Top 11 Irish castles

Brooding ruins on windswept hills to restored masterpieces, Ireland’s castles can be looked at, walked through, clambered over, dined in – even slept in! Here are 11 of our favorites: what are yours?

1. Cahir Castle: Feudal fantasy abounds at this river-island site with moat, turrets, towers, defenses and dungeons. This castle is one of Ireland’s largest.

2. Kilkenny Castle: Rising above the River Nore, this is one of Ireland’s most visited heritage sites.

3. Dublin Castle: Center of British power in Ireland for over 700 years and home to the world-famous Chester Beatty Library. Check out the beautiful State Apartments.

4. Dunguaire Castle: Chess-piece style castle erected around 1520 by the O’Hynes clan. Plow through a big group meal at a medieval banquet held here.

5. Rock of Cashel: This ancient fortified home of kings is just the tip of the iceberg for moody and forlorn ruins hidden away in the surrounding green expanse.

6. King John’s Castle: Limerick’s showcase castle is best viewed from the west bank of the River Shannon. Seek out medieval weapons, like the trebuchet, and walk the magnificent castle walls.

7. Blarney Castle: Crowds flock to this 15th-century castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. Bend over backwards on the battlements, give it a kiss and don’t forget to take in the views.

8. Ross Castle: See the cunning spiral staircase at this County Kerry gem. Every step is a different height to break an attacker’s stride.

9. Trim Castle: Truly impressive castle that briefly returned to its former glory in 1996 as a location for Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.

10. Ashford Castle: Once owned by the Guinness family of stout fame. Peek into its immaculately restored interior by sleeping or dining here.

11. Donegal Castle: Guarding a picturesque bend of the River Esque, this castle remains an imperious monument to Irish and English might. Much of the castle is gutted but well worth a look.

------------------------------------------------------

Want to explore Ireland further? Check out our Discover Ireland guide and see the country come to life in full color!