The most beautiful castles in Ireland
The picturesque country of Ireland contains many castles situated in its vast countryside. If you jump in a rental car and start driving, chances are you’ll find one. Ranging from medieval ruins, to luxury hotels most of these castles were built during the country’s Norman rule, and were designed primarily to act as defensive fortresses.
Cahir Castle, one of the largest castles in Ireland, is sited on an island in the river Suir. It was built from 1142 by Conor O'Brien, Prince of Thomond. Now situated in Cahir town centre, the castle is well preserved and has guided tour and audiovisual shows in multiple languages.
The castle was built in two parts, with the side now by the street being built 200 years before the side now housing the audio-visual show. Granted to the powerful Butler family in late 14th century, the castle was enlarged and remodelled between the 15th and 17th centuries. It fell into ruin in the late 18th century and was partially restored in the 1840s. The Great Hall was partly rebuilt in 1840.
In the late 20th century the castle was named a National Monument, and is now managed by the Office of Public Works, who maintain the castle and operate tours.... view details
Ashford Castle is a medieval castle that has been expanded over the centuries and turned into a five star luxury hotel. It is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World organisation and was previously owned by the Guinness family.
In its time the castle has played host to many notable guests, including: King George V and his consort Queen Mary; John Lennon; George Harrison; Oscar Wilde (whose father, Sir William Wilde, had an estate adjacent to Ashford, where the writer spent much of his childhood); President Ronald Reagan; Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex; US Senator Ted Kennedy; John Wayne; Brad Pitt; Pierce Brosnan; and Prince Rainier III of Monaco and his consort, Princess Grace.... view details
Malahide Castle, parts of which date to the 12th century, lies, with over 260 acres of remaining estate parkland that form the Malahide Demesne Regional Park.
The estate began in 1185, when Richard Talbot, a knight who accompanied Henry II to Ireland in 1174, was granted the lands and harbour of Malahide. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 12th century and it was home to the Talbot family for 791 years, from 1185 until 1976, the only exception being the period from 1649-60.
The main castle can be visited for a fee, on a guided-tour basis. In addition, it is possible to hire the famously Gothic Great Hall for private banquets. The castle has an eating facility, and adjacent is a craft shop. The castle's best-known rooms are the Oak Room, and the Great Hall, which displays Talbot family history.
The Talbot Botanic Gardens, situated behind the castle, comprising several hectares of plants and lawns, a walled garden of 1.6 hectares and seven glasshouses, including a Victorian conservatory. Many plants from the southern hemisphere, notably Chile and Australia, are featured.... view details
Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold near Cork City and the River Martin. While the original stone structure was built around 1210, the current structure dates from around 1446.
At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence. There are many versions of the origin of the stone, including a claim that it was a numinous stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.
The grounds include a poison garden with a number of poisonous plants, including wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin and opium, as well as cannabis. ... view details
Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defences of the town.
The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are open to the public. The Parade Tower is a conference venue. Awards and conferring ceremonies of the graduates of "Kilkenny Campus" of National University of Ireland, Maynooth have been held there since 2002.... view details
King John's Castle is a 13th-century castle located on King's Island, next to the River Shannon. Although the site dates back to 922 when the Vikings lived on the Island, the castle itself was built on the orders of King John in 1200.
One of the best preserved Norman castles in Europe, the walls, towers and fortifications remain today and are visitor attractions. The remains of a Viking settlement were uncovered during archaeological excavations at the site in 1900.... view details
Bunratty Castle is a large 15th-century tower house in County Clare and a National Monument of Ireland.
The present structure (the fourth built castle), was built by the MacNamara family after around 1425. At around 1500, Bunratty Castle came into the hands of the O'Briens, the most powerful clan in Munster and later Earls of Thomond. They expanded the site and eventually made it their chief seat, moving it there from Ennis.
Today, the castle is a major tourist attraction, along with "Bunratty Folk Park". Both the castle and Bunratty House are open to the public. The castle is famous for its medieval banquets, offered since 1963, at which the "Bunratty Castle Entertainers" perform today.... view details
Trim Castle is a Norman castle on the south bank of the River Boyne. With an area of 30,000 sqm, it is the largest Norman castle in Ireland.
The Castle was used as a centre of Norman administration for the Lordship of Meath, one of the new administrative areas of Ireland created by King Henry II of England.
The Castle is noted for the part it played in the filming of the Mel Gibson directed film Braveheart.... view details
Dublin Castle was until 1922 the seat of the United Kingdom government's administration in Ireland, and is now a major Irish government complex. Most of it dates from the 18th century, though a castle has stood on the site since the days of King John, the first Lord of Ireland.
The Castle served as the seat of English, then later British government of Ireland under the Lordship of Ireland (1171-1541), the Kingdom of Ireland (1541-1800), and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1800-1922). After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, the complex was ceremonially handed over to the newly formed Provisional Government led by Michael Collins.
Originally built as a defensive fortification for the Norman city of Dublin, it later evolved into a royal residence, resided in by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland or Viceroy of Ireland, the representative of the monarch.
Inauguration of the first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde took place in the castle, and the complex has been host to this ceremony ever since. The castle is also used for hosting official State visits as well as more informal foreign affairs engagements, State banquets, and Government policy launches, as well as acting as the central base for Ireland's hosting of the European Presidency approximately every 10 years.... view details
The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil's Bit, a mountain 20 miles north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel. Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.... view details
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