Killyleagh Castle


killyleagh castle

Killyleagh, Down County, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
view map

12th century

Nestled in the picturesque village of Killyleagh in County Down, Northern Ireland lies a hidden gem that tourists often overlook. Killyleagh Castle, also known as the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland, is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the rich history and stunning architecture of the Emerald Isle.

Early History

The First Castle

The first castle on the site of Killyleagh was built in the 12th century by John de Courcy, a Norman knight who conquered much of eastern Ulster. This wooden structure was used as a base for de Courcy's military campaigns. However, it was destroyed by Hugh de Lacy, another Norman lord, in 1210.

The Second Castle

The second castle, built by the Savage family, descendants of de Courcy, was built in the early 13th century. It was also made of wood and used as a stronghold during the ongoing conflicts between the English and Irish. However, the Irish destroyed it in 1316.

The Third Castle

The third and current castle was built by the Savage family in the late 14th century. This time, it was made of stone and designed to withstand attacks from the Irish.

The castle was expanded and improved upon over the years with the addition of towers, a gatehouse, and a moat. It became a symbol of the Savage family's power and wealth in the area.

The Savage Family

The Savage family owned Killyleagh Castle for over 300 years. They were a powerful Anglo-Norman family that played a significant role in Northern Ireland's history. They were known for their military prowess and were involved in many of the conflicts that took place in the region.

The Savage Family Legends

The Savage family was also known for its legends and folklore. One of the most famous stories is that of the "White Lady," a ghost who is said to haunt the castle.

According to one of the legends, she was a member of the Savage family who was murdered by her husband after he discovered she was having an affair. Her ghost is said to roam the castle, searching for her lost love.

Others believe Anne Hamilton, who later lived in the castle, loved Killyleagh Castle so much that her spirit wanders the corridors of her beloved home.

The Hamilton Family

In the 17th century, the Savage family sold Killyleagh Castle to the Hamilton family, who were also Anglo-Norman. The Hamiltons made significant changes to the castle, including the addition of a grand staircase and a new wing. They also built a new gatehouse, which still stands today.

The Hamilton Family Legacy

The Hamilton family owned Killyleagh Castle for over 300 years and played a significant role in Northern Ireland's history. They were involved in the Plantation of Ulster, a period of colonization by English and Scottish settlers, and were also influential in the region's political and social landscape.

Is Killyleagh Castle Open to the Public?

A Private Residence

Killyleagh Castle is a private residence and is not open to the public for tours. However, the castle is open to the public for special events and weddings, making it a popular destination for couples seeking a unique and romantic venue.

A Peek Inside the Castle

While the castle is not open for tours, visitors can still glimpse the stunning interior through the gates. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful garden, which is open to the public and offers a perfect picnic or stroll spot.

Killyleagh Castle through the gatehouse

Killyleagh Castle through the gatehouse

Credit: Pamela Bush - Flickr

Exploring Killyleagh Castle and the Surrounding Area

A Walk Through History

While you may not be able to tour the castle inside, there is still plenty to see and do in the surrounding area. Walk through the village of Killyleagh and admire the charming architecture and quaint shops.

the village of Killyleagh

the village of Killyleagh

Credit: Deek Wilson - Flickr

A visit to the nearby Killyleagh Heritage Centre is a must for history buffs. The center offers a fascinating look into the history of the castle and the village, with artifacts and exhibits dating back to the 12th century.

A Scenic Boat Ride

For a unique perspective of the castle, take a boat ride on Strangford Lough, the largest sea lough in the British Isles. The lough is home to a variety of wildlife, including seals, and offers stunning views of the castle from the water.

A Taste of Ireland

No visit to Ireland is complete without sampling some traditional Irish cuisine. The nearby Dufferin Arms is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, offering a cozy atmosphere and delicious Irish dishes.

The Dufferin Arms

the Dufferin Arms

How to Get to Killyleagh Castle

By Car

Killyleagh Castle is approximately 30 minutes from Belfast and can be easily reached by car. From Belfast, take the A24 towards Carryduff and then follow the signs for Killyleagh.

By Public Transportation

For those without a car, several bus routes run from Belfast to Killyleagh. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes and drops you off in the center of the village, just a short walk from the castle.

Plan Your Visit to Killyleagh Castle

When to Visit

Killyleagh Castle is open for special events and weddings throughout the year, but the best time to visit is during the summer months when the weather is mild and the gardens are in full bloom.

Where to Stay

If you looking to stay in the area, there are several charming bed and breakfasts and guesthouses in the village of Killyleagh. For a more luxurious stay, the nearby Slieve Donard Resort and Spa offers stunning views of the Mourne Mountains and is just a short drive from the castle.

A Hidden Gem Waiting to be Discovered

Killyleagh Castle may not be as well-known as other castles in Ireland, but it is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and picturesque surroundings, a visit to Killyleagh Castle is a must for anyone looking to experience the true beauty of Ireland.

Killyleagh Castle in 2015

Killyleagh Castle in 2015

Credit: Chris Passmore - Flickr

So, next time you find yourself in Northern Ireland, take a trip to Killyleagh and experience the magic of this hidden gem for yourself.

author icon Author George Ghidrai   
Published: 5.04.2024

Rate this castle

Leave a comment

Your name:

Your comment:

Before submiting, you might want to check our terms of service and posting rules

Before submitting you might want to check our terms of service and posting rules

Do you have a nice picture of this place ? Please upload it here:

Image attach might not work on older mobiles
Your Name (optional): if you want to be credited with the picture

See also