When you think castles and Ireland, you might think first of romantic Rapunzel-type high towers set in impossibly beautiful locations near the sea. Well, the West of Ireland doesn’t hold the patent for Irish castles, Ireland’s capital, Dublin, also has some pretty decent fortifications.
So jump off your comfortable bed in a budget hotel like Travelodge Dublin Hotels and get up and go explore the best castles that Dublin has to offer. Here are five great Dublin castles for you to enjoy.
1: Drimnagh Castle
Drimnagh Castle in County Dublin was, until 1954, one of the oldest continually inhabited castles in Ireland. Unfortunately, it then fell into decades of abandonment and it took the efforts of the local community over ten years to pull it back from the brink and full restoration. We’re glad they did as this is fine example of an old feudal stronghold with a Great Hall, a medieval undercroft and a tall battlemented tower. It’s also the only Irish castle still to be surrounded by a flooded moat. The gardens, set out in formal 17th century style, have also bloomed under the attention of local volunteers.
This is a beautiful site and sight in Dublin and many TV series and movies have been filmed here, including The Tudors. And of course no Irish castle would be complete without a ghost story. Drimnagh Castle’s spectral visitor is Elanora Barnwall, a young maiden doomed to marry a man she didn’t love while her real lover was brutally dispatched by her relatives. Heartbroken, she died before she could be married off and her ghost is said to haunt the castle crying for her loss.
2: Ardgillan Castle
Balbriggan in County Dublin is our next stop and Ardgillan Castle. Set on a high cliff overlooking the Irish Sea, Ardgillan Castle is more accurately described as a eighteenth century castellated country style house but however you describe it architecturally, Ardgillan is a treasure. Situated in nearly 200 acres of open parkland, woods and formal gardens, the views from the castle are truly stunning and not just of the Irish Sea. The views north to the Mountains of Mourne are, on a clear day, worth the visit alone.
Within Ardgillan Castle, there’s an excellent exhibition on the 17th century ‘Down Survey’ maps of Ireland which one of the castle owners worked on. Without, there’s the wonderful formal gardens including a Victorian walled garden and the Irish Garden with its impressive Alcove Wall built especially for growing fruit like peaches and pears. (feature image)
3: Malahide Castle
One of the oldest castles in Ireland, Malahide Castle in north County Dublin is situated in over 250 acres of rolling parkland with amazing views of the nearby coastline. It dates back some 800 years and was the family home to the influential family, the Talbots, for most of that time with some parts of the castle dating back to the 12th century. The castle itself, a fortification transformed and extended to become a family home for the Talbots is furnished with beautiful period furniture and some stunning Irish portraits, some of which have been loaned from the National Gallery of Ireland. A particular highlight is the Great Hall where you can trace the Talbot family tree through the portraits on each wall of the hall.
Taken over by the Irish state in 1975, the castle at Malahide has undergone extensive restorative work and now has the requisite visitor centre and guided tours to explain its long and rich history. There are walled gardens and botanic gardens to explore and plenty of enjoyable parkland walks to ramble around.
4: Dublin Castle
Not just a medieval castle but the administrative centre of British power in Ireland until 1922, Dublin Castle is always in the top ten most visited sites in Ireland and with good reason. Located right in the heart of Dublin city on Dame Street, Dublin Castle was first built in 1204 and its complex spread and grew in importance over the centuries. Wander through the beautiful Chapel Royal from the 19th century, the 18th century’s Bedford Hall or the State Apartments and you get a true sense of the central position Dublin Castle played in Irish affairs under British rule. It’s now an Irish government centre and as a bonus also home to the world-famous Chester Beatty Library.
5: Ashtown Castle
Ashtown Castle in Dublin’s Phoenix Park is often overlooked but it’s a Dublin castle worth taking a closer look at. Now a fully restored fortified medieval four-storey tower house dating back to the 17th century, Ashtown was really only discovered when an 18th century mansion into which it had been incorporated was demolished. The castle was then fully restored by the Irish government into what it is today.
This fully restored Ashtown Castle was first owned by John Connell of Ashtown before being later acquired by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on behalf of King Charles II to extend his royal deer park in Dublin. Eventually Ashtown Castle was subsumed by Georgian building work and lay almost forgotten until the 1970s when the later building was knocked down because of dry rot. Next door to Ashtown Castle is the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre where you gain an insight into the park at the heart of Dublin life for the last 400 years. There are also Victorian walled gardens and a coffee shop to enjoy while you’re at Ashtown.