Hey. We’re spending 2 days in Dublin. Can you recommend any good castles near Dublin City?”
Emails that go something along the lines of the question above tend to hit our inbox every few days. Mainly from American visitors that are in Ireland for a few days and that are looking to wedge in as much as possible.
If you’re only here for a short stint and you’re looking for the best castles near Dublin that are handy to get to and worth the visit, you’ll find plenty below!
I’ve split the guide into sections: the first looks at castles in Dublin near the city centre and the second looks at castles around Dublin, a short drive from the capital.
The best castles near Dublin City
The first section of our guide looks at castles near Dublin City, many of which are under a 30-minute drive away, depending on traffic.
Below, you’ll find everywhere from Malahide Castle and Swords Castle to Ardgillan and a couple of other castles around Dublin that people tend to miss.
1. Malahide Castle
The oldest sections of the beautifully preserved Malahide Castle date to the 12th century, when it was used as a home by the Talbot family.
That was until they were evicted by Oliver Cromwell in 1649 and the castle was handed over to named Miles Corbet. However, when Cromwell was defeated, Corbet was hanged and the castle was given back to the Talbots.
You can take a tour of the castle here or you can admire it from the outside and then walk around the grounds of the castle – they’re extensive and finely maintained.
2. Swords Castle
Swords Castle was constructed by the Archbishop of Dublin around 1200, and it was intended to be used as a residence and administrative centre.
Although little is done to promote the castle, it’s well worth a visit. The chances are, you’ll have the whole place to yourself (I’m basing this on my last two visits).
If you’re looking for castles near Dublin Airport, take a spin out here, get yourself to Swords. There are plenty of cafes and the likes to grab a coffee and a bite to eat.
3. Ardgillan Castle
I’ve heard say that Ardgillan Castle isn’t actually a castle… apparently it’s more of a country-style house with ‘castellated embellishments’.
However, despite this, it’s an impressive structure that commands stunning sea views from it’s perfectly manicured grounds.
The central section of Ardgillan Castle was constructed in 1738, while the west and east wings were added much later, towards the end of the 1800s.
You’ll find it in Balbriggan, not far from the lovely little village of Skerries, and there are tours on offer along with plenty of walking trails.
4. Dalkey Castle
Dalkey Castle is a bit of a funny one. It’s one of seven castles that are scattered around this gorgeous (and very affluent) seaside town in South Dublin.
The castle was built to store goods that had been offloaded in the town during the Middle Ages, when Dalkey acted as the port of Dublin.
From the mid-1300s to the late 1500s, large ships could not use the River Liffey to access Dublin, as it was silted up. They could, however, make their way to Dalkey.
The castle required a number of defensive features to fend off thieves from plundering the goods that were stored inside. Many of these features can still be viewed to this day.
Castles around Dublin under a 1-hour drive from the city
The second section of our guide looks at the best castles near Dublin that can be reached within a 1-hour drive.
Now, for the timings below, I’ve set the starting point as The Spire in Dublin City. You may need to drive more or less depending on where you’re leaving from.
1. Cú Chulainn’s Castle (1-hour drive)
Cú Chulainn’s Castle, more commonly known as ‘Dún Dealgan Motte’, has a fine bit of Irish folklore tied to it.
According to legend, the warrior Cú Chulainn used this castle as his base when he was attacking Queen Meave’s forces. There’s another legend that states that it was on the grounds of the castle that Cú Chulainn was born.
You’ll find it Dundalk, where it overlooks the chilly waters of Castletown River. If you’re looking for castles near Dublin that boast a tonne of folklore, look no further than this one.
2. Trim Castle (50-minute drive)
If you’ve ever seen the movie Braveheart, you may recognise Trim, as it was used as one of the locations during the filming of the Hollywood blockbuster.
You can have a ramble around Trim Castle, if you like, however (in my opinion) it’s far more impressive when admired from the outside.
3. Slane Castle (55-minute drive)
Slane Castle in Meath is one of the better-known castles in Ireland. You’ll find it in the village of Slane, within the incredible Boyne Valley, where its been the seat of the Conyngham family since it was built during the late 18th century.
The castle grounds have long played host to some of the biggest artists in the world, with everyone from Eminem to Bon Jovi taking to the stage here.
The tour of Slane Castle is supposed to be excellent. There’s also a distillery on-site that you can take a tour of.
4. Maynooth Castle (40-minute drive)
Maynooth Castle is another of the castles around Dublin that tends to get overlooked. It was founded in the 13th century and became the seat of the Earls of Kildare.
Interestingly enough, this castle was one of the wealthiest dwellings of its kind at the time and the original castle keep was one of the largest in Ireland.
If you fancy visiting, there’s is a well-reviewed exhibition in the castle keep that offers an insight into the history of Maynooth Castle and the family that once occupied it.
5. Bellingham Castle (55-minute drive)
If you’re looking for castle hotels in Ireland, look no further than Bellingham Castle in County Louth, a handy 55-minute drive from Dublin.
Bellingham Castle was constructed in 1660 by Sir Henry Bellingham and it continued to serve as one of the ancestral homes for the Bellingham family until the 1950s.
Interestingly enough, the castle was burned to the ground in 1689 by King James II, in an act of revenge. He was infuriated that Colonel Thomas Bellingham allowed King William’s armies to camp in the castle grounds on the night before the Battle of the Boyne.
Castles close to Dublin under a 2-hour drive from the city
The second final of our guide looks at the best castles near Dublin that can be reached in under a 2-hour drive.
Below, you’ll find everywhere from Castle Roche and Kilkenny Castle to a handful of castles around Dublin that tend to be overlooked.
1. Castle Roche (1 hour and 10-minute drive)
Yep, we’re in Louth again next to visit Castle Roche. You’ll find the castle around 10km from Dundalk town, where it’s been since 1236 AD.
It was built by the De Verdun family and it served as their seat for many years. Castle Roche is finely situated atop of a rugged rocky outcrop.
From here, you’ll be treated to unbeatable views out across the surrounding countryside. There’s no formal tour of Castle Roche. If you fancy visiting it, you can walk to it via the nearby farm gates (close them after you!).
2. Cabra Castle (1 hour and 20-minute drive)
Next in our guide to the best castles near Dublin is the brilliant Cabra Castle in Cavan, just under a 1.5-hour spin from the city.
You’ll find this beautiful 18th-century castle nestled on 100 lush acres of finely maintained gardens and parklands.
In a previous life, Cabra Castle was part of the 1,000-acre demesne of Dun Na Rí National Forest Park (well worth visiting if you’d like to head off for a ramble!).
If you fancy diving head-first into treat-yoself mode, you can spend the night (or indulge in afternoon tea) at Cabra Castle.
3. Charleville Castle (1.5-hour drive)
I’ll level with you – I always thought Charleville Castle was in County Cork… I was very wrong altogether.
Charleville Castle is located just outside Tullamore, in County Offaly, a short 1.5-hour drive from Dublin City.
Built in the 1600s, this gorgeous structure is arguably one of the best-preserved castles around Dublin.
According to legend, Charleville is haunted by the ghost of a girl named Harriet, who died tragically in the castle in 1861.
4. Kilkenny Castle (1 hour and 40-minute drive)
Ah, Kilkenny Castle – arguably the most visited of the many castles near Dublin, thanks to its appearance on a million post cards and in twice as many photos on social media.
The impressive Kilkenny Castle was constructed in 1195 and was a symbol of Norman occupation in Ireland.
Back in the 13th-century, Kilkenny Castle was an important element of the town’s defense, thanks to its four large corner towers and the massive ditch that can still be seen to this day.
5. Kinnitty Castle (1 hour and 45-minute drive)
We’re going to stay in County Offaly next to check out the magnificent 19th-century Kinnitty Irish Castle Hotel.
Located at the foothill of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, this castle boasts 650 acres of parkland and an interesting history, to boot!
If you spend the night here, you can nurse a drink or two in the cosy Library Bar and learn all about how the castle was destroyed in 1209.
6. Leap Castle (1 hour and 50-minute drive)
Leap Castle is widely regarded as the most haunted castle in Ireland. You’ll find it in a town called Coolderry in Offaly, just under 2 hours from Dublin City.
According to legend, the castle is haunted by a red lady and it’s said that she prowls the castle at night with a silver blade clutched in her hand.
Although there is a lot of debate about when the main tower area was built, it’s widely accepted that the castle was likely constructed in 1250.
It was built by the O’Bannon’s and it saw it’s fair share of bloodshed over the years. If you’re looking to visit haunted castles near Dublin, get yourself to Leap.
7. Loughmoe Castle (1 hour and 55-minute drive)
The final stop in our guide to the best castle near Dublin is Loughmoe Castle in County Tipperary. Loughmoe Castle in Irish is ‘Luach Mhagh’, which translates to ‘the field of the reward’.
The name hints at how the castles name came about. Many years ago, when the castle was ruled by a king, the woods surrounding it were occupied by a gigantic boar and sow.
In order to rid the woods of the beasts, the king offered the man who slayed them the hand of his daughter along with the castle.
Many man tired and failed. Then a young lad called Purcell succeeded. He did it by climbing in through the nearby forest and stalking the animals from the branches above.
What castles around Dublin have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant castles near Dublin from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about castles close to Dublin
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are the most impressive castles in Dublin City?’ to ‘What castles near Dublin are most worth visiting?’.
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 near Dublin?
In my opinion, the best castles close to Dublin are Trim Castle (Meath), Cú Chulainn’s Castle (Louth) and Slane Castle (Meath).
What castles in Dublin are worth touring?
Malahide Castle, Dublin Castle, Swords Castle and Ardgillan Castle are all well worth visiting if you’re in the capital.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.