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Aran Inspired

Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle, or O'Donnell's Castle, is a small but impressive 17th century building with a distinctive fortified tower, which has been fully restored. Overlooking the Eske river for defensive reasons, the castle's location is both scenic and central to the many gift shops and traditional Irish pubs of Donegal townUnlike some Irish castle visits, a tour of Donegal Castle is a mostly indoors activity and there are some beautifully restored rooms to explore. The castle tour is self-guided -- visitors are offered a fact-sheet, which they take with them when exploring the castle. Highlights include Persian rugs, French tapestries, a Jacobean fireplace, a pretty banquet hall, and a beautiful vaulted ceiling made with strong wooden beams

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King John’s Castle

Located on King's Island in Limerick, King John's Castle offers panoramic views over both the city and the River Shannon from its distinctive drum towers. A large renovation effort was completed in 2013 and visitors can now access the tower, which is the highest viewing point in the region, as well as accessing some interior rooms. Included in the entrance fee, visitors can access the interpretive centre, located within the castle, as well as receive a self-guided audio tour. The round towers are the most distinctive features of the castle, which is mostly a shell. The  north side of the castle walls still reveals evidence of a serious bombardment in 1691.

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Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle is a sumptuous 12th century building with a beautiful park, which together dominate the surrounding medieval town of Kilkenny. Unlike many other Irish castles, it has been fully restored inside. Visitors are charmed by the "Downton Abbey" style ambience of these rooms, although many are dismayed to learn they can't take photographs inside the building -- a rule enforced by the state owners to preserve paintings and other items from being damaged by camera flashes. Today, many of the castle’s rooms are open to the public. Most impressive is the Long Gallery, with its beautifully painted ceilings and extensive portrait collection of the Butler family members throughout the centuries.

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Ross Castle

Ross Castle, located in Killarney, is set in an idyllic location among some of Ireland's finest scenery. Killarney is well suited to walking tours, and its paths lead to Ross Castle, a large square tower on the shores of Lough Leane. The castle is distinguished by the fact that it was the last conquest of Cromwell’s armies in 1652. It has a square keep and is surrounded by what remains of its curtain walls. Built by the O’Donoghue Ross Chieftains in the late 15th century, it is a prime example of the structures of that period, with larger windows added later when they became more sensible.

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Dublin Castle

Built in the 13th century for King John by the Anglo Normans, Dublin Castle's complex of regal buildings has symbolized seven centuries of British rule. It served as a backdrop in the Neil Jordan movie Michael Collins, and was at the centre of historical events leading to establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. The courtyard of the castle is said to be the site of the black pool from which Dublin get its name -- since black pool translates in Irish as Dubh Linn.

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Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle is set on 250 acres of park land in the picturesque seaside town of Malahide. For nearly 800 years it served as both a fortress and a private home. It is said to be the oldest Irish castle continuously inhabited by the same family, the Talbots. They lived here from 1185 right up until the last Talbot died in 1973. Legend has it that 14 Talbot cousins breakfasted at the castle before riding out to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 never to return. The house is beautifully furnished with period furniture and also boasts an extensive collection of Irish portrait paintings, mainly from the National Gallery.

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Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is a crumbling, medieval ruin perched majestically atop a steep, rocky promontory, with a huge sea cave beneath.  Close to the northernmost tip of the island of Ireland, the castle, steeped in local legends, is linked to the mainland by a narrow arched footbridge. While in recent times, the castle has become known for featuring in the HBO series Game of Thrones, visitors to Dunluce have long been captivated by its picturesque beauty. Ireland has no shortage of castle ruins, but few boast this magnificent backdrop – the ferocious beauty of Antrim’s rugged coastline. No interior rooms remain, but a large portion of the castle walls, underground passageways and exterior features are still intact.

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Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle is a stunning building and grounds set near the quiet rural village of Cong, County Mayo -- the shooting location of everyone's favourite olden-days Irish movie, The Quiet Man starring John Wayne. While the original 13th-century castle on this site has had several complete makeovers, the current building dates from the early 18th century, when a local family of wealthy Anglo-Irish landowners, the Brownes, decided to turn it into a French style chateau. The Brownes' crest of arms -- two double-headed eagles -- is still visible carved into the castle's structure today.

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