Ireland’s Royal Heritage

Castles are certainly not unique to Ireland, but our variety and volume of castles is one of the things visitors love about this little island.  Postcards and many different Irish gifts show off our most famous castles.  From regal ruins spotted along the roadside to internationally loved icons such as Blarney Castle, Ireland has serious bragging rights when it comes to the former homes of our ancient Celtic kings and queens.  Here are some of the best and most beloved castles in Ireland to be enjoyed in person and as images on Irish gifts.

Regally Restored Castles and Royal Ruins

  • Blarney Castle is probably the most well-known castle in Ireland.   A must-see destination in County Cork, this one is famous for the Blarney Stone.  Legend has it that those who kiss the stone are rewarded with the gift of the gab, but a stop in any pub in the nation shows that clearly kissing that rock is not the only route to that particular gift!
  • Kilkenny Castle is a wonderful day trip from Dublin.  The interior is beautifully restored and a guided tour offers visitors a bit of the area’s fascinating history.  The grounds are stunning and include a modern playground where the littles can blow off some steam before getting near the delicate antiques inside.
  • Trim Castle, Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castles, is a stunning ruin also not far from Dublin in County Meath.  Not too long ago, it was untouched except for some basic oversight to keep it safe for visitors.  Now, however, it includes educational displays.  It may look familiar because it appears in the film Braveheart.
  • Ross Castle offers a postcard-perfect photo op on the shores of the lower lake at Killarney, although the interior is in ruins.  Ross Castle withstood Cromwell’s invasion longer than any other in Munster.  Visitors can reach the castle by car, bike, jaunting cart or boat. 
  • Bunratty Castle offers guests the chance to actually enjoy a banquet there and dine as our ancestors did –but with much more comfort.  Located in County Clare, Bunratty is fully open to the public and it is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations.
  • Ashford Castle is perfect for those who more than a feast in a castle.  It is fully restored, and now operates as a five-star hotel.  Guests can not only sleep and dine like kings and queens, they can even learn the art of falconry and enjoy 350 acres of ancient woodland.

These six are only a sampling of the most popular castles in Ireland, and they are very likely to appear on all sorts of Irish gifts.  No matter where in Ireland one is staying, it isn’t hard to find a restored or ruined castle to visit not too far away.  Ireland’s castles were not only residences for our ancient royalty; they were also important fortresses to protect against invasions by enemies from near and far.  They were built to withstand attack, and thankfully they have largely withstood the elements and the passing of time as well.  Arguably, the ruined castles are even more beautiful and photogenic than those that have been restored.