A Tourist’s Guide to Ireland’s Best Castles

Ashford Castle

If you blink on your Irish road-trip you might miss a castle! We have a staggering 30,000 castles dotted throughout the country between ruins, renovations, family homes, and luxury estates. Guests can enjoy castle visits, overnight stays and gourmet experiences. You may even stumble upon a castle ruin l, creating an unexpected highlight on your Ireland tour! We’ve created a list of our favourite castle experiences in Ireland below, and if anything inspires you to book a trip, check out our range of small group tours of Ireland and our Ireland self-drive tours.

Life in an Irish Castle

So what was it really like to live in a castle? We have a couple of great tours you can take to learn how life was behind the thick stone walls and see some of the opulence enjoyed by the gentry of Ireland throughout history. On our Ultimate tour of Ireland you can visit the 15th century Ross Castle owned by the Earls of Kenmare in Killarney National Park.

Bunratty Castle is also a big hit on our private tours of Ireland. This is a wonderful family experience where you can learn first hand about the Irish gentry’s lifestyle in the 15th century.  It’s also a great chance to explore the folk park with the little ones. Enjoy the stories of battles and banquets from the castle followed by a visit to Pa’s Pet Farm and Fairy Trail.

Ross Castle

Dine in an Irish Castle

Although it is fantastic to visit any castle in Ireland, guests want to experience what it is like to indulge in the surroundings and dine in a castle setting. If you are lucky enough to plan your ultimate tour of Ireland, why not include eating like royalty! Afternoon tea at our famous castles is almost a right of passage. We highly recommend a luxurious afternoon enjoying high tea at Ashford Castle, Adare Manor, and Dromoland Castle. This is a unique experience combined with a wander around the grounds of the castle to burn off those clotted cream and jam scones! Most places will give you your treats to take home if you are finding it difficult to fit in the last cucumber sandwich!

Staying in an Irish Castle

As part of our Emerald Tour of Ireland, the Highlife Self-Drive Ireland Tour or even the Ultimate Tour (linked above), you can choose to stay in a castle and live like a king or queen for the night! Ballynahinch Castle is the ultimate castle stay. Located in the heart of Connemara National Park, it has fast become a favourite amongst our guests over the years.

Visit Irish Castle Ruins

Castle ruins are ten a penny throughout Ireland but they always seem to amaze and delight our guests. We recently took a bike trip with a local guide to Menlo Castle in Galway and learned about one of the 14 rich Galway merchant families who lived here – The Blakes. So much of Ireland’s rich, fascinating history is wrapped up in these fortresses. Every ruin tells a story and our guides like nothing more than treating you to some tales of times gone by.

Steal a Kiss at Blarney Castle

The Blarney Stone

Not that we need an excuse to have a smooch but make sure you visit Blarney Castle and Gardens on your tour of Ireland. Kiss the Blarney Stone while you are there and receive the gift of the gab – the ability to tell a good yarn! No wonder Irish people are renowned for their ability to tell a great story! Our local guides are no exception. Your friends won’t be able to shut you up when you get home! If you aren’t sure whether to do it, read our case for why you should kiss the Blarney Stone!

Have Your Honeymoon in an Irish Castle

Ireland is possibly the most romantic destination for honeymooners. Famous celebrities chose Ireland and its splendid castles for their honeymoons. The most recent that comes to mind is Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. They spent a couple of days at the celebrated Ashford Castle in Cong. I wonder if they treated themselves to a boat cruise down on Lough Corrib or a spot of Falconry on the castle grounds? Victoria and David Beckham had their ‘Royal’ themed wedding in Luttrellstown Castle back in the 90s! 

Even in the depths of winter, a castle stay is the ultimate in indulgence – blazing log fires, Irish Coffees and Michelin standard dining. We have dozens of recommendations to suit couples looking to treat themselves after tying the knot.

Buy an Irish Castle

Believe it or not, castles often come up for sale in Ireland. You might need to have deep pockets to afford the renovations they deserve but imagine having a holiday home on the Emerald Isle – your very own castle? Perhaps we have been watching too many home improvement shows during lock down but we would adore the challenge of turning an old ruin into a dream home.

So what are you waiting for? Come visit Ireland and put castle hopping & shopping on your bucket list!