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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.