Ireland has a vast number of castles dotting the countryside, from romantic ruined castles and castle towers, to the fine stately castles of Irish Chieftains and Irish Castle Hotels . Ireland has castles that are filled with history and character and there even some haunted castles to discover.
Most castles you'll see in Ireland are less than ostentatious; they were not built to be the royal palaces that you'll find in Britain, as Ireland has had no royalty for a thousand years. Instead they were fortified homes for chieftains, or Anglo Norman settlers and were designed primarily for defence.
Many of these castles are medieval in origin, dating from the 11th to the 15th century. While some of the more elaborate and elegant castles you may find owe their origins to the flamboyant Georgian era or the neo gothic revival in the Victorian Age.
Ireland's two most popular castles are Bunratty Castle and Blarney Castle, and these are also two of the most visited tourist attractions in Ireland, outside of Dublin.
Bunratty is located in County Clare, close to the River Shannon and Shannon Airport. This castle is famous for its medieval banquets that for many visitors to Ireland, from the United States in particular, present a great last night in Ireland before returning home via Shannon Airport. Bunratty Castle dates back to the 14th Century and once belonged to the O'Brien Clan, who were the High Kings of Munster. Today the castle forms the centrepiece of an excellent Folk Park outlining Ireland's history with a recreated 19th Century Irish town.
Blarney Castle in County Cork is home to the famous Blarney Stone which, according to legend, bestows the gift of eloquence and Irish charm - or as we say; "the gift of the gab". For years countless numbers of people have descended on this 15th Century castle and climbed its tall tower to kiss the blarney stone.
Most of Ireland's large castle residences are now lavish castle hotels that have entertained dignitaries from Princes to Presidents. Ashford Castle and Dromoland Castle are two of Ireland's leading and most luxurious hotels.
Situated on the banks of Lough Corrib in County Mayo, Ashford Castle is a majestic building of Victorian neo gothic architecture, though the castle's history dates back to 1228 when it was founded by the Anglo Norman de Burgo family. The Guinness family also owned Ashford Castle and the castle has hosted the Prince of Wales George V and President Ronald Reagan on his state visit to Ireland.
Dromoland Castle also recently had a presidential visit from George W. Bush. Situated in exquisite grounds in County Clare; Dromoland dates back to the 16th Century and is the ancestral home of the O'Brien Clan and Brian Boru the last High King of Ireland. Like Ashford, Dromoland Castle offers the utmost in five star luxury and is steeped in historic character.
Two other historic Irish castles with a special interest of their own are Glin Castle in County Limerick and Ballygally Castle in County Antrim, both of which are reputed to be haunted castles.
Glin Castle sits on the banks of the River Shannon and this elegant 18th Century castle has been home to the Knights of Glin, the Fitzgerald family for over 700 years. But Glin Castle is also home to a friendly ghost, nicknamed Gerald.
Ballygally Castle is situated along the scenic Antrim coastline and dates back to 1625. The central tower of this stark and austere castle is said to be haunted and though there is a bedroom there, nobody has ever braved the full night.
You'll find more detailed information on Ireland's castles throughout this website, with pages on Ireland's visitor castles, haunted castles and Ireland's castle hotels.
Plus we have put together a number of suggested self drive itineraries visiting Ireland's top Castles to add that touch of luxury to your Ireland Vacation.