There are lots of romantic images of castles in Ireland – and the country conjures up images of emerald hills and legend-filled ruins.
Of course, most Irish castles were built for practical purposes. Interestingly, when compared to other countries, Irish castles have often played quite an important role in modern history. Their significance didn’t fade as Medieval times ended.
Sadly, of course, some of this history quite grim – castles used as fortresses within the 1920s Irish Civil war, or as centres of administration during British colonialism. Dublin Castle comes first to mind, here.
Even so, it means that visiting an Irish castle can really help you get to understand the country better – as the significance of a site can encompass everything from old legends to modern military manoeuvres.
Another interesting tip for explorers is that Ireland’s uniquely blessed with Tower Houses – or Tower Castles – which you won’t find in England or Wales (although you’ll see them in Scotland).
These buildings are really large, fortified Medieval homes – perhaps stretching the definition of ‘castle’, but no less impressive for it.
Castles in Dublin: Recommended Day-Trips to Sets from ‘The Tudors’
Dublin is the first port-of-call for most visitors to Ireland, and there’s an huge array of possible day trips from the city centre to surrounding castles.
These endearing little castles in Ireland, positioned on Dublin’s outskirts, include the recently-restored ramparts of little Sword’s Castle, perfect for children to play within.
You can also uncover also the natural-moated beauty of Drimnagh Castle, nestled in a Dublin suburb.
Interestingly, both have been used as sets in the TV series, the Tudors.
Of course, that’s not to forget Dublin Castle itself. Although the site has little Medieval heritage nowadays, it’s still a crucial spot which marks some of most important past events in Irish history.
Kilkenny Castle: Four Magnificent Drum Towers (Well, Until Oliver Cromwell Blew One Off)
Oliver Cromwell had a lot to answer for, and he’s disfigured Kilkenny Castle to this day – during his c17th reconquest of Ireland, he blew the back wall (and also one of the magnificent drum towers) off the castle.
This, however, adds to Kilkenny’s modern charm – it’s one of the most recognisable of all castles in Ireland.
Kilkenny was founded in Medieval times, and, over the years, it morphed into a country chateau and, most recently, a repository for fantastic Irish art.
Again, Kilkenny’s played a role in dramatic, modern Irish history. It was the scene of a tense two day siege during the Irish Civil War, in 1922.
Exploring the Greatest Castles in Northern Ireland
Yes, yes, I know: Northern Ireland is politically a part of the UK, and an entirely different country to the independent Republic of Ireland.
However, this is the most logical place to list my lowdown of the greatest castles in Northern Ireland (it gets lost too easily elsewhere). And there are some truly beautiful spots to visit.
Carrickfergus Castle, up on the coast by Belfast, is one of the most impressive Norman castles in the whole of Ireland.
But it’s Dunluce Castle which blows away so many visitors to the country.
Dunluce sits isolated on a rocky crag, accessed via a narrow bridge over the stormy sea. The rambling old stone buildings on this rocky perch look like something from a movie.