Ireland is a place to visit, not just for its beauty and lively atmosphere, but because of its incredible history as well! With an estimate of around 30,000 castles and castle remains, you will be spoilt for choice as you explore its lush greenery and rolling hills!
Ireland is known throughout the world for its vast amount of castles. When you look at Ireland’s history, you can see that it has been dotted with wars and violence, so the need for castles to be built in order to protect families was high. You’ll find these castles scattered throughout the country, and most of these castles would have been built as defensive homes by the island’s most powerful families!
Unfortunately, most of these castles have been abandoned and left to lie as ruins, but you can still appreciate them in all their glory. You’ll also be pleased to know that many of the fortified palaces have been restored and can be explored by visitors now though as well.
So whether you want to seek out deserted countryside homes, kiss the Blarney stone, get married in Ireland, or simply sleep in luxury, there are plenty of castles that you can explore! This article will focus on the castles near Dublin, but I’m hoping to write (and travel) to more castles in Ireland at some point in the future!
In Dublin, you will have the chance to see the enormous 12th century St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the structures of Trinity College and even Dublin Castle itself. However, although Dublin itself would be an incredible place to explore, if you are in the area you might as well plan a day trip outside of Dublin as well, just because this then offers you the chance to explore a number of additional castles!
From historic landmarks to picturesque ruins, here are five of the most impressive castles near Dublin (there are plenty more but these are the ones that are high up on my bucket list), so when you next go to Dublin, make sure to check out as many of these castles as your schedule will allow!
Swords Castle: Just Two Miles From Dublin’s International Airport
If you don’t have much free time to spend on your travels and can’t go too far from Dublin, then Swords Castle would be the perfect castle for you to visit (as it’s only two miles from Dublin’s International Airport). It makes for a very easy trip out from Dublin, and you won’t need to spend long getting there and is an incredible castle to explore.
Swords Castle was constructed around the year 1200, and was built for John Comyn, who was the 1st Archbishop of Dublin. So since this castle was built more as a manorial residence for the first Anglo-Norman Archbishop of Dublin, it was never really intended to be strong in a military sense.
But what makes this castle super interesting is that the walls surrounding the castle are far higher than was normal for the time, and the pentagonal shape also sets it apart.
Within the castle, there would be the Archbishop’s apartments, apartments for knights and a banqueting hall. The warder may have occupied the quarters to the left of the gate, while to the right was the janitor’s room with the priest’s room overhead.
The adjoining chapel, built in the late 13th century, was probably used as the Archbishop’s private oratory. Other buildings, recorded for an inquisition in 1326, have now vanished, including the great hall on the east side of the enclosure.
Unfortunately, it seems that the castle was severely damaged in the 14th Century, but it was still being used later on thanks to history revealing it was occupied in later centuries.
Today, Swords Castle is used as a filming location for television shows (one of the TV shows being The Tudors in spring 2010, which is a brilliant show if not more for the entertainment value, rather than showing facts).
In 2019 the chapel opens its doors to weddings, and Swords Castle and Courtyard is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday.
Charleville Castle: A 90-Minute Drive West From Dublin
Going a little bit further from Dublin, you can drive 90 minutes west and drive to the town of Tullamore. Now this is a town which I want to visit, and I know my boyfriend would love it too, since it is well known for its whisky. Something which I know that Luke, as The Cask Connoisseur, would greatly appreciate.
But not only is it famous for its whisky, it is also home to Charleville Castle, which is a stunning Gothic castle with richly historic routes. The history of this castle, can date back to the sixth century! At the time would have been used for religious purposes, likely by ancient Druid settlements. The castle wasn’t built until the 19th century though.
It first started off as a simple doodle on a piece of paper in 1798 to grandiose plans by the end of that very eventful year in Ireland. It was built by Charles William Bury, Earl of Charleville and was designed by Francis Johnston, one of the leading architects of the day.
Charleville Castle is one of the greatest examples of gothic-revival architecture in the country. It took fourteen years to complete this gothic dream, a monument not only to a now forgotten power, but also to the people who made it possible, the Irish craftsmen and impoverished people.
Many of its tenants only occupied the castle for a short time, and it was only in the 1970s that serious restoration work was undertaken.
Now, Charleville Castle is best known for its otherworldly occupants: Ghosts! The castle has been featured extensively in supernatural and investigative pieces, and many of the tours through the property are led by ghost hunters.
Trim Castle: About 45 Minutes Drive Northwest of Dublin
This is a castle that you have to visit in Ireland! It’s only about a 45 minutes drive from Dublin and is well worth the trip! Trim Castle is one of the largest Norman castles in all of Ireland, and it is one that will certainly impress!
This castle took more than 30 years to build in the 12th century, and it served as an important religious and military site.
In the 15th century, Trim Castle even served as the gathering place for parliament, and local currency was created on the premises with a local mint.
Trim Castle is unique because of its size, its age and its cruciform shape, which was highly irregular in the 12th century. Which is one of the main reasons why I would love to come and explore this castle – it just sounds so interesting and one of a kind!
For anyone who is a film lover as well, you might recognise this castle from the film Braveheart. The castle was presented as the walled city of York; scenes that took place in London were also filmed here. Although the film is deeply inaccurate, it’s still enjoyable (although I suppose that depends on who you ask), but I always love when a castle has a film connection like this.
Rock of Cashel: Two Hours From Dublin
This castle is the furthest one on the list from Dublin. Although two hours might seem far it is certainly worth the journey (and also in my mind, considering I use to drive an hour and a half with good traffic to work every day and night, it’s not far at all)!
The legends at this castle is something which has me really intrigued. These legends of Cashel date back to a time when St. Patrick himself banished Satan from a cave, giving the destination some seriously ominous origins.
Despite these origins, it is still one of Ireland’s most spectacular tourist attractions!
The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most spectacular archaeological sites, a prominent green hill, banded with limestone outcrops, rising from a grassy plain and bristling with ancient fortifications. It’s a five-minute stroll from the town centre up to the Rock, from where fantastic views range over the Tipperary countryside.
This is a location, that many kings have lived at (the site though, not the castle that we see today). The castle that exists today primarily dates from the 12th-13th centuries.
It still holds some important buildings though, you’ve got the 13th century Cathedral to explore, the Cormac’s Chapel and the Round Tower.
So as you can see, despite being two hours from Dublin it is well worth the trip!
Malahide Castle: A Castle That is Very Near Dublin!
If you really don’t have the time to drive two hours from Dublin, then Malahide Castle is the perfect one for you to explore, as it is only 9 miles North from the capital.
Because you don’t have to travel very far to this castle if you are in Dublin, you can easily spend a few ours exploring this castle that was built in the 12th century in the town of Malahide.
The castle remained a private residence for centuries until the 1970s when it became property of Ireland.
When the castle opened up, people were able to explore the castle’s interior as well as the 18th century grounds, which are still in their original style. As an added bonus at Malahide Castle, there are many great rooms for banquets, but also a smaller dining area means that you can order delicious meals after a stroll around the grounds.
A perfect trip out really!
So there you have it, five impressive castles near Dublin! Now, of course, this list does not even begin to cover the incredible castles that are dotted around Ireland (remember I mentioned that there are nearly 30,000 castles and castle remains), so there are still loads to explore.
I just need to find the time to do so and obviously wait for travel to be safe again. But I can’t wait to be able to go to Ireland one day. I went when I was a kid for a hockey tour with school and didn’t see any of these impressive castles, so I really do need to return one day.
What about you? Have you been to Ireland before? Did you see any castles? Will you be adding these castles to your bucket list for future travels if you haven’t already been? Let me know in the comments 😀