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One of Ireland’s biggest attractions is its long, winding and fascinating history. What better way to uncover the country’s compelling past than by exploring some of Ireland’s most beautiful castles?

There is said to be an astonishing 30,000 castles and ruins scattered across Ireland, each with their own unique story to tell. From enchanting loughside forts to the Queen’s holiday residence, the many castles in Ireland come in all shapes and sizes and are waiting to be explored.

Read on to discover 9 of the best castles in Ireland…

1. Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland

hillsborough castle in northern ireland

Although this Northern Ireland castle may not look like your typical, fairy tale fortress, Hillsborough Castle still boasts strong and significant royal connections.

Originally built as a country house in the 18th century, Hillsborough Castle was sold to the British government in 1922, who in the same year created a new district of the UK, Northern Ireland.

After becoming the office for the Governor of Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle now acts as the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and is also where the royal family come to stay during their ventures across the Irish Sea.

This regal Irish castle is now a certified Royal Palace, and is open to the public Monday-Sunday from 9:30am-4:00pm.

2. Dublin Castle

castle in dublin

If you can tear yourselves away from the renowned, toe-tapping atmosphere of Dublin city, its stunning and historic castle is more than worth a visit.

A castle of some sort has stood on this site for more than 800 years, and has been home to the English and British governments of Ireland, as well as now hosting of the President of Ireland inaugurations.

On your visit to this impressive castle in Ireland, you can also roam immaculate gardens, visit two fascinating museums and grab a bite to eat at the on-site café.

You can visit Dublin Castle 7 days a week, from 9:45am to 5:45pm.

If you love Irish tradition, why not head to one of these Irish pubs and take in the local history.

3. Belfast Castle, Northern Ireland

belfast castle northern ireland

Head to Northern Ireland’s capital to find this beautiful castle, perched on the outskirts of the city within the marvellous Cavehill Country Park.

Belfast’s castle history stretches back to the 12th century, when a fortress built by the Normans stood in the heart of the city. The stone and timber replacement of the original castle burned down, resulting in the current Belfast Castle being built on the outskirts of the city between 1862 and 1870.

After being gifted to the city of Belfast in 1934, there has been much debate on how the castle and its grounds should be used. You can now stroll through its tranquil country park, or make the most of the adventure playground, antiques shop and restaurant.

Discover more about the opening hours of this magnificent Ireland castle.

4. Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim

castle in carrickfergus northern ireland

This well-preserved Irish castle can be found at the harbour in Carrickfergus town, looking across Belfast Lough towards County Down.

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman structure that held military importance right up until 1928 – and with most of the castle being bordered by water, it was an excellent defence strategy.

With a heritage stretching as far back as the 1100s, a trip to this castle in Ireland is almost too good to miss. Enjoy fascinating historical displays, 17th-century cannons and stunning coastal views on your visit.

Visit this stunning Ireland castle between 9:00am and 4:00pm for a small charge.

5. Blarney Castle, County Cork

blarney castle county cork ireland

Venture just outside of the vibrant city of Cork and discover of the best castles in Ireland, an enchanting structure surrounded by luscious greenery.

The current Blarney Castle has stood since the mid 1400s, however there has been a castle present since the early 1200s. The castle has been besieged, seized and confiscated across all manner of wars in multiple eras, making this a site of great historical interest.

Along with many rooms and artifacts to discover, a visit to this partially ruined castle can also include a stroll through the tranquil grounds, during which you will uncover the magical Blarney Castle House museum.

Visit this remarkable Ireland castle from Monday to Saturday throughout the year, with varying opening times.

6. Dromoland Castle, County Clare

dromoland castle ireland

Now a popular hotel and wedding venue, Dromoland Castle can be found nestled among the rural beauty of County Clare, just a stone’s throw from the famed Wild Atlantic Way.

The castle and grounds boast a long history originating in the 1500s, some 300 years before Dromoland Castle was even built. As well as many significant events making this a must-visit castle, a number of high-profile guests increase the interest of the place, with previous visitors including none other than George W. Bush, Nelson Mandela and John Travolta.

As well as admiring the beauty of Dromoland Castle, be sure to roam its surrounding grounds and perhaps enjoy a round on its picture-perfect golf course.

7. Ashford Castle, County Mayo

ashford castle county mayo

Like something straight from the movies, Ashford Castle in County Galway is a sight sure to make your jaw drop.

Perched on the shores of Lough Corrib and bordered by enchanting forestry, this remarkable Victorian castle is not one to be missed. After being initially built in the 1200s, 2 Victorian-style extensions enhanced the castle’s imposing look.

The castle grounds and surrounding area may seem familiar, after appearing in the backdrop of John Ford’s The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne.

8. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

kilkenny castle ireland

This Irish castle has an intriguing history spanning back to the late 1100s. Its initial purpose was to control a fording point along the River Nore, now making for a spectacular setting for a visit.

There have been many versions of this impressive structure through the years, and restorations were taking place as recent as the 20th century.

Kilkenny Castle was transferred to the people of the town back in the 1960s, and remains open to the public to this day along with its pristine gardens and parkland.

Head to this castle in Ireland throughout the year, with opening times and guided tour times varying each month.

9. Killyleagh Castle, County Down

killyleagh castle county down

Perhaps one of the more magical castles in Ireland, Killyleagh Castle and its marvellous towers wouldn’t look out of place in the world of Rapunzel.

Believed to be the oldest inhabited castle across the country, parts of this enchanting Ireland castle can be traced back to the 1100s. Killyleagh Castle has been involved in multiple significant historical events and has been the home of the Hamilton family since the 1600s.

Despite being a private residence, you can experience the beauty of this Ireland castle while strolling the western shores of Strangford Lough.

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Image Credits: VirtuaaliAluCC BY-SA 2.0; DonnaCC BY-SA 2.0; Kate WebsterCC BY-ND 2.0; Ron KroetzCC BY-ND 2.0;