You don’t have to go far in Ireland to find a castle, and whether it is restored, in ruins or still in its original condition, you can’t help but be impressed by the structure and surroundings of castles. While castles like Trim Castle, Kilkenny Castle and Blarney Castle attract thousands of visitors across the year, there are so many stunning, lesser-known castles around Ireland just waiting to be explored for the first time. To get you in the mood for some castle exploration, here are 10 lesser-known Irish castles that everyone needs to get along to.
10 Irish Castles You Need To Visit
1 Monea Castle, Fermanagh
One of several castles to explore when visiting Fermanagh, the 17th-Century Monea Castle has had an eventful past and today is open to visitors across the year. Thought to be influenced by Scottish castle designs, Monea Castle was partly destroyed in the 18th Century, and while today it mainly lies in ruins, it is one of Fermanagh’s many hidden gems and is well worth exploring. The castle is a short drive from Enniskillen.
2 Dundrum Castle, Down
With stunning views over Dundrum Bay, and the majestic Mourne Mountains as a backdrop, the Norman-style Dundrum Castle outside the popular seaside town of Newcastle provides visitors with some amazing views of the surrounding area. Located along the Mourne Coastal Route, a dedicated area of outstanding natural beauty – Dundrum Castle is thought to date back to 1177 when John De Courcy built it as part of his defense following an invasion of Ulster.
View the latest deals for hotels in Down and plan your trip to ‘The Mournes’ today.
3 Leighlinbridge Castle, Carlow
Also known as ‘Black Castle’, Leighlinbridge Castle is a Norman Castle originally built in the village of Leighlinbridge in the 12th Century. The castle was strategically placed on the banks of the River Barrow to defend the crossing in the area, while the current structure is believed to have been built by Sir Edward Bellingham in 1547.
Image courtesy of Carlow Tourism
4 Cloughoughter Castle, Cavan
Located on Lough Oughter, Cloughoughter Castle is one of Cavan’s more popular tourist attractions, but one of Ireland’s lesser known. Completed in the 13th Century, the castle has been at the centre of many battles in the historic Kingdom of Breifne and is widely considered to be one of the best inland examples of a flooded drumlin landscape. The area surrounding the castle welcomes 3% of Europe’s whooper swan population during the winter months as well as being home to Ireland’s largest collection of Great Crested Grebes.
Plan your trip to Cloughoughter Castle today and check out the latest Cavan hotel deals.
5 Parke’s Castle, Leitrim
A restored plantation castle, Parke’s Castle in Fivemilebourne, County Leitrim, lies on the shores of the picturesque Lough Gill. The castle dates back to the 17th Century, and visitors today can enjoy a tour of the grounds and take in the great craftsmanship that went into restoring it. Located 11km from Sligo Town, the castle is easy to get to and is a must see whether you’re holidaying in Leitrim of Sligo.
6 Dunguaire Castle, Galway
Situated along Galway Bay and located near the village of Kinvara, Dunguaire Castle is a 16th-Century medieval castle that was built by the Hynes clan. The castle was restored in the early 20th Century by Oliver St John Gogarty and was used as a meeting place for some of Ireland’s greatest literary minds, with WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and JM Syne all regular visitors to the area. The castle was further restored in 1954 by Christobel Lady Ampthill and is run today by the Shannon Development Trust, with visitors able to access the castle across the year.
View the latest Galway hotel deals and plan your trek to Dunguaire Castle today.
7 Blackwater Castle, Cork
Cork has several famous castles but did you know that one the first settlements in Cork is thought to be at the site of Blackwater Castle? The ancient fort of Dún Cruadha during the Iron Age is believed to be the first settlement at Blackwater, with a stone castle constructed in the 12th Century following an Anglo-Norman invasion. Visitors to the castle today can find out more about its historic past.
View the latest Cork hotel deals and plan your trip to Blackwater Castle today.
8 Tourin Castle, Waterford
Tourin Castle is an impressive ruins castle that lies in the ground of Tourin House near the River Blackwater. Tourins House and Gardens is on the same estate and better known to visitors in the area, but the remains of Tourin Castle give you a good feel for the importance that this land once held. The castle itself is thought to date back to the 17th Century and visitors can enjoy tours of the area and surrounding gardens during the year.
Check out the latest deals for Waterford hotels and plan your trip to the south east today.
9 Leap Castle, Offaly
Reputed to be one of the most haunted castles in Ireland, the castle comes with several stories of murder and massacre. Built in the 13th Century, the castle was burned down during the 1922 Irish Civil War, at which point many skeletons were found in the castle’s dungeons. Indeed, it has also been rumoured that a network of tunnels and secret chambers exist under the castle. Today Leap Castle is owned by the Ryan family, but the mystery surrounding the castle’s past makes it one of Ireland’s most fascinating castles.
View the latest Offaly hotel deals and plan your Offaly adventure today.
10 Maynooth Castle, Kildare
Maynooth is a historical village in Kildare that is located about 30km from Dublin. A popular university area, the village is also home to one of Kildare’s most picturesque castles, Maynooth Castle. Despite being in ruins, the castle has several impressive areas that make this a must-see castle when visiting Kildare. Built by the Fitzgerald family (Earls of Kildare) in the 13th Century, the castle was home to one of Ireland’s largest keeps when the original keep was built in 1210. You can find out more about the history of the castle and the area by visiting the exhibition at the keep.
Plan your trip to Maynooth Castle today by checking the latest deals for Maynooth hotels.
Got a Castle to Add to the List?
Have you a favourite castle that we should add to the list? Let us know by commenting below.
Check out some of Ireland’s most historic castles, and other famous ancient sites by visiting our newly launched Historic Ireland website.
Images via Tourism Ireland