Ireland has more than 30,000 castles – more than even the most ardent of history-hunters could possibly see in a lifetime. These ancient structures offer travelers a special glimpse into Irish heritage and culture, and many castles offer intriguing experiences: from living history exhibitions to beautiful gardens and luxurious stays.
Here are just a few of the country’s beloved manors, estates and fortresses:
Dublin Castle, in the heart of the city, is a key tourist attraction for visitors to the city. Built on the site of a Viking settlement, it was constructed in the early 13th century and served as the seat of government for English and British administration of Ireland. When Ireland won its independence, the castle became a major government complex.
Today it hosts many state ceremonies such as presidential inaugurations, which take place in the State Apartments. Several areas of the Castle are open to the public for tours.
Located in County Cork, the Blarney Castle is a medieval castle famous for its Blarney kissing stone. It was built nearly 600 years ago and has drawn millions to see one of its great treasures as legend says that if you kiss the Stone of Eloquence, you will never be at a loss for words.
The castle is also surrounded by beautiful gardens, including the fascinating Poison Garden, the Himalayan Walk, the Fern Gardens and Ice House, the Bog Garden and more.
King John’s Castle
King John’s Castle is another 13th-century structure on King’s Island in Limerick, next to the River Shannon. The castle draws visitors to see its exciting archeological excavations. The visitors center highlights the castle’s dramatic history, and guests can explore parts of the sprawling buildings, including the 13th-century undercroft of the officers’ quarters, pre-Norman houses that predate the castle, reconstruction of the siege mines and more.
Experience what it might be like to live in an Irish castle with a luxurious stay at the Dromoland Castle. The castle is the ancestral home of the O’Briens of Dromoland and dates back 1,000 years to Brian Boru, one of the last High Kings of Ireland. The 450-acre estate features a golf course, spa, archery, horseback riding, clay shooting, tennis, falconry and more.
Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa is another luxury castle hotel, tucked away in Roscommon in the west of Ireland. Built in the 18th century, this fairytale structure was converted from a royal residence into an elegant hotel and spa. Guests enter through magnificent medieval gates and traverse a meandering driveway through an ancient forest; the lush fifty-acre grounds sit next to a romantic lough.
Located in the heart of Donegal on the banks of the River Eske, this small fortress was constructed by Red Hugh O’Donnell, an Irish nobleman, in the 15th century. The building fell into ruin in the 20th century but was lovingly restored to its former glory in the 1990s. Guests can tour the castle and discover its medieval halls and old-world gardens.
Travelers can take in many of Ireland’s most stunning castles with CIE Tours International .
The tour operator offers a variety of itineraries that incorporate visits to these historic and luxurious estates. Visitors can choose group tours with CIE Tours International that visit these properties or plan a pre-set self-drive journey.
Tour Dublin Castle on Taste of Ireland, Southern Gems, Mystical Ireland, Irish Classic and Jewels of Ireland. A stop at Blarney Castle is included on all the above tours with the exception of Mystical Ireland, as well as Irish Legends, Irish Odyssey and Irish Explorer, among others. Visit both King John’s Castle and Dromoland Castle on the Irish Heritage tour. Stay in Kilronan Castle on the Irish Spirit Tour, and see Donegal Castle on the Jewels of Ireland Tour.
Private driver/guide trips can also include a variety of Irish castles chosen specifically for guests.
Contact a travel advisor or visit the CIE Tours website to learn more.