Guide To Our Favourite Castles In Ireland - Quick Links
Ireland's castles are landmarks to a time when Gaelic chieftains and Norman lords ruled this magical island.
Each has left its their mark at different times and addied to the rich fabric of Irish history.
Read on for 7 of our favourite Irish castles with interesting facts about each...
⚔️ Dunluce Castle
🧱 Built: Originally built in the 13th century with the latest structure from the 17th century.
📍 Located: Near the Giant's Causeway in Antrim
1. Dunluce Castle is thought to have been a part of the inspiration for C.S Lewis's classic children's fantasy, Chronicles of Narnia.
2. An annual fair once ran in Dunluce but was shut down because of "excessive bawdiness and debauchery" (!).
3. Over a 100-year period, the castle was besieged on numerous occasions by the English.
4. The castle was originally built by the McQuillan family. They had come from nearby Scotland in the 1200s as hired mercenaries.
💋 Blarney Castle
🧱 Built: Originally; 1210, latest structure; 1446
📍 Located: Blarney, Co. Cork
1. The Blarney Stone is well-known for its reputed powers of giving anyone who kisses it 'the gift of the gab'.
2. This originated when Queen Elizabeth I coined the term 'the gift of the gab' when she became fed up with Lord Blarney. Apparently, he talked endlessly to avoid agreeing to her demands. Sounds like a Corkman to us!
3. Visitors were once held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements to kiss the Blarney Stone. Today, thankfully, slightly more attention is paid to health and safety. Visitors lean backwards to kiss the stone while holding on to an iron rail.
4. Blarney Castle was constructed on an impressive limestone outcrop and was strategically sited so that it could overlook two rivers.
☘️ Rock of Cashel
🧱 Built: 12th century
📍 Located: Cashel, Co. Tipperary
1. The shamrock is thought to have gained its symbolism at Cashel. Saint Patrick purportedly plucked the little three-leaved plant to illustrate the meaning of the Holy Trinity to the King of Munster. Patrick was converting him to Christianity.
2. According to legend, the Rock of Cashel was created when the devil took a bite from a tall mountain called the Devil's Bit, located 20 miles away. When the piece of rock fell from the devil's mouth, it became the Rock of Cashel. Depending on who you talk to, this may also have happened when mythical figure, Finn McCool, threw the rock.
3. If you translate Cashel direcly from Irish, the Gaelic word Caiseal means circular stone fort.
⛵ Dunguaire Castle
🧱 Built: 1520
📍 Located: Kinvara, Co. Galway
1. Dunguaire Castle became a meeting place for George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats during the early 20th century Celtic Revival.
2. The castle was built by the Hynes clan who have been associated with the area since 662AD.
3. Legend has it that if a person stands at the front gate and asks a question, their question will be answered by the end of the day. Just don't ask your VagaGuide!
🛡️ Aughnanure Castle
🧱 Built: 1500's
📍 Located: Oughterard, Co. Galway
1. Aughnanure Castle stands on the shores of the beautiful Lough Corrib in Galway.
2. Built by the 'ferocious' Gaelic O'Flaherty clan, their motto was "Fortune favours the strong".
3. In 1546, Donal O'Flaherty married Grace O'Malley, who became known as the Pirate Queen.
4. The Lord Deputy of the day, Sir Henry Sidney of Galway, famously referred to Grace O'Malley as, 'a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland.'
🏯 Kilkenny Castle
🧱 Built: 1213 AD
📍 Located: Kilkenny
1. Richard De Clare, better known as Strongbow, led the Norman invasion of Ireland in the late 12th century. He built the first Kilkenny Castle which was probably made of wood. Strongbow's daughter Isabel and husband William Marshall rebuilt Kilkenny Castle as a stone structure.
2. In 1385 the castle was bought by the Butler family and remained theirs for over 500 years.
3. Kilkenny was once the capital of Ireland and its most important city. The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649 brought Kilkenny's preeminence to an end.
4. In 1967 Kilkenny Castle was sold to the state for 50 pounds from the sixth (and last) Marquis.
🏰 Donegal Castle
🧱 Built: 1213 AD
📍 Located: Donegal Castle, Donegal.
1. Donegal Castle was the seat of the O'Donnell family. They were one of the most powerful Gaelic Irish families from the 5th -16th century.
2. The castle is regarded as one of the finest examples of a Gaelic castle in Ireland. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney in 1566 described it as "the largest and strongest fortress in all Ireland", adding: "it is the greatest I ever saw in an Irishman's hands"
3. In 1607 the O'Donnell's fled Ulster after a nine-year battle with the English. The fleeing O'Donnell's damaged the castle so it couldn't be used against the remaining Irish chieftains. The castle fell into the hands of Captain Basil Brooke, who restored it and gave it its first glass windows.
4. The castle was sold to the Gore family in the 1670s. It fell into ruin in the 18th century but it wasn't until the 1990s that the castle was restored
Get in touch if you'd like to know more about our 7 Day Driftwood Castles & Kingdoms Tour
Our friendly reservations team will be more than happy to inform you about these amazing castles and the tours that visit them.