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11 Castles in Galway Worth Exploring (A Mix Of Tourist Favourites + Hidden Gems)

11 Castles in Galway Worth Exploring (A Mix Of Tourist Favourites + Hidden Gems)

There are over 200 historic castles in Galway. 

They range from fortified tower houses and abandoned ivy-clad relics to lavish Irish castle hotels offering luxury accommodation.

Now an important part of the landscape, these ancient landmarks capture the history, feuds and fortunes of Irish families over the past centuries.

Below, you’ll discover many of the best castles in Galway worth adding to your list of places to visit in Galway.

The best castles in Galway, Ireland

  1. Portumna Castle
  2. Kylemore Abbey
  3. Athenry Castle
  4. Aughnanure Castle
  5. Dunguaire Castle
  6. Menlo Castle
  7. Oranmore Castle
  8. Claregalway Castle
  9. Cahercastle
  10. Lough Cutra Castle
  11. Ballynahinch Castle

Our favourite castles in Galway

Oranmore Castle in galway

Photo via Lisandro Luis Trarbach on

The first section of our guide is packed with our favourite Galway castles. Below, you’ll find some well-known castles in Galway, like the magnificent Kylemore Abbey.

However, you’ll also find some frequently overlooked castles that are well worth visiting on your Galway road trip.

1. Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire castle

Photo by Patryk Kosmider/

Another tower house with its own protective walls, Dunguaire Castle occupies a small hilltop peninsula with beautiful views across Galway Bay.

Dating back to the early 16th century, it was built by the O’Hynes clan and occupied by Richard Martyn, Mayor of Galway, and generations of his family from 1642.

It is now used to host mediaeval banquets complete with a four-course meal, wine and entertainment. It’s definitely the best way to experience life in one of the most stunning castles in Galway!

2. Menlo Castle (one of the most unique castles in Galway City)

menlo castle in galway

One of the most unique castles in Galway: Photo by Lisandro Luis Trarbach (Shutterstock)

Covered in ivy, Menlo Castle is a popular landmark on the banks of the River Corrib. The windowless ruin has been taken over by ivy, creating a green landmark that blends with its natural surroundings.

Also known as Blake Castle, it was built for the wealthy landowning Blake family. They lived there from 1569 until 1910 when fire destroyed it and took the life of their daughter, Eleanor Blake.

Access to Menlo Castle is a 30-minute walk from Galway along the riverside path. Local folklore tells of fairies dancing to music in the nearby field. 

3. Kylemore Abbey (one of the best-known castles in Galway)

Kylemore Abbey galway

Photo by Chris Hill

Arguably the grandest castle in Galway, Kylemore Abbey is a must-see. It enjoys an idyllic location between Lough Pollaacapull and Druchruah Mountain in the Connemara region of the county.

It was built as a gift from Mitchell Henry to his wife Margaret after they honeymooned in the area. After she died, the neo-Gothic Church was built in her memory. The abbey was used by Benedictine nuns post WW1 and was a boarding school until 2010.

The Victorian Gardens once had 21 glasshouses and fed the castle residents. They are now beautifully maintained, growing heritage vegetables and, along with the abbey, they are a top visitor attraction in Galway.

Gorgeous Galway castles where you can spend a night

ballynahinch castle in galway hotel

Photo via Ballynahinch Castle

Yep, there are several castles in Galway where you can live like a king or queen for a night or three, if you’ve a bit of cash to splash.

Below, you’ll find one of the finest castle hotels in Ireland along with several other Galway castles that you can rent out in their entirety. 

1. Cahercastle

The exterior of the castle from afar

Photo via Cahercastle

Like a setting for Game of Thrones, Cahercastle is a 600-year-old stone castle complete with crenellated tower and turrets. 

Also known as Caherkinmonwee Castle, it was left in ruins for over 200 years, before being purchased and restored by Peter Hayes in 1996.

For the ultimate stay, book a night in the 2-bedroom private suite on the upper floors of the mediaeval tower which has stunning views.

It is now the most visited Airbnb in Europe and it topped our guide to the most unique Airbnbs in Galway.

2. Lough Cutra Castle

Lough Cutra is a magnificent private castle, now available as a luxury vacation home for private hire with 9 bedrooms, lavish sitting rooms and sumptuous 4-poster beds.

Designed by John Nash (of Buckingham Palace fame) it has a long and interesting past including being used as a convent and hosting famous guests including W. B. Yeats, Bob Geldof and HRH Prince Charles.

The 600-acre estate includes parkland, a large fishing lake with islands and stunning countryside. 

3. Ballynahinch Castle

one of our favourite castles in galway

Photo via Ballynahinch Castle

Last but not least, Ballynahinch Castle is an elegant country house estate built in 1754 on the site of a 16th-century castle.

Standing three storeys high, it is now a magnificent luxury hotel. Ideal for exploring Galway, it overlooks Ballynahinch Lake at the foot of Benlettery, one of the Twelve Bens Mountains.  

There’s a reason Ballynahinch goes toe to toe with many of the best 5 star hotels in Galway. This place is well-worth visiting if you have the budget.

Lesser-known castles in Galway worth a visit

the sea and Oranmore Castle

Photo by Lisandro Luis Trarbach on

As you’ve probably gathered by now, there’s a number of castles in Galway that tend to get a lot of attention both on and offline.

However, there are plenty more Galway castles worth exploring, if history and architecture are your thing. Below, you’ll find a handful of castles in Galway that often get overlooked.

1. Portumna Castle

the front of Portumna castle in galway

Photo by Gabriela Insuratelu on

Imposing Portumna Castle and Gardens is in a prime location close to the Tipperary County border with stunning views of Lough Derg.

Typical of castles built in the early 1600s, this grand Galway castle was erected by the 4th Earl of Clanricarde and was the home of the de Burgo family for centuries.

Damaged by fire, and roofless from 1826, the castle is currently being restored. Currently, visitors can tour the substantial ground floor which houses an informative exhibition.

The 17th-century formal gardens and walled kitchen garden were the first Renaissance gardens to be laid out in Ireland and are well worth checking out.

2. Athenry Castle

Athenry Castle galway

Photo by Patryk Kosmider on

Built in the 13th century, Athenry Castle is in the centre of Athenry and is open daily for guided tours from April to October.

The existing castle complex has plenty to see including a curtain wall with two round lookout towers and a three-storey keep housing the Great Hall.

Built in 1253 by Meiler de Bermingham it has been the site of many battles, particularly between the Normans and the King of Connaught.

Over the centuries, more defences and floors were added including the trefoil windows, a rarity in Irish castles.

Abandoned in 1596 after being conquered by the O’Donnell clan, it is now under restoration by the Irish Office of Public Works and it’s said to be one of the best castles in Galway to explore.

3. Aughnanure Castle

Aughnanure Castle

Photo by Kwiatek7 on

Aughnanure Castle is a well-preserved Irish tower house, probably built in 1256 by Walter de Burgos, first Earl of Ulster. Aughnanure means “field of yews” and there is an ancient yew tree nearby.

The battlemented castle stands on a low cliff above the Drimneed River, once an essential source of fresh water with boat access for supplies.

This Galway castle was the home of the O’Flaherty clan off-and-on for centuries before being taken over by the Irish Commission of Public Works in 1952 and declared a National Monument. It is now home to endangered Long-eared and Pipistrelle bats.

Related read: Check out our guide to 11 of the best castles near Galway City (that are actually worth a visit).

4. Oranmore Castle

the sea and Oranmore Castle

Photo by Lisandro Luis Trarbach on

Another Galway icon is Oranmore Castle, a majestic 15th-century tower house that reflects in the still waters of Galway Bay.

Home of the Earl Clanricarde, the 40storey castle has a square staircase turret and a Great Hall. It was a garrison during the 1640s Confederate Rebellion and later owned by the Blake family.

Like many other Galway castles, Oranmore was uninhabited from 1853 until the 1940s when it was bought and restored by Lady Leslie.

Her granddaughter Leonie King (widow of musician Alec Finn of De Danann) now lives there and it is open from June to August.

5. Claregalway Castle

Claregalway Castle

Photo by Borisb17 on

Now fully restored, Claregalway Castle is a 15th-century tower house on the banks of the scenic River Clare.

Its main claim to fame is as the original home of the Brian Boru Harp, Ireland’s national symbol now on display in Trinity College Dublin.

Take a guided tour of this Anglo-Norman tower house, former home of the illustrious Clanricard Burkes.

You can stay in private rooms at the Old Mill adjacent to the castle for an authentic experience while exploring more Galway castles.  

Galway castles faqs

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the best castles near Galway worth a visit to which ones can you book into for a night.

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 castles in Galway are most worth visiting?

Kylemore Abbey, Oranmore Castle, Dunguaire Castle and the mighty Athenry Castle.

What Galway castles can you spend a night in?

You can stay in Ballynahinch Castle (an outstanding castle hotel), Cahercasle and Lough Cutra Castle.

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