If you’re in search of castles near Galway City, you’ve landed in the right place.
Galway City is the European Capital of Culture for 2020, so the eyes of the international travel world (and those closer to home) have been giving it plenty of attention.
However, with an emphasis on social distancing this year, outdoor attractions are definitely up in the air (although the 2021 Galway Christmas Markets seem to be going ahead!).
With that being said, there are plenty of other things to do in Galway and heaps of things to see nearby, including many historic castles.
Castles near Galway City that are worth exploring
If you’re a fan of Irish castles, Galway is the perfect base to see many of the best castles Ireland has to offer. In the guide below, you’ll discover the very best of them.
Although some of the castles, like Menlo Castle, are in Galway, others, like Ashford Castle, are situated in closeby neighbouring counties.
1. Aughnanure Castle (Galway)
Kicking off our tour of castles near Galway City, Aughnanure Castle is one of around 200 tower houses in County Galway that were built as fortified residences.
Aughnanure means “field of yews” in Gaelic and if you cast your eyes around you’ll see one hardy specimen still survives.
This castle stands on a cliff overlooking the Drimneed River for practical and defensive reasons; boats delivered supplies right to the gates of the fortification.
Probably built by Walter de Burgo, first Earl of Ulster, in the 13th century, it was the stronghold of the feisty O’Flahertys for three centuries.
Today you can see the remains of the six-storey Tower House with its battlements, peer into the guard’s cubicle and see the “murder hole”.
2. Ashford Castle (Mayo)
Ashford Castle is a splendid medieval/Victorian castle on the stunning shores of Lough Corrib near Cong.
Built by the de Burgos family around 1228AD, this sprawling monument was rebuilt in grand style in the 1850s by Benjamin Guinness (of Guinness brewery fame).
Now one of the finest luxury castle hotels in Ireland, Ashford Castle is filled with modern comforts showcasing green Connemara marble, glittering Waterford and Donegal crystal chandeliers.
If you’re looking for castles near Galway to spend the night, Ashford Castle is worth considering (just keep in mind that a night here will cost you a pretty penny!)
3. Kinlough Castle (Mayo)
Another Tower House, Kinlough Castle is a protected National Monument on the banks of the Black River near Schrule.
Thought to have been constructed in the 13th century, it was restructured 300 years later and is described on maps as a “MacWilliam” stronghold.
Although plain in style and lacking crenellations, this historic four storey stronghold with its thick walls and commanding position is one of the many castles near Galway that’s open to the public.
Related read: Check out our guide to 11 of the most fairytale-like castles in Galway that are well worth exploring.
4. Caisleán Ghráinne (Achill Island, Mayo)
Grace O’Malley’s Castle with its Kildavnet Tower is better known by its Irish name of Caisleán Ghráinne.
Remotely located in Cloughmore, it is on the southeast corner of Achill Island, the largest of the Irish Isles which is now connected by a bridge to the coast of Co. Mayo.
This 15th century Tower House is associated with the seafaring O’Malley clan who once ruled the island.
Despite having a brother, Grace O’Malley became one of the most predominant and fearless leaders of the clan in the 16th century.
5. Ballynahinch Castle (Galway)
The magnificent Ballynahinch Castle is another of the few castles near Galway City where you can spend a night living it up in luxury.
This is a gracious country house and estate that was built in 1754 on the foundations of an earlier castle, circa 1546.
Standing three storeys high, this quintessential Irish castle has had a series of noteworthy owners including the Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanager.
Located midway between Galway and Clifden, this imposing castle is now a luxury hotel. It’s worth visiting for its unrivalled location overlooking Ballynahinch Lake in the shadow of Benlettery, one of the Twelve Bens Mountains.
6. Leamaneh Castle (One of the lesser-known castles near Galway)
Standing as a historic landmark in The Burren, midway between Corrofin and Kilinaboy, Leamaneh Castle is not open to the public but can be clearly seen from the road.
The word Leamaneh is thought to mean “horse’s leap”. Towering five storeys, this castle has endured since 1480.
It was probably constructed by Toirdelbhach Donn MacTadhg Ó Briain, one of the last of the High Kings of Ireland, so it’s been standing here proudly for a while!
Despite being a shell, much of this historic castle lives on. Its grand gates were relocated to Dromoland Castle in 1906 and one of the fireplaces can still be seen in the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis.
7. Knappogue Castle (Clare)
Now hosting medieval banquets, Knappogue Castle is reliving its heyday when Sean MacNamara, Lord of Clancullen, hosted lavish parties in this imposing fortification.
Built in 1467, this Tower House was the seat of the MacManaras for many generations until it was confiscated by Cromwell.
Restored in the 1960s by US oil executive Mark Edwin Andrews and his architect wife Lavonne, this is one of the most imposing castles near Galway and a fitting venue for banquets and weddings.
8. Dunguaire Castle (Galway)
Dunguaire Castle is arguably the most popular of the many castles near Galway City. Built in the 1520s by the O’Hynes, Dunguaire is a restored Tower House.
You’ll find it sitting proudly on its own hill on Galway Bay. The best way to soak up the atmosphere of this historic pile is by booking a seat at a four-course banquet.
Enjoy an evening of Irish fare, fine wine, tall stories and cultural entertainment all from the confines of this magnificent Irish castle.
9. Newtown Castle (Clare)
One of the manmade highlights of the unspoilt Burren, Newtown Castle is an attractive and well preserved 16th century Tower House.
Built by the O’Brien family, it was occupied by Charles O’Loghlen from 1830AD and he was nicknamed “King of the Burren”.
It features an unusual round shape, tapering from its pyramid base as it rises over five floors. Open to the public, the balcony from the Main Hall delivers stunning panoramic views.
10. Doonagore Castle (Clare)
Largely intact, Doonagore Castle has been a landmark sitting on a hilltop overlooking Doolin Point and the Atlantic Coast for over 500 years.
Unusually, this Tower House was constructed from sandstone from a nearby quarry and has stood the test of time.
A ship from the Spanish Armada was wrecked on the nearby rocks in 1588. Restored in the 1970s and now owned by the Gorman family, it is a private home and unintentional navigational point for boats.
11. Kylemore Abbey
Perhaps the grandest of all, Kylemore Abbey is a stunning former castle, now used as a Benedictine Abbey.
It is one of the ‘newer’ castles near Galway City, when you compare it to the other castles above and it was built for Mitchell Henry, MP in 1867.
Designed by Irish architect James Franklin Fuller and constructed by 100 labourers this romantic 33-bedroom castle was a gift from Henry to his wife.
If you’re visiting Kylemore, carve out some time to try some of the other incredible things to do in Connemara, may of which are a stone’s throw from this magical spot.
Castles near Galway 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 are the closest castles to Galway City?
Menlo Castle, Dunguaire Castle, Ballynahinch Castle, Ashford Castle and Aughnanure Castle are all a short drive away.
What castles near Galway are most worth visiting?
In my opinion, Ballynahinch is well worth dropping by. Dunguaire Castle is another great option, as it’s a handy 35-minute drive back along the coast.
Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.