The Best Castles in Ireland and How to Explore Them

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Plenty of travelers on my tours ask me about visiting castles during their stay in Ireland, so today I want to go into a little detail and talk about some of the best castles to visit in the country. There are hundreds of castles around Ireland, while I have yet to visit all of them, I have been to some of the best.

CastleAccessible FromOpen to the Pubic?Ruin?Hotel?
TrimDublinYesYesNo
KilkennyDublinYesNoNo
SlaneDublinPartiallyNoYes
DunguaireGalwayYesNoNo
AshfordGalwayNoNoYes
Lynch’sGalwayPartiallyNoNo
AughnanureGalwayYesNoNo
AthenryGalwayYesNoNo
BlarneyCorkYesYesNo
CahirCorkYesYesNo
Rock of CashelCorkYesYesNo
CarrickfergusBelfastYesNoNo
DunluceBelfastPartiallyYesNo

Remember, this is just a sample of what you can see around Ireland. There are hundreds of castles around the island, so you likely won’t be able to see them all. These are just the ones that I think you should definitely at least consider visiting, either because they are impressive, important or just beautiful.

I have already gone into detail on the best castles you can visit in Dublin, in this article.Opens in a new tab.

The Best Castles in Ireland
The Best Castles in Ireland and How to Explore Them

Castles Accessible From Dublin

Most visitors to Ireland will stay in the capitol of Dublin. If you are looking for more to do in this fair city, then I have a much more detailed set of recommendations, linked here.Opens in a new tab.

Having said that, I also think that one of the best things about Dublin is how easily accessible the Irish countryside is from the city center. When in Dublin, you will be able to visit so many different castles all around Ireland, but here are a few of the best.

Trim Castle

Trim Castle
Trim Castle

This castle in County Meath was started in 1176 by the de Lacy family, some of the original Anglo-Norman invaders of Ireland. This was one of the first medieval castles built in Ireland. Its also huge.

The castle changed hands multiple times over the years and today its owned by the Irish government. Today the 20-sided keep is in ruins, but there are modern walkways that offer great views of the interior.

The central fort is the main attraction here. It is a monumental 3-storey keep, which was one of the best fortifications in the area when it was built. The keep was protected by a ditch, a curtain wall and a moat filled with water.

Information on Trim Castle

Distance From Dublin

By Car: 45 minutes – 1 hour.

By Public Transport: 1 Hour – 1.5 Hours.

Admission Charge

  • Adult: €5.
  • Group/ Senior: €4.
  • Child/ Student: €3.

Opening Times

  • October: 9:30am – 4:30pm.
  • November to February: 9am – 4pm.
  • February – 16th March: 9:30am – 4:30pm.
  • 17th March – 30th September: 10am – 5pm.

Official Website LinkOpens in a new tab.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle

Located in the heart of the beautiful medieval city of Kilkenny is Kilkenny Castle. Originally built in the 1300s by the Anglo-Normans, this castle was the seat of the powerful Butler family for around 600 years.

The castle was given over to the people of Kilkenny in the 1960s and I think it is one of the most beautifully preserved castles in Ireland. Today, it is run by the Office of Public Works (OPW), an Irish State-run organization.

I have already spoken in detail about how to see Kilkenny Castle, in this article linked here.Opens in a new tab.

Information on Kilkenny Castle

Distance From Dublin

  • By Car: 2 Hours (approx.).
  • By Public Transport: 2 Hours (approx.).

Admission Charge:

  • Adult: €8
  • Student: €4
  • Senior: €6
  • Child: €4

Opening Times:

  • October to March: 9:30am – 5pm (every day).
  • April to September: 9:15am – 5:30pm (every day).

Official Website LinkOpens in a new tab.

Slane Castle

Some Irish castles have a more recent history than you might think!

This is one of the newer castles that I will talk about on this list, it ONLY dates back to the 18th-Century. Also, unlike many of the other castles on this list, this one is still owned privately. The Lord of this castle is, arguably, one of the coolest people in Ireland, Lord Mount CharlesOpens in a new tab. – the Rock and Roll Aristocrat.

As Ireland is a Republic, we don’t recognize any hereditary titles or aristocracy. But, Lord Mount Charles represents the old ascendency of Ireland. The elite ruling class that existed before independence from the UK.

In Ireland, Slane Castle is famous for the concerts that take place here every year, during the summer months. Some of the most famous acts in the world have played here. With the most infamous performance by Bob Dylan. You can see the Irish news report from 1984 in the video above.

Information on Slane Castle

Distance From Dublin

  • By Car: 1 Hour.
  • By Public Transport: 1.5 Hours.

Admission Charge

  • Adult: €14.
  • Youth: €8.40
  • Student/ O.A.P (+Groups): €12.50 per person.

Opening Times

  • Available by appointment. You can find more information through the link below.

Other Features

  • Restaurant
  • Hotel
  • Glamping/ Camping
  • Concerts
  • Distillery

Official Website LinkOpens in a new tab.

Castles Accessible From Galway

Galway is one of the most beloved cities in Ireland. The medieval town itself dates back to the 1200s and you can see its heritage all through its streets and the surrounding areas.

If you want more advice about how to best explore Galway, I have my recommendations linked here.Opens in a new tab.

Galway has plenty of great castles that you can explore nearby and even in the city center. So here I want to talk about a few of my favorite castles that you can explore during your time in Galway.

Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire Castle

Built in the 1500s, this castle has been restored a number of times. It was built on an outcrop of land on the shore of the stunning Galway Bay. When you see the views from this castle, you will be clearly able to see why it was made here.

If you are visiting this castle, you also have to visit the surrounding village of Kinvarra. This is a picturesque seaside town that is full of cozy cafés and little boutiques. Also, all of the food here is excellent!

Information on Dunguaire Castle

Distance from Galway

  • By Car: 45 minutes.
  • By Public Transport: 1 Hour.

Admission Charge

  • Adult: €7.50
  • Child: €5
  • Student: €5.50
  • Senior: €5.50

Opening Times

  • April – October: 10am – 5pm

Other Services

  • Medieval Banquet

Official Website LinkOpens in a new tab.

Ashford Castle Hotel

Falconry - Ashford Castle
You can take part in falconry if you stay at Ashford Castle

Today Ashford Castle offers luxury accommodation to travelers from all over the world and you too can stay in this 800 year old institution. There are plenty of services on offer, with the most recent addition being their falconry school!

The castle itself also dates back to the 1200s and the Anglo-Norman invasions of Ireland. Those Normans sure did like to build castles wherever they conquered…

Information About Ashford Castle Hotel

Distance From Galway

  • By Car: 45 minutes.
  • By Public Transport: 1.5 Hours.

Other Features/ Services

  • Hotel
  • Dining
  • Falconry
  • Tours of the area
  • Outdoor activities
  • Virtual tours of the castle

Official Website LinkOpens in a new tab.

Lynch’s Castle

If you have ever visited Galway, you have definitely seen this castle. It is right in the heart of the bustling center of Galway city. Today this building is used as a bank, but its history stretches back to the early days of the area’s settlement by the Anglo-Normans.

The Lynch’s were one of the 14-tribes, the families who ruled Galway for centuries. While they don’t anymore, part of this 1500s tower-house is still open to the public for free!

Information About Lynch’s Castle

Distance From Galway

Official Website LinkOpens in a new tab.

Aughnanure Castle

Aughnanure Castle
Aughnanure Castle

This castle was the seat of the Irish O’Flaherty family for over 300 years. They ruled large parts of the west of Ireland for generations from this 6-storey castle. Their motto was “fortune favors the strong”.

Today, the castle is owned by the Irish government and you can visit it throughout the year. There are plenty of attractions inside the castle, where you will be able to see how this family ruled over so much of Ireland. Also, the gardens and exterior of the castle are open to the public.

Information About Aughnanure Castle

Distance From Galway

  • By Car: 40 minutes.
  • By Public Transport: N/A

Admission Charge

  • Adults: €5.
  • Children: €3.
  • Seniors: €4.
  • Students: €3.

Opening Times

  • 2nd March – 12th November: 9:30 – 6pm (daily). Last admission is at 5.15pm.

Official Website LinkOpens in a new tab.

Athenry Castle

Make sure to check out the town of Athenry while you’re here…

To many Irish people, the fields of Athenry are famous for how low lying they are! You will definitely be able to get a great view of the surrounding countryside from this well-preserved castle in the heart of county Galway.

The castle itself dates back to the 1200s and is another fortification built by the Anglo-Normans, a theme in this guide. Today, the castle is owned by the Irish government and it is open to the public. Make sure to check it out, if you find yourself in the area.

Information About Athenry Castle

Distance From Galway

  • By Car: 25 minutes.
  • By Public Transport: 30 minutes.

Admission Charge

  • Adult: €5.
  • Senior: €4.
  • Student: €3.
  • Child: €3.

Opening Times

  • 17th March – 5th November: 9:30am – 6pm (daily). Last admission is 5:15pm.

Official Website LinkOpens in a new tab.

Castles Accessible From Cork

Cork is the second city of the Republic of Ireland and is one that I think a lot of travelers overlook. There are plenty of great things to see and do in this beautiful city. You can find some of the best food and pubs in Ireland right here, there is also plenty of history and nature in and near the city.

And of course, there are plenty of castles for you to check out while you’re here. These are just a few of my favorite castles in Cork.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle

This is possibly the most famous castle on the island of Ireland and its one that I always used to avoid because I thought it was overrated. I was definitely wrong, Blarney castle is popular for a reason. Even if you don’t want to kiss the stone, exploring the castle gardens and nearby village are well worth doing.

The castle itself dates back to the 1500s and much of the oldest parts of it are now in ruins. More modern buildings have been build in the years since to accommodate the visitors who come from all over the world to kiss the Blarney Stone and get the “gift of the gab”.

Information About Blarney Castle

Distance from Cork

  • By Car: 15 minutes.
  • By Public Transport: 30 minutes.

Admission Charge

  • Adult: €20.
  • Senior: €16.
  • Student: €16.
  • Child: €9.

Opening Times

  • 22nd February – 14th September.

Other Attractions and Features

  • The Blarney Stone
  • Castle gardens
  • The linen museum and store
  • Blarney House

Link to Official WebsiteOpens in a new tab.

Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle
Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle was one of the most impressive and important castles in Ireland when it was built in the 1200s by local Irish kings. This building was thought to be impregnible until it was captured in 1599, when canons were used by an attacking English army.

The castle has mostly survived through the centuries and you will be able to explore much of its grounds today. Because of its stunning visuals, it has been used as the filming location for movies like Excalibur and the tv show Tudors.

Information About Cahir Castle

Distance From Cork

  • By Car: 1 Hour.
  • By Public Transport: 1.5 Hours.

Admission Charge

  • Adult: €5.
  • Senior: €4.
  • Student: €4.
  • Child: €3.

Opening Times

  • Mid October – February: 9:30am – 4:30pm (daily).
  • March – Mid June: 9:30am – 5:30pm (daily).
  • Mid June – August: 9am – 6:30pm (daily).
  • September – Mid October: 9:30am – 5:30 (daily).

Link to Official WebsiteOpens in a new tab.

The Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel

I think the Rock of Cashel is one of the most impressive and important national monuments in all of Ireland. This structure was built over successive centuries on a huge limestone outcropping of rock. It is widely regarded as one of the best medieval buildings in Ireland.

You can explore this national monument year round and if I am ever guiding in the area, I always try to bring my guests here. There is just so much to see, let alone learn about ancient Ireland and its people.

Information About the Rock of Cashel

Distance From Cork

  • By Car: 1 Hour.
  • By Public Transport: 2 Hours.

Admission Charge

  • Adult: €8.
  • Senior: €6.
  • Student: €4.
  • Child: €4

Opening Times

  • Mid March – Mid October: 9am – 5:30pm (daily).
  • Mid October – Mid March: 9am – 4: 30pm (daily).
  • Average length of stay is approx. 1.5 hours.

Link to Official WebsiteOpens in a new tab.

Castles Accessible From Belfast

If you find yourself in Northern Ireland, you will still have the option to see some of the most beautiful castles in all of Ireland. While I won’t talk about any of the fictional ones from Game of Thrones, you can see them here if you’re interested.

If you want more advice about what to see and do while you’re in Belfast, then I have my recommendations linked here.

For now, let’s talk more about the best castles that you can see from Belfast!

Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle

This castle is located in the medieval town of the same name and was used as a military fortification for about 800 years. The castle was constructed in the 1200s and was used as a fort, right up until 1928.

Today the castle is open to tour groups and it is one of the best preserved medieval buildings on the whole island of Ireland. I highly recommend checking this place out.

Information About Carrickfergus Castle

Distance From Belfast

  • By Car: 20 minutes.
  • By Public Transport: 45 minutes.

Admission Charge

  • Adult: £6.
  • Senior: £4.50
  • Student: £4.50
  • Child: £4

Opening Times

  • Closed Mondays.
  • 9:30am – 5pm (summer opening hours).

Link to Official WebsiteOpens in a new tab.

Dunluce castle

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle

I think that the Northern Coast of Ireland is one of the most underrated tourist attractions in all of Ireland. While the Giant’s Causeway is famous all over the world as a unique geological formation, there is so much more here than just these storied stones.

The ruins of Dunluce castle are located further up the coast from the Causeway and I think they will be a highlight of your tour along the scenic coastline. If you get the chance to head up here and check out Dunluce Castle, definitely take it!

Information About Dunluce Castle

Distance From Belfast

  • By Car: 1 Hour.
  • By Public Transport: 2.5 Hours

What to See

While there are tours of the castle that might be available, I think that the nearby Magheracross viewing point is the best place to see the castle. You can see it in the picture above.

There are also plenty of day trips you can take that will bring you by this attraction. You can find out more information about my favorite one, linked here.Opens in a new tab.

Link to Official WebsiteOpens in a new tab.

Map of Irish Castles

Here is a map of the castles mentioned in this article:

FAQs About Irish Castles

These are some questions that I often get asked about Irish castles:

What should I wear when visiting castles in Ireland?

While visiting castles in Ireland, it is recommended to wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for walking on uneven surfaces, such as cobblestones or grass. As the weather in Ireland can be unpredictable, I have a full guide on what to pack for Ireland here.Opens in a new tab.

Are these castles suitable for children?

Yes, many of the castles mentioned in this article are suitable for children and offer an engaging and educational experience for the whole family. However, it is essential to check each castle’s specific facilities and offerings to ensure they meet your family’s needs.

Are there any accessibility accommodations at these castles?

Accessibility accommodations vary by castle. It is essential to check each castle’s website or contact them directly for information on accessibility accommodations and any specific needs you may have during your visit.

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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