It goes without saying that no matter how you shake it, your trip to Ireland will involve some castle stops. Lucky for you, Ireland is chock-full of them and you will not struggle to come across one around every corner. We have put together 9 castles in Ireland you cannot miss during your visit.
Many of them are just skeletal remains of a luxurious past, while some others have been restored or are maintained to give you a special glimpse at what life would have been like to live in one of them.
We spent 3 weeks on a road trip through Ireland that brought us to some well-known castles that everyone should add to their list of stops on a visit to the beautiful emerald isle.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Ireland (Travel Guide)
This castle is a sight to behold in the middle of the crowded city center of Kilkenny. When you first arrive at the castle, you get a false sense of it being small, almost too small to be impressed by.
However, once you manage to park your car and wander into the gates, you will find a park-like refuge from the busy streets. This is what makes Kilkenny Castle one of the top castles in Ireland.
The grounds are meticulously maintained with a huge, green park that rolls out in front of the castle. The castle itself towers up with well-maintained walls and towers. You have the option of buying a ticket to enter the castle or just exploring the grounds, which also includes a large fountain and rose garden.
Kilkenny Castle is a very busy site and visitors may experience a delay during the summer months. The best times to visit are early in the morning and late at night before closing. We showed up one hour before closing and we had the place to ourselves.
How long does it take you to see everything at Kilkenny Castle: 1.5 hours.
Details: Summer hours 9:00- 17:30, Cost: 8€ Adult, 4€ Child, more Kilkenny Castle Information. Self-guided visit and last admission 30 minutes before closing.
Photography/Filming: Non-flash photography permitted for personal use only; filming/videoing not allowed. The use of drones is not permitted at Kilkenny Castles.
St. Patrick’s Rock of Cashel
This castle is touted as one of the most beautiful and most visited castles in all of Ireland. This castle complex is huge and it is one of those castles that deliver visually what your mind conjures up about how a castle is supposed to look. This makes it one of the most iconic castles in Ireland to visit.
The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St. Patrick’s Rock, is also known as Cashel of the Kings. The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, although there is little structural evidence of their time here. Most of the buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries when the rock was gifted to the Church.
The Rock of Cashel is located a short way down the road from Kilkenny Castle, so you can easily stop at both of these en route to Cork from Dublin. Once you reach Cashel, it is a 5-minute walk from the town center to the top of the hill to visit the castle.
The Rock of Cashel is a very busy site and visitors may experience a delay during the summer months. The best times to visit are early in the morning and late at night before closing.
There are several places to stay near the Rock of Cashel. A favorite of ours is Baileys Hotel Cashel for its great views of Rock of Cashel and elegant rooms.
There is a selection of cafés and restaurants near Baileys Hotel, and Clonmel is an easy car ride away. Keen anglers will be pleased to know the hotel is conveniently situated close to popular fishing spots.
How long does it take you to see everything at Rock of Cashel: 1 hour.
Details: Summer hours: 9:00-17:30, Cost: 8€ Adult, 4€ child, more Rock of Cashel information
A visit to Ireland would not be complete without the vertigo adventure of kissing the Blarney Stone at the infamous Blarney Castle.
Located close to the city of Cork in the village of Blarney, is the Blarney Castle. While the castle itself has not been restored, the grounds are beautiful; featuring walking trails, stables, a poison garden, huge trees, beautiful ponds and endless lawns of green.
Most people make the visit to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is said to grant eloquence to those that grace the stone with their lips.
The climb to the top is a good workout and once there you make your way along the edge of the gutted castle walls to the stone.
Here you lie on your back and dip way over the ledge while a cheeky Irish man instructs you were to kiss on the stone. Just don’t look down, there’s nothing under you!
Blarney Castle is a very busy site and visitors may experience a delay during the summer months. However, it is not as busy as some of the other castles in Ireland. The best times to visit are early in the morning and late at night before closing.
If you are looking for accommodation near Blarney Castle, we have found the place for you! The Blarney Castle Hotel is a family-run hotel is located in Blarney and is conveniently positioned for guests wanting to discover the area’s attractions.
Details: Summer hours 9:00 – 19:00, Cost: 15€ Adult, 6€ Child, more Blarney Castle Information
How long does it take you to see everything at The Blarney Castle: 1.5 hours.
We found this castle on a tiny, winding back road along the Wild Atlantic Way route. Somewhere between Cork and Waterville in County Kerry. I can’t tell you the exact location, but that’s why this one was amazing.
It is off the beaten track and we had the entire castle grounds to ourselves when we stopped off. The castle itself is mostly in ruins, but the family that maintains it has posted placards around to learn about the family that owned and lived in the castle.
There is a beautiful stone bridge, a small moat on one side and loads of character. The walking trail around the outside starts with a sign that tells the story of the O’Sullivans that lived in the castle and indulges in some local folklore about why it was abandoned. This castle in Ireland is worth a stop if you can find it.
Details: No posted hours. Cost: donation box at the entrance, more Carriganass Castle information
Close location of Carriganass Castle: It is situated about 8 kilometers north-east of Bantry, close to the village of Kealkill, in West Cork.
Photography/Filming: Non-flash photography permitted for personal use only; filming/videoing not allowed. The use of drones is not permitted at Carriganass Castle.
King John’s Castle
Limerick offers you the chance to step back in time with a visit to King John’s Castle, located smack in the city center on the river.
Not much stands of the original castle today, however, it’s hard to miss the giant glass building sitting next to the stone walls. This building holds the entire history of not only the castle but of Ireland’s past and bid for freedom.
While not the traditional castle walls you might dream of, this place is magical and worth at least 2 hours of your time to wander through the interactive center before ending up in the courtyard for demonstrations and an opportunity to explore the walls and towers that remain from the original castle.
Kings John’s Castle is a great heritage site for all ages. Throughout the year there are events being held here and if you are lucky to be in Limerick when an event is being held, make use you do not miss it. Due to its location and ease of access, it is one of the most visited castles in Ireland.
Absolute Hotel is highly recommended for its great location in Limerick, which provides easy access to King John’s Castle. It is situated a short walk from the Hunt Museum and St Mary’s Cathedral Limerick.
Details: Summer hours: 9:30-20:00, Cost: 10€ Adult, 5€ child, more King John’s Castle information
Parking for Kings John’s Castle can be hard, there is parking just a few blocks away. However, the parking lot can be full at times.
How long does it take you to see everything at King John’s Castle: 1.5 hours.
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
If you are looking for the whole experience, then you must stop at Bunratty Castle. Just a short drive from Limerick, you will be transported back in time as you explore a period village and learn about how the villages lived during the time of the castle. The tour is interactive and allows you to go into the buildings as you make your way around.
The final stop of your visit should be Bunratty Castle itself, a partially restored castle that allows you entrance to explore the different floors and secret areas within the castle.
This is also a castle that hosts medieval dinners right in the castle, so be sure to ask at the visitors center if you are interested in a night of castle celebrations.
Of all the castles in Ireland that you could visit, this one is the most commercial. Don’t let that put you off a visit though, it is a fantastic experience to wander the grounds and interact with the villagers.
Looking for accommodation near Bunratty Castle? Look no further than Bunratty Castle Hotel. This hotel is ideally positioned in a peaceful setting in Bunratty, a short car ride from Limerick and Ennis. Offering complimentary wireless internet, a restaurant, and an indoor pool, the hotel is within a 10-minute walk of the Bunratty Castle.
Details: Summer hours: 9:00- 19:00, Cost: 15€ Adult, 10€ child, more Bunratty Castle information. Online Rates: Adult €11.55, Child: 0-5yrs Free, 6-16yrs €8.95, Senior: €10.45, Family: €33.50(2adults&upto 6 children)Note:*These rates are available online only.
Bunratty Castle is a very busy site and visitors may experience a delay during the summer months. The best times to visit are early in the morning and late at night before closing. This complex is more like a Disney World type of surroundings, unlike the other castles.
How long does it take you to see everything at Bunratty Castle: 1.5 hours.
If you plan on paying a visit to the famous sites of the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, then you will be hard-pressed to miss Dunguaire Castle. It is located right off the main road that leads you through Clare County and overlooks the Galway Bay.
The castle is stunning to view from the road, be sure to park at the car park and then walk back down to the castle for safe viewing. While the views from the outside are the most spectacular, you can choose to visit the inside and if your time warrants, this castle also hosts medieval banquets in the evening.
Details: Summer hour: 10:00-16:00, Costs: 10€ Adult, 5€ child, more Dunguaire Castle information
How long does it take you to see everything at Dunguaire Castle: 20 Minutes
Easily reached from Dublin on a day trip, or en-route from Galway to Dublin, Birr castle is known for its lavish gardens and contribution to science. It boasts some of the most advanced telescopes you will find in your travels and the gardens are well known all around Ireland.
The castle itself has a beautiful presence and spending a solid 2 hours exploring the castle on grounds will give you a real treat. When you’re done visiting the castle, stop in at Pilkington’s Pub just down the road for a pint of Guinness.
This castle is beautiful yet not one of the most visited castles in Ireland. You’ll enjoy a peaceful visit here.
Nearby Birr Castle is County Arms Hotel. The hotel offers a number of facilities, such as a sauna, an express check-in, and check-out feature and a golf course.
Those staying at the property have access to a terrace and a barbecue area. Just a stone’s throw from nearby bars and clubs, this 4-star hotel also allows guests to discover the local nightlife.
Details: Summer hours: 9:00-18:00, Cost: 9€ Adult, 5€ child, more Birr Castle information. Admission tickets give you access to the gardens, great telescope, science center, and treehouse adventure area. Last admission one hour before closing.
How long does it take you to see everything at Birr Castle: 1.5 hours.
Malahide Castle is the closest castle to Dublin and the exterior of this castle is stunning, again with a classic exterior look and feel of being a real castle from a fairy tale. If you don’t have time to venture beyond Dublin on your trip to Ireland and you want to visit a castle than it goes without saying that you should hop on the train and go see Malahide Castle.
Much of the castle dates back to the 12th century and can be visited both on the inside and outside. Your visit here will be more than just a castle too, as there are a village and garden that are included and will give you a real feel for what Malahide would have been like in its glory days.
There are several places to find accommodation near Malahide Castle. The Grand Hotel Malahide is situated in Malahide and is close to the area’s tourist attractions. Those staying at the Grand Hotel Malahide can indulge in a drink at Matt Ryan, before sampling a meal at The Coast.
Another great choice is the Island View Hotel. Island View Hotel Malahide is located in Malahide and features free wireless internet. It is ideally positioned for guests wishing to visit the area’s popular attractions.
Details: Summer hours: 9:30-17:30, Cost: 12€ Adult, 6€ child, more Malahide Castle information
How long does it take you to see everything at Malahide Castle: 1.5 hours.
Amazing Castles in Ireland
So there you have it, the 9 castles in Ireland you cannot miss. Of course, you’ll find many others along the way, some in ruins, some on private property and some abandoned. Take them all in and just enjoy being in Ireland, there is no better place on earth to indulge in your castle daydreams.
There are several options for seeing Ireland, from guided tours to renting a car and having an adventure of your own. Below we’ve listed out our recommendations of the best tours available to see the most castles and enjoy your time in Ireland.
The Best Tours in Ireland to See The Most Castles
We have put together a shortlist of the best tours in Ireland to see the most castles. Many of the tours stop at most of the iconic castles in Ireland. Each tour description is the real tour description. We use Viator and G Adventures all of the time.
Our top recommended tours:
- Kilkenny and Wicklow Day Tour from Dublin. Combine ancient monuments, medieval gems and natural wonders on this full-day tour from Dublin. Escape the city for a scenic drive through the Wicklow Mountains; admire views of the Sugar Loaf Mountains, Wicklow Gap, and Turlogh waterfall; and discover the 6th-century monastic ruins of Glendalough. Then, enjoy free time to explore lively Kilkenny and visit landmarks like the Kilkenny Castle, the Black Abbey or the Cathedral of Saint Canice (own expense).
- 2-Day Kerry Tour from Dublin. Known as the “Kingdom”, Kerry is one of the most breathtaking countries in Ireland. Travel along with two of the most scenic drives in Ireland – the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. With ocean views, dramatic mountain ranges, panoramic islands, and ancient pagan forts the County of Kerry is truly the jewel in Ireland’s crown and the most visited county in Ireland for those seeking the true natural beauty of our island. Overnight in Killarney, a charming town well known for its great welcome and lively nightlife.
- 2-Day South Ireland Tour from Dublin. See the world-famous Cliffs of Moher, wonder at the barren beauty of the Burren, stroll through the grounds of Blarney Castle and stay overnight in Cork. This tour is ideal for those who seek to visit Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions. Short on time but high on energy and curiosity, this tour is a great mix of rural villages, rugged coastline, dramatic cliffs, historic castles, rolling landscapes, and superb nightlife.
- Northern Ireland Highlights Day Trip Including Giant’s Causeway from Dublin. Explore Northern Ireland’s biggest draws — Belfast, Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge — on a day trip from Dublin. In a traditional black cab in Belfast, you’ll explore sites of the capital’s conflicted history: the mural-strewn streets of the Falls and Skanskill neighborhoods and the Belfast Docks. Then course along the Antrim coast to experience one of Ireland great geological marvels, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Giant’s Causeway, followed by a stop at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Marvel at the surrounding headlands that were also used as a filming location for many Game of Thrones scenes.
- Game of Thrones Filming Locations Tour of Northern Ireland and Giant’s Causeway from Belfast. Explore famous filming locations from television’s ‘Game of Thrones,’ plus the renowned Giant’s Causeway, on this 9-hour tour of Northern Ireland from Belfast. Discover well-known spots from the series such as the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Dunluce Castle, as well as the UNESCO–listed Giant’s Causeway, which shares the same otherworldly feel as the filming spots. Your guide, well-versed in the show, brings the ‘Game of Thrones’ series to life. Visit sites featured in popular plot lines, including Lordsport, Renly Baratheon of Storm’s End’s camp and Dark Hedge road (where Arya Stark famously fled King’s Landing), then return to Belfast. A stop for lunch (at own expense) in Ballycastle, the hometown of a few of the actors from the series, is included.
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Ireland Road Trip
We spent 3 weeks road tripping around Ireland and driving the Wild Atlantic Way. We explored castles, remote areas, small villages, drank way too many pints of Guinness and listened to far too many stories from the locals along the way.
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- Horseback Riding in Dingle, Ireland
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