rock and silhouetted against the skyline near Clarina Village.
There was a castle recorded here in 1209 and it’s thought that it may have been built for the Templars as they used it as a garrison.
The current building dates back to around 1450. The castle was sacked and largely destroyed in 1691 after it was captured during the second siege of Limerick.
The surviving ruins include parts of the upper bailey and west wall. Keep in mind that this is one of the trickier castles in Limerick to reach, so a bit of planning is required.
5. Glin Castle
Glin Castle is situated on the banks of the River Shannon and has been the home of the Fitzgerald family for over 800 years.
The Fitzgeralds arrived in the area in the 13th-century after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. In the late 17th-century, they abandoned the castle and started to live in the adjacent thatched longhouse.
Glin Castle is now of of the more exclusive castles to rent in Ireland and it offers a truly memorable accommodation experience.
6. Black Castle Castletroy
Black Castle is located in Castletroy, around a 15-minute spin from the centre of Limerick City where the River Mulcair meets the waters of the Shannon.
This castle was built sometime during the 13th-century by the O’Briens to guard the border of their territory with the English, who in turn had built the imposing King John’s Castle in the heart of Limerick.
Later on, the castle became the property of several families, passing from the hands of the MacKeoghs clan, the Earls of Desmond, Sir John Bourke of Brittas and many more.
In 1650, Black Castle was battered by cannon fire under the order of Henry Ireton, the son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell, during one of the sieges of Limerick.
7. Glenquin Castle
Next up is one of the more overlooked castles in Limerick, and you’ll find it in Glenquin village about a 50-minute drive from Limerick City. This structure consists of a square, six-storey limestone tower house.
On the top floor, you’ll find two barrel vaulted rooms containing the remains of stilts used by archers in ancient times.
Glenquin Castle was built in 1462 by the O’Hallinans, on the site of a pre-existing building dating back to 983.
During its history, this tower house has changed many owners passing through the hands of the O’Briens and the Geraldines to then become the property of Sir William Courtenay, a prominent member of the Devonshire gentry, who completely restored the building.
Castles near Limerick
Now that we have our favourite castles in Limerick out of the way, it’s time to see what else this part of Ireland has to offer.
Below, you’ll find a heap of castles near Limerick, several of which are a short spin from the city.
1. Bunratty Castle
This castle is located in Bunratty West about 17 km (10 miles) west of Limerick City. Bunratty Castle consists of a large 15th-century tower house built in 1425 by the MacNamara family.
Around the beginning of the 16th-century, the castle became the property of the O’Briens, the most powerful clan in Munster.
Later on, the building fell in the hands of the Earls of Thomond which expanded the structure and turned it into their chief seat.
Bunratty Castle is now open to visitors along with the adjacent folk park. Entry to both sites costs €10 for adults and €8 for kids.
2. Knappogue Castle
Knappogue Castle is located in the parish of Quin and can be reached with a 35-minute drive from Limerick City or a 20-minute drive from Ennis.
The original building dates back to 1467 and was built under the order of Séan MacNamara. The name of the castle can be translated as ‘castle of the place abounding in little hills’.
Knappogue Castle remained the property of the MacNamara family till the Cromwelling conquest of Ireland, which took place between 1649 and 1653.
During these years, the castle was confiscated and given to Arther Smith, a supporter of the Parliament of England.
This is one of the most popular castles near Limerick for good reason.
3. Carrigafoyle Castle
Carrigafoyle Castle is situated on the estuary of the River Shannon, in Ballylongford. You can reach this site with a 45-minute drive from Tralee or a 70-minute drive from Limerick City.
This castle was built between 1490 and 1500 and its name is an Anglicanization of the Irish ‘Carraig an Phoill’ meaning ‘rock of the hole’.
This site has been declared a National Monument and here you’ll find a spiral staircase with 104 steps that visitors can still climb to this day to get a great view of the surroundings.
In 1580, the castle was put under siege by Elizabethan forces and was later breached by cannon fire.
4. Ballybunion Castle
Ballybunion Castle is around 34 km (21 miles) north of Tralee and 85 km (53 miles) west of Limerick City. It was built at the beginning of the 16-century by a branch of the Geraldine family, the Fitzmaurices.
After its construction, the Geraldines decided to place the Bunaya family in the castle as official caretakers.
In 1582, the castle was destroyed by Lord Kerry and in the following years, precisely in 1583, the property was confiscated as a consequence of the active role that William Og Bunyan played in the Desmond Rebellion.
5. Listowel Castle
Listowel Castle is located on the bank of the River Feale in Islandmacloughry. It’s 25-minute drive from Tralee or a 75-minute drive from Limerick City.
This castle is particularly famous for having been the last bastion in the first Desmond Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I.
Only two of the four square towers which initially characterised the building can still be admired nowadays.
Nonetheless, Listowel Castle is worth visiting as access to the site is completely free and you may even find OPW guides giving you a free tour of the building,
6. Nenagh Castle
Nenagh Castle is about a 35-minute drive from Limerick City. This castle was built around 1200 by Theobald Walter. This massive structure has a diameter of 17 metres (55 feet) and a height of 30 metres (100 feet).
It features four storeys and it includes a stone spiral stair reaching the top of the building. The castle can be visited from April to October and it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays.
This site is also open during the winter months but only for one hour a day, from 2 to 3 pm, Sundays and Mondays excluded.
Limerick castles FAQs
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What Limerick castles can you rent?’ to ‘Which are the most impressive?’.
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.
What are the best castles in Limerick?
In our opinion, King John’s, Adare Castle and Castle Desmond are hard to beat, however, each of the above are worth considering.
What are some impressive castles near Limerick?
Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle and Carrigafoyle Castle are three impressive castles near Limerick worth a visit.