The Best Castles in Dublin and How to Explore Them

Dublin and its surrounds are home to many castles that you can still visit today. In this guide, I wanted to talk about some of the castles I recommend the most. Within their walls, you can experience some of the most beautiful parts of the city and learn about its history.

CastleOpen to the Public?Price of AdmissionDistance to City Center
Dublin CastleYes€8 (self-guided)/ €12 (guided)10 minutes (walk)
Malahide Castle and GardensYes€14.50 (self-guided)45 minutes (public transport)
Swords CastleYesFree45 minutes (public transport)
Drimnagh CastleYes€945 minutes (public transport)
Rathfarnham CastleYes€545 minutes (public transport)
Ardgillan Castle and GardensYes€51 hour 30 minutes (public transport)
Ashtown Castle (Phoenix Park)YesFree40 minutes (public transport + walk)
Howth CastleNoN/A1 hour (public transport)
Dalkey Castle and Heritage CentreYes€11.5050 minutes (public transport)
Clonarf CastleNoHotel40 minutes (public transport)
An overview of some of the most popular castles in Dublin that you can see on your trip…

Some of these locations will definitely be on your must-see list by the end of this article. These are some of the most important historical spots in Ireland, and some of its most popular. If you’re spending some time in Dublin its well worth checking out at least a few of these.

Castles in Dublin
Read on to find the best castles in Dublin…

If you are looking for castles in the rest of Ireland, I have more for you in this article.Opens in a new tab.

Castles in Dublin

Dublin is the capital city of Ireland and was the seat of British rule in the country for hundreds of years. As such, there are plenty of fortified houses and castles around. While you might not be able to go inside all of them, some of them are open to the public and are well worth a visit.

Some of these castles, like Dublin castle are still used as government offices and have played host to some of the most important events in Irish history. Others, like Howth Castle, might not be open to the public, but you will still be able to explore the beautiful scenery nearby.

If you want more information on how to get the most out of your stay in Dublin, I have more recommendations for the city, here.Opens in a new tab.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle in the heart of the city center

Dublin castle was the seat of English, and later British rule in Ireland from the early 1200s, right up until Irish independence in 1922. Tours of this castle talk about some of the most important events in our history.

The castle actually predates the English invasions of Ireland. This is the location where the Vikings had their first settlement and fortification in what is now considered Dublin. The old location of Viking settlement is now a gorgeous city park that you can explore.

There are plenty of things to see and do in Dublin Castle and its grounds. There are self-guided tours, guided tours and a number of museums located in the grounds. All of this is situated right in the very center of Dublin city. Dublin Castle is well worth a visit if you are in town.

Aside from the tours, the castle is still used for some government functions today. When you visit Dublin Castle, you might find some ceremonies or services taking place!

Information on Dublin Castle:

  • Self Guided Admission: €8 (adult)/ €6 (student/ senior). This tour is approximately 30 minutes long.
  • Guided Tour: €12 (adult)/ €10 (student/ senior). This tour is approximately 1 hour long.
  • Other things to see: Dubh Linn Gardens, the Chester Beatty Library and the Coach House.
  • Link to Dublin Castle Website.Opens in a new tab.

Malahide Castle and Gardens

Malahide Castle Grounds
Malahide Castle Grounds

Located north of Dublin city, along the coast, is the beautiful suburb of Malahide. This place is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike when thinking about a day-trip from Dublin. Once you get here, you will definitely be able to see why.

The Castle itself was the seat of the Talbot family between 1185 and 1973. This place is steeped in history and you will be able to learn about some of the most interesting events in Irish history through the lens of this famous family and their impact on the country.

since the 1970s this castle and its grounds have been owned by the Irish State. Occasionally, there will be dignitaries and major events, like concerts, hosted here. But you will be able to visit the castle and the grounds for most of the year.

One of the more notable things for you to see are the (in)famous ghost of a court jester, named Puck. Also the butterfly house in the walled garden is well worth a visit.

Information on Malahide Castle and Gardens:

  • Guided Tour: €14 (adult)/ €9 (student/ senior). This tour is about 45 minutes long.
  • Other Tours Available: Whiskey Tour, Ghost Tour.
  • Other things to see: Various gardens, fairy trail, model railway museum, etc…
  • Link to castle website for more info.Opens in a new tab.

Swords Castle

Another castle located north of Dublin city, Swords Castle was obtained by the city council from the Cobbes family in 1985. Extensive restoration works have been carried out on the castle since the 1990s and there has been archaeological work done on the site for decades.

This place still has plenty of surprises left for us to find. Recently graves were uncovered beneath one of the gatehouses. When you visit Swords Castle, you will be able to get a sense of the site’s 800 year history!

The castle is open to the public for free. So if you want to explore a medieval castle, that still looks like a medieval castle, close to Dublin – this might be the place for you.

Information on Swords Castle:

Drimnagh Castle

Drimnagh today is a suburb of Dublin and is well-connected to the city center by public transport. The castle here dates back to 1215, when the land around it was gifted to Hugo de Bernivale, who was heavily involved with the Norman conquest of Ireland.

If you visit the castle today, you will be able to find a fully-flooded authentic moat, an undercroft and well-maintained gardens, with more besides. I think this castle is an underrated attraction in Dublin and definitely worth a visit.

Tours run throughout the day, but you will need to book via phonecall.

Information on Drimnagh Castle:

Rathfarnham Castle

Today, Rathfarnham Castle is nestled in a sleepy Dublin suburb. But the castle has a history of battles and attacks from native Irish forces coming into the English-held region around Dublin city.

The main fortified house dates back to the Elizabethan-Era, roughly the late 1500s. But there have been extensive restorations over the years and this location is now owned by the Irish State. If you pay this place a visit, you will be able to see a beautifully restored castle, close to Dublin.

The castle also has well-maintained gardens, a great little café and other amenities nearby. I have great memories of coming here as a child!

Information on Rathfarnham Castle:

Argillan Castle and Gardens

Ardgillan Castle
Ardgillan Castle

Originally, this was the seat of the native Irish O’Casey family, but the tumult of the 1600s left many Irish lands confiscated by various British governments. The area was given over to the Taylor family in the mid 1700s and this is when the majority of what you will be able to see was first constructed.

If you choose to visit this castle and its gardens, you will be able to learn about all of this interesting, and often sad, history about Ireland. When here, you will also be able to explore the grounds and see why many like to have weddings in this beautiful location.

Information about Ardgillan Castle:

The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre – Ashtown Castle

Deer - Dublin
One of the many deer that call the Phoenix park home.

The Phoenix Park is one of the best things about Dublin. This is the largest walled city park in the world and is over twice the size of central park in New York. When you visit here, you will not be able to see everything.

I always recommend people see this park, if they want to see the Irish countryside from Dublin.Opens in a new tab.

While you don’t have to see Ashtown Castle to enjoy the park, this is where the main visitors center is located. So, if you’re looking to learn more about the history of such a unique city park, or just use the toilets, I think this is where you should go.

Information on Ashtown Castle:

Howth Castle

Howth Castle
One of the oldest surviving parts of Howth Castle

Howth Castle is not open to the public, but you will be able to explore much of the grounds around it. And believe me, there is plenty to explore around Howth castle. Howth is one of the areas that I most highly recommend people visit when they come to Dublin.

If you want to learn more about why I recommend this place so much, you can find a full article about Howth, here.Opens in a new tab.

The castle itself dates back to the late 1170s, when the Norman Lord John de Courcy, became the first Lord of Howth and was granted the peninsula for himself. Since then, the castle has been expanded upon, with the oldest parts of what we can see today dating back to the mid 1400s.

There are plenty of legends and stories about this castle and the area itself, far too much for me to go into here. But this area has seen pirates, Vikings and played host to ancient Irish legends, to name just a few of its more interesting events.

Information on Howth Castle:

Dalkey Castle

Dalkey Island
Dalkey Island, with the Martello Tower shown here, is visible from Dalkey Castle

Dalkey today is a beautiful suburb along the coast of South County Dublin. These days, this community has been home to plenty of famous Irish literary figures over the years including Joyce, Binchy and Bono! Matt Damon was even here during the first covid lockdown.

If you visit Dalkey today, you will find plenty of great places to eat and drink. There is definitely no shortage of things to do here. But a visit to the castle and heritage center will tell you all about the less than pleasant parts of this area’s history.

There are brilliant actors and performers that bring the history of this place back to life. You can meet them in the wonderfully preserved fortified house, which dates from the 1300s.

Information on Dalkey Castle:

  • Tour Price: €11.50. This tour is 1 hour long.
  • Other Attractions: Reenactments of historical practices like cooking and warfare.
  • Website for more info.Opens in a new tab.

Clontarf Castle

The history of Clontarf dates back to the great battle that took place here in 1014, when the Irish high King, Brian Boru, drove the Vikings out of Ireland. There has been a castle on the site of the current one since 1172, with the current one dating to 1837.

The castle today is not open to the public for tours. It has been used for a variety of different purposes over the years and is currently a luxury hotel.

It has been referenced in works from the likes of Handel, who is said to have written Forest Music for the lady of the house, and even Thin Lizzy in their debut album.

Information About Clontarf Castle:

Map

Below is a map of all of the locations mentioned in this guide, if you want to explore any of them on your stay:

FAQs About Castles in Dublin

Here are some questions that I often get asked about castles in Dublin.

Are all the castles in Dublin open to the public?

Most of the castles in Dublin are open to the public, but some are private residences or have restricted access. It’s essential to check the opening hours, admission fees, and accessibility before visiting each castle.

How much time should I allocate for visiting each castle?

The time required to explore each castle varies depending on its size, attractions, and your interests. As a rough guide, you should allow anywhere from 1 to 3 hours per castle, keeping in mind additional time for travel, breaks, and exploring the surrounding areas.

Are there dining options available at or near the castles?

Many of the castles have on-site dining options, such as cafes, restaurants, or tea rooms. Also, some castles are located near local towns or villages, offering a variety of dining options in the surrounding areas. I often prefer the nearby dining options, with the exception of the Silk Road Café in Dublin Castle.

Jack

Jack Redmond has been a tour guide in Ireland for the past decade. Having received a national guiding qualification, he has brought thousands of travelers all over the island of Ireland.

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