There’s no shortage of Medieval Castles in Ireland. In fact, you’ll find hundreds of them dotted right the way across the country.
The construction of castles on our little island began with the Anglo-Normans who used earth and timber to erect strongholds of all shapes and sizes.
Many of these were replaced by the late 12th century with some of the more sturdy stone structures that you’ll see across the country to this day.
You’ll find a delightfully mixed bag of castles scattered across Ireland, from romantic cliffside ruins to flamboyant structures erected during the quirky Georgian era.
Here’s ten of the best castles in Ireland you can plonk down on your travel itinerary!
1 – Blarney Castle in County Cork
2 – Bunratty Castle, County Clare
The structure that stands today was built in 1425 and is said to be one of the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland.
The powerful MacNamara family built the present structure around 1425, but by 1475 it had became the stronghold of the O’Briens, the largest clan in North Munster.
In 1962 the castle opened to the public and to this day offers a window into Ireland’s medieval past.
3 – Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
If you’ve ever flicked through some Irish castle related hashtags on Instagram you’ll undoubtedly have come across photos of the rugged remains of Dunluce Castle.
Constructed on the dramatic coastal cliffs of County Antrim in the mid 1500s, Dunluce remained in the hands of the MacQuillan family for around 50 years.
In the 1550s, the MacDonnell clan seized the castle and it remained in the family until 1690 when they were forced into poverty.
According to legend, one night during a particularly ferocious storm part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the sea.
It’s said that only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sitting in the corner of the kitchen which did not collapse.
4 – Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny
Located smack bang in the middle of the bustling city of Kilkenny, Kilkenny Castle is a 12th century structure that was originally constructed with wood in 1172.
Overlooking the River Nore, Kilkenny Castle stood in all its wooden glory for only thirty years before it was rebuilt with stone by the Earl of Pembroke.
The castle was later bought by the powerful Butler family who arrived in Ireland in 1171 during the first wave of the Norman invasion.
The castle was rebuilt several times over the following years and was finally vacated by the Butlers in 1967.
When you ramble around the castle grounds now the level of attentiveness given to its maintenance is evident in abundance. Well worth the visit.
5 – Dublin Castle, County Dublin
You’ll find Dublin Castle in all its glory on Dame Street in Dublin City Centre. Back in the 930’s a Danish Viking Fortress stood on the site where the current castle stands.
It was the Vikings main military base and it became a key trading center of slaves and silver, in Ireland.
If you’re visiting Dublin and looking to visit the castle, you can have a ramble around the grounds or take a peak inside the State Apartments, Medieval Undercroft and Chapel Royal.
There’s archaeological evidence of a wooden and stone castle dating back to the 1170’s but it was in 1204 that King John of England commanded the erection of a bigger stronger castle.
The castle that stands today survived the devastation of the 1916 rebellion and the subsequent Civil War.
6 – King Johns, County Limerick
King Johns Castle is situated on King’s Island in the heart of Limerick City, overlooking the waters of the River Shannon.
Around one hundred years before King John ordered the construction of the castle, a Viking settlement was built on the strategically located site.
It was from here that the Vikings pillaged settlements from Lough Derg right the way to Lough Ree.
The Castle is now home to an interpretative center containing an interactive historical exhibition the tells the story of the Castle.
You’ll catch the best views from high up on the actual battlements themselves. Those who make the short climb will be treated to a 360 panorama of the city and the River Shannon.
7 – Trim Castle, County Meath
Trim Castle lies on the shores of the River Boyne and was once the largest castle in Ireland.
Dating back to 1176, the castle was constructed across a 30,000 m² site over a thirty-year period by a man named Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter.
For those of you who remember the movie Braveheart starring Mel Gibson, you may recognise Trim Castle as one of the blockbusters shooting locations.
If you’re visiting the castle, be sure to stop off at some of the many megalithic sites scattered around County Meath like The Hill of Tara, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.