The Most Amazing Castles In Ireland

Dozens of ancient castles are sprinkled across Ireland’s lush, green countryside in various states of ruin. If you jump in a rental car and start driving, chances are you’ll find one. The trick is deciding which ones to see. These 5 Irish castles will sate your curiosity for all things medieval … and let loose your inner child. Don’t forget your sword.




Blarney Castle
The Most Amazing Castles in Ireland

Sure, thousands of tourists swarm Blarney Castle in southern Ireland every year, but it’s still worth a visit. Here, you can kiss the notorious Blarney Stone and, as legend has it, get the “gift of the gab.” Climb 10 flights of stairs to reach the stone at the top of the castle’s main tower. Grip 2 metal bars, lie backwards and a castle worker will hold your legs while you reach out, upside down, over a sheer 10-story drop to kiss the stone. Don’t forget to have someone take your picture. Kissing stone aside, the best part of this castle is its floral gardens, spread over 60 acres. Take time to walk the paths for a 360-degree view of the tower built 600 years ago by Irish chieftain Cormac MacCarthy.




Bunratty Castle

The Most Amazing Castles in Ireland

Even before you get to Ireland, book a banquet at Bunratty Castle. This fortress sits on Folk Park, an ancient Viking trading camp dating back to 970 A.D., just 7 miles from Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland. The current castle structure is actually the fourth castle to be built onsite. Due to the violent changing of hands over 200 years between Irish chieftains and English kings, the original castle (and the following 2) were destroyed in battle. Today, it’s the best place in Ireland to enjoy a traditional medieval feast. In the banquet hall, women dressed in medieval gowns serve you hunks of pork, potato soup, bread and goblets of mulled mead. You’ll sit on a long wooden bench and eat by candlelight, family-style, like the knights would have. The feast is set to the tune of a medieval instrument quartet, and with the cheery ambiance you’re sure to become fast friends with strangers around you.

Doe Castle

The Most Amazing Castles in Ireland

Doe Castle in County Donegal in northwest Ireland is one of my favorites simply because it architecturally looks cool. It’s surrounded on 3 sides by water, and was built on a peninsula with a moat cleaved into the rock of the landward side. In short, Doe Castle looks like it’s floating. The best view of this castle is actually from a distance on the wide spot on the Carrigart–Creeslough road about 10 miles from the village of Dunfanaghy. High outer walls and 4 major defense towers ring an interior building with a 4-story tower and keep. While the interior isn’t technically open to the public, locals open the castle gates daily so you can meander inside. It’s one of Ireland’s more rustic castles, so don’t expect audio guides and tours. You’re on your own here.




Cahir Castle

The Most Amazing Castles in Ireland

Because Ireland doesn’t have an aggressive restoration program, many castles are crumbling. Not Cahir Castle. It’s one of Ireland’s largest, best preserved medieval fortresses, maintaining the keep, tower and defense structures from its original construction in 1142. It was the former stronghold of the Butler family (former Irish nobility) and is situated on a rocky island on the River Suir in Tipperary County, south central Ireland. Book a 30- to 40-minute guided tour in advance. Afterward, explore the spiral staircases, small side chambers and see the quilt-like Irish countryside from the top of Cahir Tower. Cahir Castle also features a 15-minute movie, Cahir Castle and the Story of Irish Castles, which gives a historical overview of the function of castle fortresses in Ireland.

Ashford Castle

The Most Amazing Castles in Ireland

Ashford Castle in County Galway is western Ireland’s fairytale castle. This nearly 800-year-old castle was once owned by the Guinness family and kept in spectacular condition. Later it was converted into a 5-star luxury hotel; now you can actually stay the night. Sounds cheesy, I know, but spending a night like nobility in a cozy medieval castle is worth the heftier price tag. Ashford is also one of Ireland’s most popular destination wedding venues because of its elaborate gold interior and extensive manicured lawns.




The Most Amazing Castles In Ireland

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Castles were built as fortified mansions for nobility.  Even though the need for castles has largely faded, many remain as an awesome symbol of history and culture.

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Bratislava castle, Slovakia Bratislava castle is still the most dramatic feature in the city of Bratislava, Slovakia today. The humongous castle sits on the top of the hill in the center of the city. The location provides excellent views of three countries (Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary).

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Chenonceau Castle, France (Château de Chenonceau) This French castle is often called the Ladies’ Castle due to feminine influence in its development. I credit the feminine touch to the extreme beauty of this structure.

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Reichsburg Castle, Germany Reichsburg castle in Cochem, Germany as it stands today was built about 150 years ago. Even though it is “newer” than many of the others on this list, the original construction was more than 1,000 years ago.

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Corvin Castle, Romania The Corvin castle in Romania is often cited as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Regardless if that is true or not, it definitely fits the vampire theme for me.

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Mont Saint Michel, France Aside from the attractions in Paris, the Mont Saint Michel is the most visited tourist attraction in France. The massive edifice sits on its own island, and not only includes an incredible abbey, but an entire city.

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Chateau de Chambord, France Most people realize the Chateau de Chambord in France is large, but most people don’t realize just how large. It contains 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces.

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Vianden Castle, Luxembourg Vianden castle in Luxembourg sits on top of the city. Also worth noting is that even in modern warfare, this castle was used in defense against the Nazis.

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Prague Castle, Czech Republic Prague castle is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. It is also the largest ancient castle in the world.

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Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle, Ukraine This castle now sits in Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine. This castle was originally built to protect a bridge connecting bridge. It obviously must have been an important bridge to justify this type of defense.

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Boldt Castle, USA Power House of Boldt Castle in Thousand Islands New York, USA (yes, a castle in the USA). The castle currently serves as a museum to show how electrical power was obtained in the early 1900’s.

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Hohenschwangau Castle, Germany This German castle near the town of Fussen amazingly received no damage in World War I or World War II.

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Pena Palace, Portugal Fairy Palace is located in Sintra, Portugal. The castle is used today by the President of Portugal and other officials for state events. If you could, why wouldn’t you?

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Trencin Castle, Slovakia Trencin Castle – Even though Slovakia is a small country, it has a lot of beautiful and well preserved castles. Trencin castle is an example of one.

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany If you love the classic Disney movies, then this castle should look familiar as it was the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty. Neuschwanstein castle was actually only built for one person, King Ludwig II (and my husband thinks I’m high maintenance). Oh… and did I mention that he only slept in the castle for 11 nights! Neuschwanstein is a VERY popular tourist destination; it has been visited by more than 61 million people since being opened to the public.

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Eltz Castle, Germany The Eltz castle in Germany has been family owned since this 12th century. Even today descendants of the original owners own and operate tours of the castle.

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Schönbühel Castle, Austria Another beautiful castle on the Danube river in Austria.

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland Eileen Donan Scotland – This castle was built to protect what is now Scotland against Viking invasions. The castle was destroyed by its own government due to the owners involvement in the Jacobite rebellions. It was restored in the 20th century.

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Chateau des Milandes, France Milandes – When I look at the French castle Milandes, it is hard to belive that castles were originally built as defensive structures. The combination of castle and gardens make this one of the most beautiufl in the world.

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Oberhofen Castle, Swiss Alps fa Oberhofen castle is located in the middle of the Swiss Alps. The beatiful castle sits on the shore of lake Thun, and is open as a museum that even offers training on how to be a medieval knight or lady.