The Castles of Ireland

by Christy on

Longtime readers will remember that we’re suckers for a good castle, so it’ll come as no surprise that we explored as many as possible during our road trip around Ireland. The country may be known for its weather and whiskey, but it’s the castles that made the strongest impression on us.

Cahir Castle

We stopped at Cahir Castle on a whim, but it quickly became our favorite castle in Ireland. It’s been remarkably well-preserved, so as you walk through the grounds you can almost close your eyes and imagine the original inhabitants going about their daily business.

But mostly there are a lot of places where you can get yourself into trouble, like an old portcullis mechanism to swing on and an outside hearth in which you can dougie.

Cahir Castle in Ireland

Cahir Castle in Ireland Cahir Castle in Ireland

Cahir Castle in Ireland

Dublin Castle

We’ve already talked about the Dublin Castle; remember how it’s all “business in the front, party in the back”?

Yep, Dublin Castle is definitely the mullet of Irish castles, with its funky art deco posterior hidden behind a swanky palace facade.

Dublin Castle, Ireland

Dublin Castle, Ireland

Kilkenny Castle

While it’s certainly impressive on the outside, I don’t think it’s worth the entrance fee to explore Kilkenny Castle’s interior. It looks more like a palace than a castle (seriously, I’ll never stop harping on palaces) and the restoration attempts managed, in my opinion, to scrub away much of the charm.

Besides, you can’t take photos inside. How… antiquated.

Kilkenny Castle in Ireland

Kilkenny Castle in Ireland

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Kilkenny, though, check out Butler Court; the rooms used to be part of the Castle’s carriage house and stable yard!

Blarney Castle

Not only is Blarney Castle where you get to kiss the Blarney Stone and never shut up again, but it’s also a really neat castle in its own right. None of this “I’ve been reconstructed to look like a fancy house on the inside” business.

This is a CASTLE, with crumbling walls and a staircase that’s intent on seeing you dead.

The roof has fallen to pieces and the stones of the narrow steps have been worn away over the centuries, so exploring the fortress during one of Ireland’s ubiquitous rain showers is nearly as fatal as nibbling on the contents of the grounds’ Poison Garden.

But presumably much more fun.

Blarney Castle in Ireland

Blarney Castle in Ireland

Blarney Castle in Ireland

Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel is basically an old fortress on top of a rock on top of a hill. Or at least it used to be; after the old King of Munster donated his fortress to the Church in the 12th century, the Rock became a religious stronghold.

So I guess it’s not much of a castle anymore?

Many of the original religious buildings (such as the Cathedral and the Chapel) still stand, but they’re not doing so well. Right now the most pressing issue is the mold on the roof of the Chapel; it was constructed primarily of sandstone, and centuries of being waterlogged have taken their toll.

For the next few years the Chapel will be completely enclosed in a waterproof structure while experts work to preserve and restore the building. Of course the scaffolding completely ruins the prototypical Rock of Cashel postcard shot, but I suppose that’s a small price to pay to preserve a slice of ancient history.

Rock of Cashel in Ireland

Rock of Cashel in Ireland

What’s your favorite Irish castle? Share in the comments!

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Sabrinatwitter: countryskipper July 30, 2012 at

Wow! They look beautiful. I think Blarney is my favorite based on your pics – because of the view :) Did you guys ever read Astrid Lindgren’s “Ronja, the robber’s daughter”? I’m not sure of her books were ever that popular in English speaking countries, but in Germany almost every kid knows her books and Ronja in particular. These castles kind of remind me of her because everything is so green and forest-y around them.
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

No, I’ve never heard of Astrid Lindgren – I’ll have to look her up! And the views from Blarney were the best, mostly because there were no windows in the way. :P

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Scott - Quirky Travel Guytwitter: quirkytravelguy July 31, 2012 at

Kilkenny does look impressive from the outside, but I bet I’d have more fun on Blarney. It’s way less pretentious!
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

Yes, definitely less pretentious!

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InsideJourneystwitter: InsideJourneys July 31, 2012 at

Cahir or Kilkenny would be favorites. That lawn makes you want to take of your shoes and have a little picnic. Oh, and I also like the view from Blarney.
But you know what I just realized: although I love castles and love looking them, I’ve never visited one. I think it’s because of the crowds though. I like to see them like this, totally unobstructed.
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

The sad part? Visitors aren’t allowed to walk on the lawn. :( Of course we walked across so we could take that photo, but it’s definitely not a place where they’d allow you to picnic.

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Chrystal McKay July 31, 2012 at

I don’t really want to go inside anywhere that doesn’t let me take photos! How sad and unmemorable – with this terrible memorial it isn’t worth ever paying for!! But I like Rock of Cashel the best! That is my winner of Irish Castle!
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

The Rock of Cashel was super cool! And yeah, I just don’t understand why photos aren’t allowed; all the typical reasons they give never seem legit.

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Christy July 31, 2012 at

Scott would be in heaven! He loves history and castles. I’m not sure which of those would be my favorite, but I’m sure I would have fun photographing any castle.
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

If Scott loves castles, he would LOVE Ireland.

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Escaping Abroad July 31, 2012 at

Castles are always interesting for their rich history and architecture.. I’ve got a lot of Irish blood in me and although Ireland isn’t at the very top of my bucket list it is a place I want to see one of these days.
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Jeremy Branhamtwitter: budgettravelsac July 31, 2012 at

I love castles as well! I am trying to remember the last one I’ve visited. However, it won’t be long before I see another one! Love the personality of the Dublin castle – sounds an interesting castle to visit!
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

Are you giving a hint of where you’re traveling next, Jeremy? ;)

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Angelatwitter: angelacorrias July 31, 2012 at

Such a lovely collection, I’ve lived in Dublin for a year and I’ve only visited Dublin castle!
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

How neat that you lived in Dublin for a year! Did you get to explore much of Ireland during that time?

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Ayngelina July 31, 2012 at

Gorgeous photos, you make castles look so romantic and fun in Ireland.
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

Thanks, Ayngelina. :)

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Diana Edelmantwitter: dtravelsround July 31, 2012 at

I missed all of the castles when I was there. So bummed!!
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

ALL of the castles?! You’ll have to go back!

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Natasha von Geldern July 31, 2012 at

Fantastic selection of castles here. In my limited Irish experience the only castle I’ve visited is Slane Castle, just outside Dublin. And as I was there for a U2 concert I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the castle. Oh well, it was an awesome concert and I know I’ve got so much to explore in Ireland :)
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

Wait… there are concerts held in CASTLES?!? How did I not know this??

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Pete August 1, 2012 at

You know I don’t think we went into one castle in Ireland… We went all around them. Funny when I look back and think about that. The park around Cahir was one of my favorites. Such a peaceful location.
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

We’re a bit castle-obsessed, so that might have something to do with it. :)

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Laureltwitter: ExpatGermany August 1, 2012 at

I love castles too and it’s part of the reason I would like to go to Ireland so much. Cahir Castle looks impressive. So does Kilkenny, but I guess looks can be deceiving. I would have taken one look at it though and bought a ticket. There’s quite a few castles in Germany where photos are not allowed either, unfortunately.
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

I know, we were swayed by the exterior of Kilkenny as well. :)

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Camels & Chocolatetwitter: LunaticAtLarge August 2, 2012 at

This is oh, so, completely helpful given that I’m in the middle of my planning for Ireland and have no! idea! how to prioritize the castle bit.

“Mullet of castles.” LOVE IT.
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

Glad it’s helpful! Definitely go into Blarney (but bring your umbrella AND raincoat), and Cahir Castle. I’d personally avoid paying to go inside the smaller castles you see along your route, but they’re always gorgeous to photograph from the outside. :)

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Artitwitter: artisdiary August 2, 2012 at

Those castles look gorgeous! And you seem to be having a blast too, the captures show it clearly!!
Have a wonderful week ahead :)
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

Thanks, Arti!

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Andrea August 2, 2012 at

We didn’t go inside too many besides Blarney and Cashel…the entry fees put us off. But I loved Blarney – even if it’s the most popular.
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Christy August 2, 2012 at

They were so expensive! Fortunately we just happened to visit Cahir Castle and the Rock of Cashel on a day when entrance was free. I’m not sure we would have paid to go in otherwise, so it was an awesome stroke of luck.

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Erica August 2, 2012 at

It looks like the place where I will have to live out my Cinderella fantasies. Blarney looks like it has a lot of personality for sure!
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Christy August 3, 2012 at

I always sort of wrote Blarney Castle off because of the really touristy Blarney Stone, but it really was surprisingly funky. After Cahir, I think it was my favorite castle!

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Jade Johnston - OurOyster.com August 3, 2012 at

I love the castles that look like ruins rather than the ones that have been perfectly restored… which is why I always prefer Craigmillar castle over the more famous Edinburgh castle in Scotland any day

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Christy August 6, 2012 at

I definitely agree; I think preservation is really important, but I’m not a big fan of the ones that have been totally recreated.

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Erik August 4, 2012 at

Isn’t it amazing how those places you stop on a whim turn out to be some of your favorite stops? This happened to me all over New Zealand, as it happened to you guys at Cahir Castle.

These all look cool to me, and incredibly photogenic.
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Christy August 6, 2012 at

That’s happened to us so often, but we still forget it! We need less planning and more spontaneous adventures. :)

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Audrey August 5, 2012 at

Wow! You guys covered a lot of castles! I haven’t made it to Ireland yet, but Germany did make an impression on me with all its castles. They are scattered all over the countryside, and some of them are quite grand! :D
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Christy August 6, 2012 at

Isn’t the castle that Disney was based on in Germany? I’ve seen photos and it looks AMAZING.

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Laurence August 5, 2012 at

I love castles. Absolutely love them. Admittedly, I spend much of my time whilst visiting them fantasising about some strange version of a medieval life, with me as king, and many court jesters.. but I do have fun. Oh, and big meals. Yes.
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Christy August 6, 2012 at

Bwahaha! Oh man, you and Kali would get along great. Every once and awhile he starts waxing poetically about how great it would have been to live in medieval times. Y’know, if he was the one in power and there weren’t things like boils or plagues or lack of sanitation.

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Mary @ Green Global Travel September 28, 2012 at

Often my favorite part of castles are their grounds. Love the rolling hill s in Ireland.
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