If you visit Dublin, you should definitely visit some of the sights. Those who are interested in castles and ruins, will find here just as certainly. Breathe history and experience culture, visit fascinating buildings.
The most famous is certainly Dublin Castle. But don’t miss to visit some of the castles near Dublin. It is worth it in any case! Here are the 10 most impressive castles in and around Dublin.
1. Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle is one of the many sights that Dublin has to offer and is perfect for diving deep into Ireland’s history on a rainy day. Ireland’s eventful history is literally enclosed within the walls of Dublin Castle. They tell of fear and terror, reconciliation and peace, and glorious celebrations.
Where the castle and its gardens are located today, a ring fortress is thought to have existed as far back as Celtic times, for the site was of strategic importance.
Later, when the Vikings conquered the city and large parts of the country, they built a first fortress on the site of the ring fort. Later, the Normans took over the Viking fortress and continued the history of Dublin Castle. They expanded the fortress into a majestic castle complex in the 13th century. The castle was built in this form by the English Prince John, who wanted to protect himself from the attacks of the Irish with this fortress. His fear must have been very great.
For three centuries the castle was used as a residence of the English crown and the English administration. In 1689, large parts of the medieval castle complex were destroyed and when it was rebuilt, it was decided to build a palace rather than a castle. This is why today’s visitors see different architectural styles of different eras united in Dublin Castle. It was only in 1922, after the Easter Uprising, that it became the property of the Irish.
Today the castle is a glamorous place. Between tik wood, pompous chandeliers and Persian carpets, the Irish presidents are inaugurated with pomp in the Patricks Hall and important state guests are received.
2. Swords Castle
The first construction work on a fortification began in Swords in the twelfth century, initiated by Dublin’s first Anglo-Norman bishop John Comyn. With a circumference of over three hundred meters, the castle is much larger than the “Irish standard”, but thanks to the construction period of almost four hundred years, it is a piecemeal structure.
Built on a holy spring, the castle initially served as a residence for the archbishops of Dublin, and it is said that the first parliamentary sessions were also held in the reception hall. From 1583, refugees from the Netherlands were housed here at the behest of Sir Henry Sidney. Today, the castle is the only fortification of the Dublin archbishops still standing, and can be enjoyed as a journey back in time to those powerful ecclesiastical princes. Ecclesiastical chambers and barracks-like quarters alternate, secular and spiritual power are united under one roof.
Given over to slow decay, Swords Castle was purchased by Dublin County Council in 1985 and first thoroughly investigated… ten years later, a plan for further use and renovation could be presented. Today, much of the work has been completed, so the castle is definitely worth a visit.
3. Charleville Castle
This Irish castle has been visited by many parapsychologists and psychics. Many people, while staying in the castle, have reported strange events. Charleville Castle was built in 1798 for Charleville William Bury and his family. The castle remained in the possession of the Bury family until Charles Howard Bury suddenly dropped dead in 1963.
Today the property is owned by a woman named Bridget Vance, who has restored this castle in the Gothic Revival style. The castle workers tell that while the castle was being restored, the spirits were awakened. They say they have heard strange whispering voices and classical music throughout the castle.
Many have also heard the sounds of children playing, in a room of the castle that used to be the nursery. According to legend, a little girl named Harriet died in Charleville Castle while playing in the stairwell in the early 1800s. The ghost of Harriet was spotted in the stairwell, and people said they felt a cold breeze brush past them as they walked down those steps.
If you are inside the castle, you can hear the little girl moving furniture, giggling and talking. But children aren’t the only ghosts that haunt Charleville Castle.
The castle is said to have been built on land that was previously an ancient druid site. The Vance family said they saw ghostly hooded figures on the castle grounds.
4. Howth Castle
Away from the center of the village is Howth Castle. The Gaisford St. Lawrence family came into possession of Howth in the 13th century and built an early castle. Over the centuries the family extended and rebuilt the castle. The oldest parts of the site today date from the 15th century. Even after eight hundred years, the Gaisford St. Lawrence family continues to live in Howth Castle in an unbroken line.
A historical anecdote tells of the visit of Grace ‘Granuaile’ O’Malley. The infamous pirate queen from County Mayo asked to be let in during one of her voyages and to be supplied for the journey. Rudely refused at the castle gates, she unceremoniously abducted the heir of Gaisford St. Lawrence’ to Mayo on the west coast of Ireland. They brought him back under the promise that in the future guests would always be courteously entertained at Howth Castle. For this reason, an extra place is set at the dining table to this day for unexpected guests of Gaisford St. Lawrence.
5. Birr Castle
Although the castle has been owned by the Parsons family since 1620 and is therefore not regularly open to the public, you can visit the premises as part of selected tours between May and September.
In the 50-hectare park of Birr Castle in County Offaly, one can easily spend several hours without getting bored. Nature lovers and botanists will get their money’s worth here. Over 2,000 different species of trees and shrubs have been brought here and collected from all over the world by the three generations of the Earls of Rosse family over the last 150 years. The box hedges, over 12 meters high, can even call themselves the tallest in the world!
The park is divided into three main areas, all marked by wayfinding signs and a free folder: Formal Gardens, Terraces, and Waterfalls, Rivers & Lake. There are several walking trails to choose from.
If you follow the smaller “Moat Walk,” you’ll reach the Terraces, from which you have a wonderful – perhaps the most beautiful – view of the castle. Here one colorful blob of perennials is lined up next to the other, which attracts numerous butterflies, especially in summer. Continuing along the little river Camcor, you catch a glimpse of the romantic suspension bridge from the 19th century. A perfect photo motif!
If you haven’t had enough yet, you can – and should! – continue your way to the telescope, the very special attraction of Birr Castle.
Built in 1845 by the 3rd Earl of Rosses (William Parson), it was considered the largest of its kind at the time. This attraction naturally drew visitors from all over Europe and gave Birr Castle a high profile that still exists today. And even today, over 150 years later, it is fully functional!
6. Trim Castle
One of the most beautiful castle ruins in Ireland is Trim Castle. It already fascinated the makers of the movie “Braveheart” and they created a cinematic monument to the castle. It is indeed an impressive place.
Just an hour’s drive north of Dublin, a former bastion rises from the landscape of Ireland’s green hills. It towers high above the banks of the Boyne River and forms a picturesque sight with its ruins. It was built in the 12th century and was considered one of the largest forts in Europe at the time.
A mighty bulwark this castle must have once been, in the Ancient East, the historic east of Ireland. On the route between Newgrange and Hills of Tara, Trim Castle is one of the must stops in Boyne Valley.
Once here stood the castle, which was a bulwark of the English to fight against the rebellious Irish, whose territory began on the other side of the river. Thus, today the absurdity arises that the Irish are proud of a structure that once stood as a symbol of the war against them.
The castle resembled Fort Knox in many ways. The walls were three meters thick in some places and the walls enclosed about three hectares of land. With 30,000 square meters of land, it is the largest Irish castle complex. Today, little can be seen of these once gigantic dimensions.
Especially the keep is imposing. It is built as a 20-sided building and its ground plan forms the shape of an isosceles cross. The thick walls are still partially visible. In addition, the remains of the ramparts enclose the complex.
A particularly beautiful view is on the banks of the River Boyne. A small bridge leads to the opposite shore, where you can also find remains of ruins, such as Sheep Gate. It is an exceptionally beautiful walk.
7. Rock of Cashel
Lonely and majestic, the Rock of Cashel rises from Tipperary’s landscape of rolling green hills. Although today only ruins of the former royal seat remain, the ravages of time have done nothing to diminish the imposing size and majesty of the Rock.
It was none other than the legendary Irish king Corc who laid the foundation stone of Cashel in 370. The fortress was intended to protect the city of Cashel, which he founded at the foot of the rock, and also to serve as his sovereign seat. The Irish word for “fortress” is “caiseal” and it is easy to see where the now common English name of the former fortress comes from.
The “Caiseal” continued to exist for many years as the seat of Irish kings. In 977, the most famous among them, Brian Boru, had himself crowned Irish High King in Cashel. It was he who defeated the Vikings in the legendary Battle of Limerick. Well after Boru’s demise, into the 12th century, the Rock of Cashel continued to be the seat of the King of Munster.
The year 1101 was a turning point in the history of the Rock of Cashel. King Murtagh O’Brien bequeathed the fortress to the church. Shortly thereafter, the Rock of Cashel was transformed into an ecclesiastical monument, at least in part. An impressive cathedral was built, the heart of the structure, which can still be visited today.
In 1647, the ancient walls of the fortress witnessed a horrific act of bloodshed. Thousands of people from the surrounding area sought shelter from Cromwell’s troops within the thick walls of the castle. However, the fortress could not withstand this overwhelming force and 800 souls died at the hands of the soldiers. The Rock of Cashel never recovered from this attack and visibly deteriorated.
8. Malahide Castle
North of Dublin lies the beautiful seaside town of Malahide. Malahide Castle is set amidst its 100 acres of gardens.
For about 800 years, the castle was both a fortress and a home for its inhabitants, the Talbot family. The Talbot family lived in the castle from 1185 to 1973, until the death of the last Lord Talbot.
Malahide Castle was first built rather conventionally in the 14th century, later the round towers were added. This certainly created the flair of a fairy tale castle. Furnished with beautiful antique furniture and a large collection of Irish paintings (especially portraits), the house is well worth a visit.
Around the castle, visitors can stroll through the beautifully landscaped Talbots Botanical Gardens. The gardens of Malahide Castle were laid out in their present form between 1948 and 1943 by Lord Milo Talbot.
9. Kilkenny Castle
The relatively small town of Kilkenny in the southeast of Ireland is not only known worldwide for its beer, but also has a beautiful castle – Kilkenny Castle.
The history of this castle, located on the River Nore, dates back to the 12th century. At that time William Marshal, the 4th Earl of Pembroke had a castle built on this site, which was completed in 1213.
In 1391 James Butler, the Earl of Ormonde acquired the estate, which from then on became the seat of the powerful Butler dynasty for the next 600 years. The castle soon became the property of the Irish state after the last descendant of the Butlers, Arthur, the 6th Marquess of Ormonde, sold it to the local Castle Restoration Committee for £50.
Carefully restored, it has since been open to visitors with its extensive park and gardens. It is now one of Ireland’s most popular and visited tourist destinations. Part of the National Gallery is also housed in the complex in the form of an exhibition.
Besides the gallery, visitors can also see the library, a drawing room and a bedroom, which shine in the splendor of the 1830s.
10. Slane Castle
Slane Castle is located in the village of the same name in the middle of the Boyne Valley in County Meath. Magnificently situated on a hill, the castle overlooks to the southeast a bend of the River Boyne and the adjacent village. The first Cistercian monastery foundation in 1142 at Mellifont is also in the immediate vicinity. Besides, the Battle of the Boyne took place not far away in 1690. In this, the defeat of the Catholic fighters manifested the Protestant power over Ireland for centuries. In the midst of this historic landscape, today’s Slane Castle was built in the 18th century.
The construction of the castle dates back to the noble Conyngham family. This family came to Ireland in the 17th century in the course of the Ulster Plantations from neighboring Scotland.
Around 1785, the Conyngham family decided to undertake a major rebuilding project. For this purpose, the Conynghams employed leading architects of the time. The result was a magnificent building in the neo-Gothic style.
The Conyngham family has remained faithful to their family seat to this day. Although in 1991 a disastrous fire severely damaged part of the building. The subsequent restoration took ten years.
The biggest feature of Slane Castle is its musical history. Since 1981, the extensive landscaped park around the castle has been the venue for the Slane Festival. This is an almost annual concert event. Here, the world’s greatest music legends (U2, Madonna) regularly performed in front of up to 100,000 music fans.
For several years there has also been a distillery on the estate, where the Slane Whiskey is distilled. The result is an Irish blend of malt whiskey and grain whiskey. The Slane Distillery is open to visitors daily.