35 Best Castles In Ireland That You Need To Visit

Bradley Williams
Written By:
Bradley Williams
Last Updated:
March 21, 2024
With so many incredible castles to visit in Ireland, it's hard knowing which ones to add to your bucket list! So, here's what we believe to be the 35 best!
saunders castle in ireland

One of the best things to see when road tripping Ireland are all of the stunning castles. 

They are literally dotted all over the country, both in the north and the south, as well as inland and near the coast.

Well, on our route through Ireland we discovered dozens of amazing castles, and didn’t go a single day without seeing at least 2 or 3.

You may have already heard of some of the most famous castles in Ireland, such as Blarney Castle or the Rock of Cashel, but you will be happy to learn that there are literally hundreds more, each one just as unique and wondrous.

So, if you are planning a journey to Ireland (which you should be!) then this guide to what we believe to a list of the 35 best castles in Ireland should help you!

Also, if you are interested in spending the night in a castle in Ireland, I’ve gone ahead and highlighted which ones it is possible to stay in.

Let’s get started …

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1. Dublin Castle, Dublin

Dublin Castle, Ireland

No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to the infamous city of Dublin.

Home to many of Ireland’s top things to see and do, you simply must make time to stop off at Dublin Castle.

The castle you see today is a lot different to the original one that stood there almost a thousand years ago.

Through conquest and decay, Dublin Castle has evolved and grew over the years, but the important role it has played as a centerpiece to the government hasn’t.

And if you're not interested in the history, either way, it's easily one of Dublin's most Instagrammable spots!

It’s possible to visit the castle and grounds either on your own or as part of a guided tour; read more here.

2. Malahide Castle, Dublin

Malahide Castle, Dublin

Located north of Dublin city, Malahide Castle is similarly as old and impressive, dating all the way back to the 12th century.

Once again, it’s not just the castle itself that makes this one of the best Irish castles, but also parts of the surrounding 260 acres of land which you can explore.

I loved learning about the history of castles in Ireland, and the history of Malahide is riddled with great battles.

The castle has been passed down through the Talbot family for hundreds of years until it was eventually sold to the Irish Party in the 1970s.

If you wish to visit it must be as part of a guided tour, and you can read up more and book here.

3. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny

klkenny castl

If you plan on visiting Kilkenny, then a trip to Kilkenny Castle, one of the best maintained medieval castles in Ireland, is likely to be the highlight!

It’s possible to visit and go on a tour of the castle itself, however my favourite part was spent outside the castle.

Here, you will find a vast green lawn stretching out in front of the castle.

It proved to be the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a picnic lunch while looking up at the castle.

Of course, we were pretty lucky with the weather, as I imagine it is a bit damp on most other days here!

Read Also: Spaceships Campervan Rentals: An In-depth Review

4. Rock Of Cashel, Tipperary

Rock of Cashel, Tipperary, Ireland

From afar, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most breathtaking castles.

Perched atop a hill in Tipperary, you can see why the Rock of Cashel served as the seat of High Kings of Ireland for generations.

A visit into the castle grounds itself is very interesting, and you get to learn more about the castle that once stood there.

However, I honestly wish I had spent more time appreciating the Rock of Cashel from a distance.

It looks perfectly suited as a grand film location for Game of Thrones, though it never actually made an appearance in the series.

Though it’s not the oldest castle in Ireland, some remaining parts of the Rock Of Cashel date back almost a thousand years, and the site is made up of the remains of other structures, including a chapel and a cathedral.

A quick tip: If you are driving here yourself, then instead of paying to park at the castle, you can instead park in town and take the 3 or 4 minute walk up.

5. Cahir Castle, Tipperary

cihar castle

Before visiting, we literally knew nothing about the small town of Cahir.

In the county of Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel seems to get a lot of publicity as the best thing to visit.

But in it’s own way, Cahir Castle is equally as impressive!

It remains in much better condition than the Rock of Cashel, and has some wonderful parks surrounding it where you can take a long walk. 

Alternatively head into the quaint and charming town itself and enjoy lunch in a local Irish pub.

Cahir Castle dates back to 1142, and is one of Ireland’s largest castles.

You can take guided and audio tours around the castle and learn more about it’s rich and lengthy history.

You may also be interested to learn that it’s been the filming location for some major movies and TV series over the last few decades, including Liam Neeson’s Excalibur and The Tudors.

6. Lismore Castle, Waterford

lismore castle

Lismore Castle is one of Ireland’s best kept castles, and one of the few castles that still serves as a permanent residence.

What this means is that going inside the castle is only possible if you’re hiring it out for a large event, such as a wedding.

Yes, this is possible and you can read more here!

The castle dates back as far as 1170, and has changed ownership a number of times over the years, and was once in the hands of the famous explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.

The grounds are some of the nicest you’ll find at any castle in Ireland and we had a lovely hour or so, spent walking around both the lower and upper gardens.

The latter of which is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch in front of the castle.

Once again, we seemed to get very lucky with the weather, so hopefully you will share the same Irish luck!

Want to stay in one of the top castles in Ireland? Well, you can stay here! - Check prices

7. Blarney Castle, Cork

blarney castle

Of all the things Ireland is most famous for, Blarney Castle is up there as one of the top! Why?

Because of the mythical Blarney Stone.

Ireland travel statistics show that this is one of the countries top 10 tourist destinations.

In case you didn’t know, the main reason to visit Blarney Castle is to climb to the top and kiss the Blarney Stone; a ritual that gives the kisser the gift of eloquence.

It’s definitely a unique experience and I also recommend taking time to explore the surrounding castle grounds afterwards.

They've really hiked up the cost of entrance in recent years, making this perhaps Ireland’s most expensive castle, aside from those that you have to pay to actually stay in.

However, if you book online you can save a couple of Euros on the cost of entrance, plus you get a shorter queue upon arrival.

Read Also: The Best Wild Camping Spots In Ireland

8. Castlefreke, Cork

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Castlefreke Castle is one of Ireland’s least famous castles.

So much so that finding it on Google Maps was a bit of a challenge, and you can’t even go up to it.

Instead, you have to simple drive past and enjoy it from afar.

As such, if you are driving out along the southern coast of Ireland, it is definitely worth stopping off at.

However, I wouldn’t advise going hundreds of kilometres out of your way just to stop here,

Since we visited, this interesting article has been published which says that apparently, the current owner is investing a lot of money in having the castle rebuilt.

So, who knows what the future holds for Castlefreke Castle!

9. Ross Castle, Kerry

rooss castl

Located not far from Killarney city centre, Ross Castle is one of the best castles in western Ireland.

Bult in the 15th century, it has changed ownership a lot throughout its history, and has it’s fair share of myths and legends surrounding it.

Such as the time that the O’Donoghue ruler of Ross Castle was sucked out of the window of the tower and now lives at the bottom of the surrounding lake.

It’s free to walk around the grounds surrounding Ross Castle and there is a nice tea room there you can visit. 

Alternatively, you can pay to go in; you can find up-to-date prices here.

10. Minard Castle, Kerry

minad catle

Easily one of Ireland’s most derelict castles, Minard Castle is a surprisingly lovely place to visit when road tripping the Dingle Peninsula.

It lies almost entirely in ruins now, but was once a formidable fortress, built sometime in the 1500s.

Next to it is a small beach and behind it is a car park where you can park up for the night.

Once again, I wouldn’t go a long way out of your way to visit Minard, but if you plan on heading round to Dingle, then it is definitely worth discovering as it’s not a long detour.

Just be aware that the roads leading to it are pretty narrow; though there was a camper home parked up there for the night when we arrived.

Read Also: The Best Things To Do In Kerry, Ireland

11. King John’s Castle, Limerick

kng jhs castle

King John’s Castle is a large castle, made up of a number of buildings in the heart of Limerick city.

It is easily one of the most touristy castles of Ireland and, in my opinion, pretty overpriced simply because they know so many tourists are inclined to visit.

You pay a lot less to visit much more impressive castles; but still, it’s worth visiting if you find yourself in Limerick.

Construction of the castle began in 1200 on the orders of, you guessed it, King John!

And as it sits on the shores of such a popular river into Ireland, it served a key strategic purpose for hundreds of years.

It is now regarded as one of the best preserved Norman castles in Ireland, with an additional 5.7 million Euros spent making it a visitor attraction from 2011 to 2013.

For more information about official tours and events held here, you should check out their official website.

12. Bunratty Castle, Clare

Bunratty Castle, Clare, Ireland

Not far north from Limerick, you come across another one of the best kept castles on Ireland’s west coast.

The structure you see there today was built in the 1400s and it really is an imposing, well-built castle!

It is also a little more unique as, not only are you able to stroll around the castle and the surrounding grounds, you can also have your own medieval banquet in there on certain nights.

These banquets apparently date back all the way to 1963!

If you’re interested, you can read more about Bunratty Castle’s long history here.

Read Also: Driving The Ring Of Beara: What To See And Why You Should Do It!

13. Dromoland Castle, Clare

Dromoland Castle, Clare, Ireland

Not strictly speaking a tourist attraction, Dromoland Castle is one of the most magnificent and inspiring Irish castles.


Well, to get to it you have to drive through the gorgeous Dromoland Castle Golf Course!

We felt severely unprepared as we drove up through the grounds in our Spaceships Rentals Delta Campervan, and I’m surprised we weren’t turned away at the gate!

In the future, I would love to return for a weekend break in Ireland and spend a night or two in this gorgeous castle.

However, as of writing it’s a little out of our price range, so wild camping will have to do!

Looking to sleep in a castle in Ireland? Well, great news, you can stay here! - Check prices

14. Doonagore Castle, Clare

doongag castle

Located just a km up the road from Doolin, Doonagore Castle is a small, single spire building, perched magnificently atop the nearby cliffs.

We arrived here just before sunset, and it made for an amazing spot to spend the sunset!

Despite being so small, this 16th century castle has a vivid and bloody history.

Apparently, in 1588 a Spanish ship was wrecked just off the coast near the castle, and the survivors were taken to the castle and all hung there!

15. Abbeyglen Castle, Galway

If you are looking for a truly beautiful and rustic castle to stay in Ireland, then there are few better choices that Abbeyglen Castle.

Built only in 1832, it is one of Ireland’s newer castles; and it’s opulence and comfort lay in the fact that it was built for guests to stay in.

It’s just up the road from the charming little town of Clifden, making it a great space for an Ireland castle vacation if you want to spend a couple nights in style.

Great news, you can stay here in one of the best Irish castle hotels! - Check prices here

16. Kylemore Abbey, Galway

Kylemore Abbey, Galway, Ireland

Okay, though it’s not strictly speaking a castle, Kylemore Abbey is certainly very castle-like and is one of the best places to visit in Galway.

As well as an imposing and impressive abbey, located right by the water, you will also find here an immaculately well maintained Victorian Walled Garden.

It also has a really interesting history, as the entire site was founded in the early 1800s by Mitchell Henry, a man who loved Ireland and the beauty it offered.

If you wish to experience both the abbey and the surrounding gardens to the max, then you will need to spend at least 2 or 3 hours here.

Read Also: Ireland Packing List For Men & Women

17. Dunguaire Castle, Galway

Dunguaire Castle, Galway, Ireland

Just south of Galway, you have Dunguaire Castle another castle incredibly popular with local tourist coach trips.

It was built in the 16th century and has been renovated and restored well in recent years.

Apparently, it was used as a set in the 1969 Disney movie Guns In The Heather.

These days, it’s possible to enter and learn more about the castle’s history, and on certain days, you can even enjoy a medieval banquet inside!

You can read more about events and prices at Dunguaire Castle here.

18. Ashford Castle, Mayo

ashford castle

If you’re looking for luxury castle hotels in Ireland, then few compare to Ashford Castle.

Located on 26,000 acres of privately owned land, Ashford Castle in Ireland has been continually renovated and expanded over the last 150 years.

Today, it is one of Ireland’s grandest castles, and the prime place to stay for celebrities, dignitaries and wealthy visitors looking for castle hotels near Galway.

You have to pay to walk the grounds close to the castle and are only allowed inside if you are a paying guest.

When we visited, we parked up at the nearby St Mary's Church and from there walked along the Cong River to a point at which you can see the castle fully.

To go further you have to pay the guard, but even from there it was great watching the goings on as a helicopter came and went, presumably carrying in a group of wealthy visitors to the castle for the night.

Great news, you can stay at Ashford Castle! - Check prices here

19. Kilronan Castle, Roscommon

Located in County Roscommon, Kilronan Castle is a grand castle located on the shores of Lough Meelagh.

Once again, it’s one of the finest Ireland castles if you are looking for a place to stay, or perhaps to have a wedding.

When we visited, the car park was full of wedding guests and it seemed like the perfect spot.

We took a long scenic walk up to the castle and back along a path that runs alongside the lough.

Once again, it is one of Ireland’s newer castles, constructed in 1820.

It doesn’t hold as much history as other castles, but is certainly worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in gorgeous Roscommon.

Great news, you can stay here! - Check prices here

20. Markree Castle, Sligo

Markree Castle, Sligo, Ireland

Founded in the 1400s and owned by the Cooper family from 1663 onwards, Markree Castle remained in the family all the way up until 2015.

The then 10th generation owners had renovated the castle and ran it as a grand hotel for visitors to Ireland.

They sold it in 2015 and it is now still ran as a hotel by the new owners.

Built in the 1400s, the castle now lies on a beautifully maintained 300 acre estate; making it a wonderful place to stay at for a few days, with ample walking opportunities in the surrounding grounds.

Great news, you can stay here! - Check prices here

21. Parkes Castle, Leitrim

Parkes Castle, Leitrim, Ireland

Located right on the shores of Lough Gill, Parkes Castle is well worth visiting, and is just a short drive from Sligo city.

We arrived late in the evening to find that the castle had already closed, but it is still wonderful to visit and admire it from the outside.

It is far from being the grandest castle in Ireland, but what makes it so wonderful is Lough Gill.

It is possible to take boat trips out onto the lake where you can get great views of the surrounding countryside and the castle itself.

Between March to September, it’s also possible to go into the castle; you can find more information on their official website.

Read Also: Driving The Ring Of Kerry: Everything You Need To Know!

22. Glenveagh Castle, Donegal

Glenveagh Castle, Donegal, Ireland

Situated in the heart of the breathtaking Glenveagh National Park, visiting Glenveagh Castle is possible at the end of a 4km walk along the long and narrow Lough Beagh.

It was only later that I learned of the supposed curse that lies over the wondrous Glenveagh Castle.

It turns out that, in order to make the castle and its surrounding grounds more appealing, the founder, John George Adair, evicted 244 people from the lands just after the Great Irish Famine.

Upon building the castle, the rich landowner’s aim was to build a castle on par, or even superior to, the famous Balmoral estate in Scotland.

23. Doe Castle, Donegal

doe castl

Doe Castle was first constructed in the 15th century by the O'Donnell family and, as you’ve probably guessed, has changed hands numerous times throughout the ages.

When you visit nowadays, you will find it to still be in relatively great condition, offering amazing views on the edge of Sheephaven Bay.

It’s possible to go for a tour inside of the castle for just a few Euros.

By this point in our tour of Ireland, we’d already been inside numerous castles so declined; but it would be nice to get some higher views from within.

As you can still access the grounds without paying, it is one of the few free castles in Ireland to visit.

I also recommend driving around Sheephaven Bay and checking out Doe Castle from across the water.

Read Also: The Best Things To Do In Donegal, Ireland

24. Lough Eske Castle, Donegal

Lough Eske Castle, Donegal, Ireland

If you’re looking for the most luxurious and best castle hotels in Ireland, then Lough Eske could well be the place for you.

It is one of the best kept castles in southern Ireland, with perfectly manicured lawns outside and is situated on the shores of Lough Eske.

It is now used most popularly as a hotel and venue for big events, such as weddings.

They also have an on-site spas and offer relaxing getaways for couples looking to escape their hectic lives for a few days.

If you are interested in staying here, then you can find a link to prices below.

Looking to stay in a top Irish castle hotel; great news, you can stay here! - Check prices here

25. Cabra Castle, Cavan

Cabra Castle, Cavan, Ireland

Cabra Castle Hotel in Ireland is similarly as grand and inspiring, and is also designed primarily as a luxury hotel getaway destination.

Cabra Castle you see today was built in the early 19th century and is one of two original Cabra Castles.

The family who originally built Cabra Castle intended to live there and for it to become an ancestral home.

However, constructing it almost bankrupt them, so they had to sell it shortly after completion.

Nowadays, it’s a popular hotel and wedding venue.

Want to stay in one of the most beautiful castles in Ireland? - Check prices here

26. Tullynally Castle, Westmeath

Tullynally Castle, Westmeath, Ireland

Surrounded by 12 acres of land, Tullynally Castle is a large ancestral home of the Pakenham family, and has been so for the last 350 years.

When we visited, there were lots of people out walking and enjoying the grounds or taking an evening run.

Apparently, inside they have more than 120 rooms! A few of which you can see and admire when walking in front of the building on the way to the private gardens.

The building you see today is an extension of the original building constructed in the 1600s.

The addition of a moat and towers is what gives it that true castle feel, and is one of the best maintained castles in Ireland and one of the few that still acts as a permanent residence.

27. Saunderson Castle, Cavan

saunderson castle

Saunderson Castle ended up being perhaps my favorite castle in Ireland.


Because I want to buy it one day!

To me, Saunderson Castle is a perfect representation of what a classic, large Irish castle should look like, with big squat walls and turrets rising up.

It’s also located on a beautiful piece of Irish countryside, surrounded by fields and forests.

However, it looks like it’s gone through years of neglect and was never restored after a fire there in 1990.

Nowadays, the castle is owned by the Scouts, who have built a large centre just around the corner.

I really recommend visiting Saunderson and hopefully one day it is restored and you can go inside.

28. Slane Castle, Meath

slane castl

In recent decades, Slane Castle has grown to become one of Ireland’s most famous castles.

It has been the site to some of the country’s most famous rock concerts; having boasted performances from the likes of Queen right through to Eminem.

A great fire in the 1990s gutted the castle and put an end to performances for a while; however, the castle has now been fully restored and is open to the public to visit.

Inside of the castle, you’ll find a wonderful cafe and restaurant, and outside you can roam the incredible grounds surrounding Slane.

If you're a fan of whiskey, then a visit to Slane Castle should be on your Ireland bucket list, as they have their own distillery located just next to the castle.

Read Also: Things To Do In Mayo

29. Leap Castle, Offaly

Leap Castle, Offaly, Ireland

Located right in the heart of Ireland, Leap Castle has one of the bloodiest and most tumultuous histories of any Irish castle.

As one tale goes, in the 1500s the ruling O'Carroll clan had a bitter civil war which turned the family against each other.

On one occasion, one brother entered the chapel one day where his brother was giving a sermon and fatally stabbed him in front of the family.

When renovation was carried out in the 1900s, an oubliette was uncovered, which was a hole in the ground where people were dropped onto large spikes into the ground.

Based on the bones recovered, it is believed that the oubliette may still have been in use as recently as the 1800s.

Leap Castle has been featured on a number of haunted homes shows and is self-proclaimed as “the world’s most haunted castle”.

30. Birr Castle, Offaly

Birr Castle, Offaly, Ireland

Built in 1170, Birr Castle is the official residence of the 7th Earl of Rosse.

It is likely that the castle has changed a lot over the last 1000 years, but it is still one of the grandest and nicest castles in Ireland.

Like many castles in Ireland that still act as permanent residence, the actual castle is not accessible to the public, but the grounds still are.

The 125 acres of gardens are home to a number of exotic and rare trees and flowers, apparently collected over the last 150 years by travels from the families living here.

The castle grounds are open to the public from March onwards between 9am and 6pm.

You can buy tickets here

31. Belfast Castle, Antrim

Belfast castle antrim

If you’re looking for things to do in Belfast, then one item on your list should be a visit to Belfast Castle.

Built in Cavehill Country Park, it offers commanding views out across both Belfast and the ocean below.

The castle you see today was built in the 1800s and had over two million pounds worth of renovations carried out during the 1980s.

Nowadays, the grounds are open to the public and you’ll need to head only 15 minutes outside of the city centre to get there; it’s also a very popular wedding venue.

32. Carrickfergus Castle, Antrim

Carrickfergus Castle, Antrim, Ireland

Located not far north from Belfast city, you find the much more impressive Carrickfergus Castle.

This substantial Norman Castle was built in the 12th century and really is an imposing structure, with commanding views for miles.

Visiting Carrickfergus is a rich experience, as it houses a number of historical sites dating from the 1600s to the e1800s.

In recent years, sabbatical construction works have been going on at Carrickfergus in order to restore it to its former glory and offer a better visitor experience.

33. Dunluce Castle, Antrim

dunluce castle

Dunluce Castle has become increasingly popular in recent years as it’s the basis for Castle Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

However, when visiting don’t expect to see much in the way of a castle!

The castle lies in almost total ruin, and advanced CGI was used in order to restore it as a fitting home for the Greyjoy family.

It is still some of the best castle ruins in Ireland and is located just up the road from Giant’s Causeway so is worth stopping off at when exploring the best places in Northern Ireland.

34. Hillsborough Royal Castle, Down

Though it’s low on this list, this is easily one of the top 10 castles in Ireland!

What makes Hillsborough Royal Castle so significant is that it’s the official residence in Northern Ireland of the British Royal family.

Rather than staying in a local B&B, the Queen couldn’t possibly stay anywhere else on our visit than in an actual castle!

Though, strictly speaking, this isn;t an actual castle but more a large Georgian country house.

So if you are happy to let that side, then you may as well stop by for a visit when making your way through the north.

The highlight of the visit is exploring the immaculate gardens which span a whopping 100 acres around the castle.

For more information on current opening times and prices, you can visit their site here.

35. Crom Castle, Enniskillen

Last, but certainly not least, we have Crom Castle, located on the shores of Upper Lough Erne in a truly stunning piece of countryside.

Owned by the National Trust, the surrounding estate of Crom Castle is kept in great condition and are a popular walking spot for visitors.

The castle itself is privately owned by the Creighton family, as it has always been since it was built in 1820.

It is possible to visit the west wing of Crom Castle and even to stay in it for long weekends or to hire it for weddings.

Final thoughts on discovering the best Irish castles

If you’re left planning what to do in Ireland, then a stop at any one of these castles is set to make your trip that much better!

Or, why not read back up the list and find castles you can stay in Ireland?

Though it’s a bit more expensive than a standard hotel, it makes for such a unique experience.

One day, we will certainly return and spend a few nights in some castles ourselves.

Or, better yet, maybe one day I will fulfill my dream and get the chance to buy one of these amazing Irish castles!

Think I’ve missed any castles of the list, then just drop me a message below!

I will add it to my list of places to visit in Ireland next time we stop by.

If you have any other questions, just drop me a comment below; and for more information about our time spent in Ireland, check out these other awesome guides we have written:

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