Great Castles of Ireland: The 10 Most Famous Castles in Ireland
Ireland has a rich trove of castles. In fact, if there's one thing Ireland is famous for – other than its pubs and Guinness, of course – it's its castles. There are literally hundreds of them here, in various stages of restoration or ruin, with several now converted and operated as hotels. But among the pick of the bunch for marveling at, here are the 10 best, most popular and most famous castles in Ireland.
Trim, a 12th-century Norman castle, is singularly the most famous castle in Ireland. It is also, at 30,000 square meters, the largest Norman castle in Ireland. Built in three phases over some 30 years by Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, and his son Walter, the castle features a distinctive, cruciform-shaped three-story keep with 20 corners, unique even for a Norman castle. The castle stands on the south bank of the River Boyne in Trim, and provided one of the settings for Mel Gibson's epic film, Braveheart.
Location: County Meath
Originally established in 1200 and rebuilt in 1446, Blarney Castle is a medieval fortification that is now partly in ruins but with its battlements and some rooms still accessible to tourists. The main feature here is the Blarney Stone, or "Stone of Eloquence," found in the machicolations at the top of the castle, upon which Irish kings were once crowned and which now entices visitors to hang upside down over a sheer drop to kiss. The castle stands on the River Martin in Blarney amid lush gardens with walking paths. On the estate, too, is the Blarney House, a 19th-century Scottish baronial-style mansion.
Location: County Cork
Kilkenny Castle is one of the most visited tourist sights in Ireland. Largely restored, it's really quite a lovely castle, situated in Kilkenny on the River Nore, built in 1195, with four characteristically large circular towers. It's a symbol of both the town and its Norman occupation, and now houses a gallery in its basement, featuring rotating art exhibitions, as well as ornamental gardens to add to the interest.
Location: County Kilkenny
A absolutely gorgeous 13th-century Anglo-Norman medieval castle turned five-star luxury hotel on the shores of Lough Corrib. The castle-hotel features extensive, well-tended grounds and gardens, together with a golf course, and two newer wings that were added in the early 1970s, doubling the size of the property. In September 2012, Ashford was voted the best resort in Ireland by Condé Nast Traveler, and the third-best in Europe.
Location: County Galaway
Bunratty Castle, literally the "castle at the mouth of the Ratty," sits smack in the center of Bunratty village. It's essentially a medieval castle, dating from the 14th century and noted mainly for its large tower-house and medieval banquets with castle entertainers that draw hordes of visitors. There are good views from the top of the castle, and the adjacent Folk Park offers in itself a living museum and a window into 19th-century Irish life, with Irish gypsy carts, and old cottages and shops recreating Irish history.
Location: County Clare
A 12th-century fortification, arguably one of the largest in Ireland, situated in on an island in the River Suir in Cahir's town center. Partially in ruins, the castle is featured in a battle scene in the 1981 dramatic fantasy film, Excalibur, which draws on Arthurian literature.
Location: County Tipperary
Well-preserved 16th-century castle, sited on a small peninsula and thus surrounded by water on three sides, with a moat cut into the rock on the fourth, landward side. The principal feature of the castle is its 4-story keep, reminiscent of Scottish tower-houses, surrounded by high exterior walls. Irish singer Bryan McFadden and Kerry Katona took their wedding vows here in a breathtaking ceremony in 2001. The castle is located near Creeslough in northwestern Ireland.
Location: County Donegal
Location: Dublin City
King John's Castle
Location: Limerick City
Location: County Limerick
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