If you’re visiting Dublin and want to immerse yourself in Irish history and culture, then you need to check out some of the fantastic castles that surround the city. And while some of them are in ruins, others have been restored and are open to the public.
Every castle has its own unique charm and tells a story of Ireland’s rich heritage. But with so many castles to choose from, it can be hard to know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of seven castles near Dublin that are worth visiting.
Let’s start with the most obvious choice.
1. Dublin Castle
No list of the best castles near Dublin is complete without the iconic castle in the heart of the city. As an 800-year-old icon of Irish history and independence, Dublin Castle is one of the most important landmarks in the entire country.
The castle has suffered many ups and downs since it was built over a Viking settlement in 1204. It’s seen the worst of brutal English rule and been the heart of the Irish independence struggle. Over its lifetime, it has served as a royal palace, military fortress, a prison, treasury, court of law, and the seat of English Administration in Ireland. And it even endured a devastating fire in 1684.
Today, much of Dublin Castle is open for visitors, including some parts of the medieval and Viking structures that survived the inferno. You can explore the castle on your own or take a guided tour.
If you choose to explore the castle on your own, you will be able to view the remains of the 13th century structure and visit the State Apartments, Chapel Royal, and 13th century Tower. You can also learn about the history of Dublin Castle and its role as a former seat of British power in Ireland.
If you have a city pass, you can get in for free. Or you can book a tour. Private guides will customize your Dublin Castle tour and focus on things that you enjoy. Alternatively, you can join a group tour which is cheaper. Both will help you understand the castle and the role it played in Ireland’s history.
When you get tired of sightseeing, there’s a great café onsite so you can refuel with some delicious traditional Irish dishes such as colcannon or beef stew with soda bread. And to top it all off, there are falconry displays on weekends (weather permitting), not to mention archery and medieval swordplay classes for brave hearted souls.
- Hours: Open daily from 9:45 – 17:45 (last admission 17:15)
- Drive time: Located in the center of Dublin
- Website: https://www.dublincastle.ie/
2. Malahide Castle and Gardens
Malahide Castle is a beautiful and historic castle located in the seaside town of Malahide, just 10 miles north of Dublin. The castle has been home to the Talbot family since the 12th century and is now open to the public. You can explore the castle on your own or take one of the guided tours to learn more about its fascinating history.
You’ll be able to explore the various rooms throughout the castle such as the Great Hall, Drawing Room, Library, Chapel, and more. Each room holds unique artifacts from centuries past which provide insight into how people used to live. There are also several interactive displays throughout the castle which provide further insight into its past.
In addition to exploring the castle, you can enjoy 250 acres of parkland surrounding it. The extensive gardens are beautiful, offering a stunning walled garden with an array of plants and flowers, as well as a variety of wildlife such as swans, ducks, and geese.
Malahide Castle is open year-round and offers a café and gift shop. Check their website beforehand, as they sometimes hold interesting events, such as a falconry demonstration, a performance of traditional Irish music, or a talk on Irish art or culture.
- Hours: Open daily from 9.30 – 17:30
- Drive time: 20 minutes.
- Website: https://www.malahidecastleandgardens.ie/
3. Swords Castle
Swords Castle is a stunning example of medieval architecture and has been part of the landscape for over 800 years. Located in the ancient town of Swords, this 13th-century castle has a rich history.
The castle was originally built for the Archbishops of Dublin, who lived there until King Henry VIII seized all Catholic Church property in 1536.
Swords Castle served as a garrison for troops in the 1798 Rebellion, was used as a jail and later, a courthouse in the 18th century. Nowadays, this spectacular attraction welcomes visitors to explore its ancient keep which dates back to 1220, chapel, two towers and fortified walls built in 1550.
During your visit, you can marvel at various artifacts that offer insight into life during this period, such as weapons used by soldiers and everyday items from people living in nearby villages. Professional guided tours are available on request where you can learn even more about Swords Castle’s unique history.
The gardens surrounding Swords Castle include formal gardens with trees planted over 200 years ago plus wildflower meadows full of native species like red clover and yellow rattle.
- Hours: Open daily from 9.30 – 16.30 Admission is free.
- Drive time: 15 minutes
- Website: https://www.swordscastle.ie/
4. Ardgillan Castle
If you’re looking to experience the magic of a castle without straying too far from Dublin, a 45-minute drive north will bring you to Ardgillan Castle. While the term “castle” may be used to describe this 18th-century residence, it is actually a grand country-style house with castellated embellishments. Sitting atop a hill, Ardgillan Castle overlooks the Irish Sea, offering breathtaking views of the Mourne Mountains.
Once you step inside, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back in time. Daily guided tours and an audio tour will take you through the castle’s fascinating past, where you’ll get to explore several rooms, including two large drawing rooms with period furniture and paintings from as far back as 1738 when the castle was first built. You’ll also find a library where you can learn about Irish history or delve into the history of the family who once called this place home.
But the real magic of Ardgillan Castle lies in its grounds. The castle is set in the 200-acre Ardgillan Park, which includes formal gardens, walled gardens, and wild gardens, all perfect for exploring. Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll or participate in one of the many events held here throughout the year, there’s always something to see and do. From outdoor theatre performances to art exhibitions, you’ll find plenty of ways to immerse yourself in the castle’s rich history.
Children will appreciate the play area, but the beach, barbeque facilities, public toilets, and café that serves up delicious homemade treats like scones and cakes, will be appreciated by all. Keep an eye out for the resident peacock family that wanders freely through the grounds, adding a touch of whimsy to your visit.
- Hours: Open daily from 10:00 – 17:00; later in the summer
- Drive time: 30 minutes.
- Website: https://ardgillanscastle.ie/
5. Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre
Located just south of the city center, you will find Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre, a well-preserved castle that was built in 1390 by John de Courcey, an Anglo-Norman knight who was granted lands in Ireland by King Richard II. The castle was an important part of Irish history because it was a safe place for local lords and their families to live during times of war.
Today, the castle is open to you as a heritage center, where you can explore its rich history and many features. The castle offers self-guided tours as well as guided tours with local experts, who can share interesting facts and stories about the castle’s past. You can see a banquet hall, defensive towers, and dungeons, among other things, when you go there.
The castle also offers interactive activities for visitors throughout the year, such as archery or sword fighting demonstrations. You can learn about the castle’s history while enjoying traditional Irish cuisine like smoked salmon and boxty at a medieval banquet held in the grand hall, complete with period costumes. There are even falconry displays with birds of prey trained by experienced handlers who share their knowledge during each show.
In addition to the castle itself, the heritage center offers workshops on a variety of topics such as ancient weaponry, Viking culture, and Gaelic language classes taught by experts in their fields. You can even take part in an archaeological dig to uncover artifacts from centuries past. For those interested in art history, painting classes are also available, providing a unique opportunity to capture your experience at this beautiful site.
After exploring the castle and its grounds, you can enjoy refreshments at the on-site café, which offers a selection of treats and beverages to enjoy indoors or outdoors with a view of the castle’s impressive tower.
- Hours: Open daily from 10:00 – 17:00
- Drive time: 20 minutes.
- Website: https://www.dalkeycastle.com/
6. Trim Castle
When you’re exploring the castles near Dublin, you simply cannot miss Trim Castle in County Meath. Built in 1173 by Hugh de Lacy, this castle is one of the largest and best-preserved Norman castles in Ireland. It sits on a bend of the River Boyne and has been featured in many films, including Braveheart and The Princess Bride.
As you wander around the castle, you’ll see that it’s made up of three baileys surrounded by massive stone walls. Inside, you’ll find an impressive keep, two gatehouses, towers, stables and other buildings from its time as a military fortress. Additionally, there’s an old chapel from 1220, providing a perfect spot for those looking for some spiritual solace.
You can take a guided tour of the castle or explore on your own. While you’re here, be sure to check out St. Mary’s Abbey, which was founded by Hugh de Lacy himself in 1182 and is located just outside Trim Castle’s walls.
If you’re short on time or prefer to let someone else do the driving, there are tours from Dublin that visit Trim Castle as well as nearby sites like the Hill of Tara and Newgrange. Alternatively, you might want to stay at Trim Castle itself! The hotel is family-owned and regarded as one of the finest independent hotels in County Meath, offering luxurious accommodation in a truly unique setting. Check prices here.
- Hours: Open daily from 9.30 – 18:00 (last admission 17.30)
- Drive time: 50 minutes.
- Website: https://heritageireland.ie/places-to-visit/trim-castle/
7. Rathfarnham Castle
Rathfarnham Castle is a magnificent fortified house located in the southern part of Dublin, Ireland. Built in 1583 by Adam Loftus, the first Archbishop of Dublin and Chancellor of Ireland, this Elizabethan castle still retains much of its original charm.
The castle’s impressive architecture features two towers, one round and one square, as well as a large courtyard surrounded by walls and battlements. It was part of a chain of castles built to protect Dublin from attack by Irish clans based in Wicklow during this period.
Today, Rathfarnham Castle has been restored to its former glory and is open for guided tours. As you step inside the castle, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Its 18th-century Georgian interior is impressive, with countless fascinating artifacts, including 16th-century furniture and portraits of the Loftus family.
A grand staircase leads up to the Great Hall, which houses historical artifacts and displays of Irish culture and history, such as weapons used in battle and portraits of prominent figures in Irish history.
Other rooms include a chapel dedicated to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin City Centre, and even an old kitchen complete with 16th-century cooking utensils.
You’ll also want to explore the castle grounds, which feature a variety of gardens and woodlands, and a peaceful lake.
After your visit, you can stop by the onsite cafe, which serves traditional Irish food and drinks. If you’re planning a special event, such as a wedding or corporate function, the castle is also available for private hire. And throughout the year, you can enjoy a range of events held at the castle, including concerts, plays, and workshops.
- Hours: Open daily in summer from 09:30 – 17:30 and Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays throughout the winter.
- Drive time: 20 minutes.
- Website: https://www.rathfarnhamcastle.ie/
How many castles are in Ireland?
It is estimated that there are around 30,000 castles and castle ruins in Ireland, with over 3,000 tower houses constructed throughout the country during the late medieval period.
What is the most impressive castle in Ireland?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, many people agree that the most impressive castles in Ireland include Dublin Castle, Ashford Castle, Blarney Castle, Trim Castle, and Cahir Castle.
Why are there 3 castles on the Dublin crest?
No one is sure, but the theories regarding Dublin’s Coat of Arms include:
● The castles serve as guardhouses outside the municipal limits.
● Dublin Castle is repeated three times because of the mystical significance of the number three.
● The castles are three entrances to the old Viking city, not actual castles.
● The three castles on the Dublin crest represent Dublin’s history as a city: (1) “Dubh Linn” or “Black Pool”, built by the Vikings in 841 AD, (2) St. Mary’s Castle, built in 1169 by Strongbow, who conquered Ireland for Henry II of England, and (3) Dublin Castle, which served as a seat of British rule for over 700 years.
Can you stay in any castles near Dublin?
Yes, you can stay in a castle near Dublin. Ireland is home to many stunning castles that have been converted into luxurious hotels. Just a short drive from the city center, you can find accommodations such as Ashford Castle and Cabra Castle Hotel. Both offer stunning views of the Irish countryside and provide guests with an unforgettable experience of living like royalty.
Now you know the best castles near Dublin!
Dublin’s castles are a must-see for any traveler looking to dive into the rich history and culture of Ireland. These grand structures offer a unique glimpse into the past, with each one boasting its own unique story and charm.Whether you’re looking for guided tours, interesting facts, or simply want to take in the beauty of these ancient fortresses, a visit to these castles will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Trust me, it’s worth the trip!