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What are the Best Castles to See in Ireland?

Ireland has no shortage of castles -- there are approximately a thousand castles spread throughout the island, though no complete and accurate list exists. Sounds fantastic? There's a snag -- the majority of Ireland's castles lie in ruins. Castle ruins have their own, abandoned, ivy-covered charm, and some ruins are tremendously more impressive than others. Nevertheless, if you're visiting Ireland, you'll probably want to see at least one beautiful medieval castle. You may want to see a castle you can walk into, with intact bedrooms and royal furniture. You may even want to stay in a castle. No problem. I've compiled this list of 15 must-see castles in Ireland  (in no particular order) to make sure you aren't disappointed. See also: All Castles.

1. Blarney Castle

By gorrah, if you come to Ireland, you have to kiss the Blarney Stone! While the "Stone of Eloquence" is what makes Blarney famous, it is also one of Ireland's prettiest castles.

  • Interior: A well-preserved ruin -- though its crumbling facade adds to its charm
  • Location: County Cork
  • Accommodation in castle: not available

2. Malahide Castle

This beautifully restored castle, half an hour by train from Dublin's centre, has an adjoining park, cafe, gift shop and playground. Situated in a pretty seaside village, it makes a great afternoon trip.

  • Interior: fully restored
  • Location: County Dublin
  • Accommodation in castle: not available

3. The Rock of Cashel

This ancient fortress was where the warrior Brian Boru was crowned High King of Ireland in 1002.

  • Interior: A comparatively well-preserved ruin, with a round tower, a chapel and other structures.
  • Location: County Tipperary
  • Accommodation in castle: not available

4. Bunratty Castle

 If you want to experience medieval Irish aristocratic life and feast like a king or queen, Bunratty Castle, famed for its banquets, is worth a visit.

  • Interior: fully restored
  • Location: County Clare
  • Accommodation in castle: not available

5. Ross Castle

 If you're looking for a picture-perfect Irish castle, Ross Castle, by the lake at Killarney, is one that has been drawing tourist snaps for over a hundred years.

  • Interior: A ruin -- the exterior walls are well preserved.
  • Location: County Kerry
  • Accommodation in castle: Not available

6. Parkes Castle

Set on the shores of beautiful Lough Gill near Sligo town, this hidden gen is worth a visit, or even a stay. Guided tours are also available.

  • Interior: Fully restored
  • Location: County Leitrim
  • Accommodation in castle: Available

7. Kilkenny Castle

One of Ireland's largest castles, Kilkenny castle is the magnificent focal point of this medieval town. Many rooms are open to the public, and guided tours are offered.

  • Interior: Fully restored
  • Location:  County Kilkenny
  • Accommodation in castle: Not available

8. Donegal Castle

Set on the pretty shores of the River Eske, this impressive-looking castle with its distinctive tower is unlike any other in Ireland.

  • Interior: Partially restored -- the main tower has furnished rooms and a banquet hall
  • Location: County Donegal
  • Accommodation in castle: Not available

9. Dublin Castle

Located in the heart of Dublin city, this castle was the centre of British power in Ireland for many centuries. Guided tours are available of its historic vaults, and on its grounds is one of Dublin's best museums, the Chester Beatty Library.

  • Interior: Fully restored
  • Location: Dublin city
  • Accommodation in castle: Not available

10. Birr Castle

Birr Castle is a still-inhabited castle with beautiful, sprawling grounds, and a unique modern play area for children that's worth the fee, even though (sadly) you can't enter the castle.

  • Interior: Fully restored
  • Location: County Offaly
  • Accommodation in castle: Not available

11. Dunluce Castle

Located at the top of a sea-cliff, near the northern tip of the island of island, this crumbling medieval castle has the most beautiful, majestic backdrop of all Ireland's ruins.

  • Interior: A ruin --- a beautifully scenic ruin, with a haunted tower above a hidden sea-cove
  • Location: County Antrim
  • Accommodation in Castle: Not available

12. King John's Castle

With scenic views over Limerick city and the River Shannon, this unique castle with its barrel-shaped towers is well worth a visit.

  • Interior: Partly restored -- visitors can explore one tower can and there is an extensive visitor center on the site
  • Location: County Limerick
  • Accommodation in castle: Not available

13. Ashford Castle

Located near Cong -- a rural village  immortalised in the Film "The Quiet Man" -- this medieval castle, built as a French-style chateau, now serves as a 5-star luxury hotel

  • Interior: Fully restored
  • Location: County Mayo
  • Accommodation in Castle: Available (5-star hotel)

14. Trim Castle

One of Ireland's largest castles with an impressive exterior, which dominates the adjoining town of Trim, this Castle is famous for being used in the last scenes of the movie Braveheart.

  • Interior: Ruin
  • Location: County Meath
  • Accommodation in castle: Not available

15. Dromoland Castle

Once the 19th century estate of the Earl of Thomond, this magnificent mansion is now a luxury hotel, and has hosted many world dignitaries, including U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

  • Interior: Fully restored
  • Location: County Clare
  • Accommodation in Castle: Available (5-star hotel)

16. Lismore Castle

This visually impressive and imposing castle on the banks of the River Blackwater has been home to many famous guests, including Walter Raleigh, who introduced both tobacco and the potato to Britain and Ireland.

  • Interior: Fully restored
  • Location: County Waterford
  • Accommodation in Castle: Available, but only for short-stays, and for large fees (tens of thousands of dollars to rent the castle)

More Irish Castles?

See our full list of Irish castles.

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