With more than 30,000 castles, or remnants of castles, on the Emerald Isle, this iconic stone structure becomes a part of the scenery on nearly any drive around Ireland. While there are some fantastic hotel castles (see our Castle and Manor House itinerary for example) this post is solely focused on a few of our favorite “stops-not-stays” to explore the buildings’ legends and history.
- Blarney Castle. Blarney Castle is without a doubt the most infamous of Irish castles, and even if kissing the legendary stone is not your thing (eek, hand me the Purell!) the grounds are stunning and if you have any last minute gift shopping to do you won’t find a better selection than at the Blarney Woolen Mill shop located adjacent to the castle.
- Bunratty. Bunratty can perhaps be dubbed the second-most “touristy” of all of Ireland’s castles, but it does it’s duty as one of the country’s favorite places to play “make pretend” as you attend a recreation of a royal dinner from centuries past. It’s authentic right down to the warm honey mead, Ireland’s version of the Hawaiian luau. A must see!
- King John’s Castle. King John’s Castle is a great example of a traditional Irish castle and is one of our favorite places to stop with kids! There’s an opportunity to dress up and take pictures as part of the tour, and what kid (of any age) doesn’t like a little dress up now and then?
- Ross Castle makes our list because what list of castles would be complete without a “haunted” one? Among all the things to see and do in Killarney, Ross Castle stands out for its history and easy access. In fact, you can actually ride to the castle in a traditional jaunting car (horse drawn carriage) from the middle of town and the walk back (less than 2 miles) through Killarney National Park is wonderful.
- Glenveagh Castle. While not haunted, Glenveagh is said to be cursed for the cruel treatment it’s original owner, Captain John Adair, put on the local tenants during the Captain’s time there. No subsequent owners ever found good fortune on the grounds and the estate was eventually donated to the public. It makes up a large part of the wonderful Glenveagh National Park.
- Cahir Castle. We had to put at least one “movie star” castle on our list! Cahir, located in Tipperary, was prominently featured in the film Excalibur. But, perhaps more interesting is the actual cannonball that found its way over the moat and into the wall during the Nine Years War!
We’re not finished yet! Stay tuned for Part II of our favorite castles to visit in Ireland because, let’s be honest, there’s a lot to choose from and we just don’t want to leave any out! Contact us for a free quote for your dream Ireland vacation.