Ireland and Britain have a wealth of castles between them. While many have been allowed to fall to ruin, many more have been restored and renovated over hundreds of years to become major tourist attractions,historical landmarks and hotels. Here we have picked our 8 favorite castles in Ireland, although there are many more we would have liked to include. Blarney,Doe, Cahir, Cabra, Knappogue, Donegal, Dungaire, Lough Rynn. Parke’s, Slane, Kilronan and Markree castles are all worth a visit but these are our favorites.
Dromoland Castle is located near Newmarket-on-Fergus in County Clare. With an extraordinary history stretching back to the 5th Century, Dromoland Castle was originally the ancestral home of one of the few families of Gaelic Royalty; direct descendants of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland. Now it is a 5 star hotel that has catered for the likes of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Jack Nicholson and Johnny Cash among many others. Approached by a meandering drive that passes acres of magnificent lawns, this luxury 5 Star Castle Hotel overlooks its own Championship Golf Course and a glistening lake which commands the panoramic beauty of the surrounds.
Every school going child from the west of Ireland has been to Bunratty Castle on a school tour / field trip. A 15th century tower house, Bunratty castle is located in the centre of Bunratty Village in Co. Clare andis perfect for families to spend a couple of hours. Both the castle and Bunratty House are open to the public. The castle is famous for its medieval banquets, offered since 1963, at which the “Bunratty Castle Entertainers” perform today.
Dating back to 1228 and once the estate of the Guinness family, the legendary 5-star Ashford Castle Hotel was one of the first luxury Castle Hotels in Ireland. Situated beside the tranquil Lough Corrib, Ashford Castle is one of the best examples of a Castle in Ireland. Ashford Castle has hosted some notable guests throughout the years, including King George V, Oscar Wilde, and celebrities such as Brad Pitt, John Wayne, and Pierce Brosnan. When it comes to luxury castle hotels, Ashford Castle is tough to beat.
For those seeking a classic medieval castle, look no further than Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland. Unlike the previous castles, Dunluce Castle is in ruins. However, what Dunluce Castle lacks in accommodations it makes up for in history. The castle was originally built in the 13th century as a stronghold that benefited from the surrounding steep cliffs. The castle changed hands several times until its abandonment in the late 17th century. In that time,many remarkable things happened at Dunluce Castle. According to a McQuillan boy in 1534, a woman in white stood at the edge of the cliffs facing into the ocean at sunset. He then saw her fade into the wind without a trace. The boy and his skeptical sister watched for the ghost the subsequent night, but to no avail.The event did not occur again until the early 1550’s, when there were reports of a woman in white walking along the beach at the bottom of the cliffs. The boy, now in his 30’s, approached the woman and tried to speak with her. She disappeared and was never seen again.
The location of the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, this area in Dublin has been the home of a castle since 1172. Relatively modern and located in the same spot, the current Clontarf Castle dates back to 1837. For the second half of the 20th century, the castle functioned as a popular entertainment venue,featuring music and dancing. This continued until 1997 when Clontarf Castle reopened as a 4 star hotel. Since its opening, the hotel has expanded and the castle has grown larger.
Kilkenny Castle has one of the oldest castles on the list, being built in1195 by William Marshal. The castle lies strategically on the River Nore and the crossroads of several roads. In the 13th century, the castle was an integral part of the town’s defenses as it featured four large corner towers and an expansive ditch. The castle was a strong symbol of Norman occupation in the past. Today, the castle is publicly owned and used as part of the National Art Gallery and as a conference venue.
Like Kilkenny Castle, Trim Castle is a Norman castle that has origins in the12th century. Situated by the River Boyne in County Meath, Trim Castle holds the title of largest Cambro-Norman castle in Ireland with an area of 30,000square meters total. Trim Castle had a large role during the middle ages; the15th century Irish Parliament met in the castle several times and a mint was operated in the castle. Today, Trim Castle gains most of its fame as York in the movie Braveheart.
Kinnitty in County Offaly has long been the site of castles. The first castle to be built here was destroyed in 1209, and then rebuilt by the Normansin 1213. Adding to the grandeur of Kinnitty is a nearby pyramid which was built by the Bernard family that once lived in the castle. Kinnitty Castle had many occupants,and was eventually purchased and left for Thomas Bernard, whose wife commissioned architect James Pain to transform the castle to a gothic style in its present size. Unfortunately, the castle was burned by the Irish Republican Army in 1922, but it was restored again in 1928. Having such a long and tumultuous history, it is no surprise that Kinnitty Castle is a popular destination for paranormal investigators. Living TV’s show Most Haunted investigated Kinnitty Castle recently in its fifth season.