Rock of Cashel, Ireland | Whole Widen World #castles #irishcastles #ireland #rockofcashel

7 Must-See Irish Castles and Historic Sites

Part of what makes Ireland so magical is all the historic Irish castles and sites peppered throughout the country, preserved for people to visit and marvel at. As Jeremy and I traveled around the perimeter of Ireland for our honeymoon, we stopped along the way at every castle we could find. We deliberately skipped Blarney Castle, possibly the most well known in the States from the famous “blarney stone”. While we were sure the grounds were beautiful, we were looking for some of other lesser known castles. Check out our list of places we visited.

Kilkenny Castle - Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny, Ireland

On the road from Dublin to Cork, we stopped off in the town of Kilkenny for breakfast and a tour through Kilkenny Castle. The rain had kept most people off the street, minus a few shoppers ducking in and out of stores. The castle is huge and well preserved. Inside, you can explore multiple levels and walk through most of the rooms. There are tour guides in different languages at different times of the day, but you can also walk around freely yourself, which is what we prefer to do.

Jeremy and Loretta infront of Kilkenny castle

Not even the rain can ruin our time

Stained Glass windows

Patchwork stained glass windows

Kilkenny Castle Hall, Ireland | Whole Widen World
View from Kilkenny Castle, Ireland | Whole Widen World
Kilkenny castle dining room

There’s something special about touring through a preserved castle; walking up winding tower steps, and peeking into the various rooms, imagining what life was like way back when.
Irish symbols
Rock of Cashel, Ireland | Whole Widen World

Rock of Cashel

Cashel, Ireland

On the top of a hill in the small town of Cashel lies the ruins of this historic castle. Down below the valley is speckled with cows and sheep grazing lazily on dewy grass. We paid a small entrance fee to walk around the grounds and inside the roofless buildings. Not even the scaffolding could take away from the beautiful mossy crumbling walls.

Fields of cows
There’s history here. You can feel it in every stone, you can hear it in every drip, drip, drip of water running down the mossy walls…
Rock of Cashel, Ireland | Whole Widen World
Rock of Cashel carvings
Jeremy and Loretta in Cashel
Irish symbols
Menlo Castle

Menlo Castle

Menlo, Ireland

Perhaps the most enchanting castle of all, Menlo Castle is something out of a fairy tale. Nestled in a field on the banks of the river Corrib sits this ruin with a tragic history. Though the walls hold memories and ghosts of a terrible fire long passed, it does not detract from the haunting beauty that beckons you to cross the threshold into the forgotten building, reclaimed by nature.

Menlo Castle Interior
Loretta standing inside Menlo Castle
This place feels forbidden and yet welcomes your curiosity to enter and explore…
Irish symbols

Merlin Castle

Merlin Park, Ireland

Another forgotten story, Merlin Castle is a small tower, now at the very center of a Galway suburb. This vertical structure has been boarded up and sadly defaced, but is still interesting to walk around. This particular castle may be a let down if you travel far to reach it, but if you are in the area and enjoy looking at ruined sites, you will likely have it all to yourself.

Merlin Castle
Irish symbols

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty, Ireland

Bunratty Castle sits inside a medieval folk park. With your entrance fee, you can walk inside the village homes and learn about life during different periods of time. The smoky smell of peat burning makes for an “authentic” feel. The castle itself is staged and allows you to climb the winding towers and peek inside the rooms. While it was fun to explore, it was so cramped and busy that we found ourselves trying to rush just to get through it.

Bunratty windows
Bunratty Library
Spiral staircase
View from Bunratty Castle
Irish symbols

Muckross Abbey

Killarney National Park, Ireland

One of many attractions inside Killarney National Park, Muckross Abbey sits quietly for all to explore. As you wander, peaceful stillness wafts through the halls. One can almost hear the ghosts of those who lived here long past, praying in the church and cooking a modest meal in the kitchens.

Muckross Abbey Entrance, Ireland
A silent hush greets you upon entering the abbey
arch at Muckross Abbey
Muckross Abbey, Ireland | Whole Widen World
Muckross Abbey - Dark hallway

In some rooms, the darkness pulls you in, feeding your curiosity, but your sense gets the better of you and decides some things need not be explored.

Bru Na Boinne, Ireland - Whole Widen World

Brú na Bóinne

Meath, Ireland

These ancient mounds of earth are one of the few places that show ancient Celtic influences. The symbols on the rocks hold mysterious meanings that only we can guess at.

Bru na boinne grass mound | World Heritage Site | Whole Widen World
Carvings at Bru Na boinne
It’s impossible to ignore the feeling of old spirits long gone. Each stone is steeped in tradition and history.
bru na boinne stone castle
View from the mound at Bru Na Boinne, Ireland | Whole Widen World
Dreaming in Emerald: A love letter to Ireland Book | Whole Widen World #travelbook
 

We’ve made a book!

 

After coming home from our honeymoon in Ireland, an experience of a lifetime, I just couldn’t get the trip out of my head. I spent the next 9 months creating a book that embodies the spirit of Ireland through my lens. It became my love letter of sorts and I filled it with rich photos taken from our trip, whimsical illustrations, quotes, and old Irish songs.

 

Now we need your help to get it published. We are currently working on a Kickstarter campaign. If you love collecting travel books, subscribe to our updates and help fund our project.

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10 Comments
  • These are all so beautiful! I can’t wait to go to Ireland…must get that on the schedule next year!

    August 6, 2017 at 3:08 am
  • Ireland’s castles are absolutely stunning! I love when you see nature starting to reclaim its territory by creeping in on the walls 🙂

    August 6, 2017 at 3:15 am
  • What an adventure – it’s like traveling back in time and the weather certainly sets the mood!

    August 6, 2017 at 6:08 am
  • Alison - Up&AtEm Travel
    Reply

    You have taken such beautiful photos! I think the ones that are crumbling and have merged with nature (displaying bits of moss and ivy) are the most interesting. You’re right, though, it is such a shame to see intriguing bits of history defaced with meaningless tags and wood scratchings. All the best with your Kickstarter campaign!

    August 6, 2017 at 6:55 am
  • Your photos made me feel so happy. It was like I was behind the scenes of a Lord of the Rings set. Lovely. Ireland is high on my bucket list.

    August 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm
  • This is a fantastic compilation of lesser-known Irish castles! Thank you for sharing your journey (and your honeymoon!) because I’ll definitely use this in planning our “someday” tour of Ireland.

    August 6, 2017 at 10:11 pm

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