In Ireland there is one thing you are going to be sure to find and that is lots and lots of castles. Ireland is an ancient land whose history stretches back thousands of years with invasions and battles being the order of the day.
But with invasions and battles comes lots Castles, as various opposing factions erected huge fortresses at strategic points in the landscape in order to keep control of the local population and to keep the enemy at arms length. Castles would also have been erected as a sheer power symbol, a symbol that would have been used to strike fear into anyone who may have been considering revolting. Thinking of organising a rebellion? Look at the power we have at our finger tips!! Think again!!!
Many of these castles are ruined and the majority of them would have changed hands countless times down through the years. This article will mostly focus on Castles that are habitable. As in any list it is virtually impossible to include all Castles but I hope that this list goes some-way in helping you enjoy some of Ireland’s most magnificent structures.
10. Cabra Castle
Situated on the border with County Cavan and County Monaghan lies the picturesque Cabra Castle. The Castle itself is a beautiful 4 star hotel and caters for many weddings throughout the year. The fortress was originally built around 1699 and belonged to the O Reilly Family. In the 17th century the castle was confiscated by a very charming gentleman known as Oliver Cromwell. Over the years the premises has fallen into many different hands with a wealthy aristocratic family known as the Pratt becoming one of the main owners.
When the Castle was purchased by the Brennan family in 1964 the family began converting it into a 20 bedroom hotel. In the 1980’s an Arab family purchased the property and proceeded to use the place as their own private home and residence. In the 1990s the Castle was sold to the Corscadden family who converted the premises into the amazing 4 stars hotel/castle that it is well renowned for today.
One of the most striking features of the castle is that is retains much of its original grandeur. When you enter the premises you cant but help but feel that you are taking a step back into history by having the pleasure with witnesses full medieval suits of armour and also the ancient architecture of the place. Up until recently a huge Irish Wolf hood was
9. Bunratty Castle
Bunratty Castle is a place that has witnessed much bloodshed and horror over the years with 4 different structures being built in the same location. Most of the other castles that resided at the location would have been burned, attacked, and raised to the ground in various battles that would have occurred at the historic County Clare location.
Fortunately for us, the present structure has stood the test of time. One of the reasons why the Castle is so famous Is because of the superb banquets which entertain visitors from Ireland and all across the world. Bunratty Castle is definitely one place that you should stick down on your bucket list.
8. Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny is not just a county that is know for its legendary hurling traditions its also a county that is steeped in Irish medieval history. Kilkenny Castle is one fine example of the counties historical traditions. The Castle was built during the 12th Century and played a very important role during the Norman conquest and invasion of Ireland. One of the reasons why the Castle was built where it was built was because of its strategic positioning along the River Nore.
The place played a pivotal role in Richard de Clare (ie)( Strongbows) conquest of Ireland. Kilkenny was used by De Clare as a positioning post in which his troops where stationed which allowed his army to spread out throughout the rest of the country.
In the modern era, Kilkenny Castle is one of the most visited locations in the whole island of Ireland. The building has received extensive restorations over the years. Once you visit Kilkenny Castle you will be afforded some magnificent views of the surrounding grounds and also you’ll get a real touch of medieval history when you enter the historic castle itself.
7. Dromoland Castle
The name O Brien is one of the most historic and ancient names associated with the island of Ireland and when it comes to Dromoland Castle the O Briens have been long been seen as the traditional rules.
The clans lineage can actually be traced the whole way back to Brian Boru and from there the clan went on to become the Kings Of Thomond. Currently, Dromoland Castle has been transformed into a magnificent 5star hotel and also comes action packed with a superb golf course.
The castle sits on a vast estate of over 400 acres which rests on some of County Clares most stunning and panoramic views. Dromoland Castle is a must see location on any visit to Ireland.
6. Ballynahinch Castle
The story of Ballynahinch Caslte begins in the 14th century where the location played a pivotal rule in the vicious battle that was fought between the O Malley and O Flaherty clans. Over the years the castle was developed and one of its most noteworthy of owners was the legendary Pirate Queen Grace O Malley.
County Galway has long been recognised as one of Ireland’s most beautiful places and with Ballynahinch Castle thrown into the mix you can begin to see why this place is one of the must see strongholds in Ireland.
Nowadays, the fortification is one of Ireland’s must luxurious hotels. An added benefit of being a guest at Ballynahinch is that you can soak up some of the magnificent countryside surroundings and you can even partake in a spot of fishing or take in some of the many hiking trails that make up the area.
5. The Rock Of Cashel
When it comes to historical locations the Rock Of Cashel is one of the most historic and world renowned locations in Ireland. During the Queen of England’s visit to Ireland she was taken to the Rock and she was blown away by the fortresses history and surrounding scenery.
Located in Cashel in County Tipperary the stronghold was originally built in the 12th century and was once the traditional home of the Kings of Munster. The location is one of the most visited in Ireland and throughout the years people throng the place in an attempt to view the fortresses former glory.
The Rock of Cashel is open all year round and entry is free during the first Wednesday of every month. When you visit the place you cant but help but be awestruck by the original castle, the cathedral, and also the beautiful chapel which makes up the Rock. Without a doubt the Rock of Cashel is one of the must see locations in any visit to Ireland.
4. Lismore Castle
Lismore Castle, also known as Blackwater Castle, in County Waterford, has history steeped in its very veins. This magnificent structure was originally built in the 12th century and has been owned by many a legendary figure.
Some of the powerhouses who have ruled over the castle include Sir Walter Raleigh and Richard Boyle. Boyle played a huge part in transforming the location into the stunning place that we now know of. In the 18th century the estate was passed on to the Duke of Devonshire, also known as, William Cavendish, whose descendants still own the castle and estate to this very day.
At the moment, Lismore Castle is visited by thousands of people each year. One of the upsides of Lismore is that the beautiful gardens and surrounding estate is open to the public from March to September which allows tourists to soak up the areas incredible scenery, ambience, and history. An added benefit that Lismore provides is that it holds regular art exhibitions which are well worth a visit.
3. Cahir Castle
Situated on the banks of the river Suir in County Tipperary is Cahir Castle. The citadel is one of the largest in Ireland. Dating back to 1142 the castle was originally built by the O Brien clan.
The Castle was originally built to form a state of the art defensive castle. Cahir has witnessed many sieges and battles throughout the centuries. It has fallen to opposing armies three times in its history. One of the most significant sieges was when the citadel was captured by the Earl of Essex during a three day siege. In the 14th century the premises was left to the powerful Butler family.
In the 1960’s the Castle was bequeathed to the Irish state after Lord Cahir passed away. Since then the Castle has been extensively refurbished and now boasts an impressive audiovisual show that gives you some excellent information on the castles long and varied history. The place is open all year round and you can gain entry for as little as €5.
2. Athlone Castle
Right in the heart of of Ireland in Westmeath lies Athlone castle which was originally built in 1129. The castle which survives today was erected by King John in an attempt to defend the river crossing at Athlone and also to facilitate a staging point for Anglo Norman attacks into Connaught. Athlone Castle was put to a severe test during the sieges of 1690-91 where the walls where bombarded.
The Williamites besieged the fortress not long after their great victory during the Battle of the Boyne but in spite of their heavy bombardments the citadels defensive structures held fast and the Williamites failed to capture Castle.
It has been alleged that over 60,000 shots where fired at the structure over ten days. The place is opened all year around and visitors can go inside and survey the impressive defensive structure, architecture, and can soak up the overall history and feel of the place.
1. Ashford Castle Co Mayo
Built in 1228 Ashford Castle in County Mayo is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s finest hotels and castles. The premises was originally the seat of anglo norman family known as the Burgos.
The castle remained in their possession for three centuries until it passed into the hands of of the Binghams after a bloody battle. Most of the modern Victorian style structure to the castle was added in 1715.
Other styles that where added to the premises include a french- style chateau and also a neo gothic touch. The many different styles of the castle all combine to make this castle one of the finest of its kind in Ireland. Nowadays, the Castle affords visitors some exquisite views inside and outside the premises and if you are looking to visit Castles in Ireland look no further than Ashford Castle.
Saunderson Castle, Co Cavan
The original Castle was built by the powerful O Reilly clan from Brefnni. The original name of the stronghold was Brefni Castle. In 1676 Robert Saunderson who fought alongside William of Orange inherited the place.
A huge battle took place at the location in 1689 when 400 hundred of King James troops where ambushed whilst retreating from a battle that was taking place at Newtownbutler. The structure that is in the area at present dates from roughly 1840 and was extensively damaged during a fire in 1990.
The Saunderson Castle estate encompasses over 103 acres and was once owned by Edward Saunderson the original founder of the Ulster Unionist Party. Up until 2012 the castle grounds where closed off to members of the public when an international scout center was opened. For anyone going to the location there are a number of picturesque walks which can be enjoyed around the estate.
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