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.
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.
Not even the rain can ruin our time
Patchwork stained glass windows
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.
Rock of Cashel
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.
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…
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.
This place feels forbidden and yet welcomes your curiosity to enter and explore…
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.
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.
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.
A silent hush greets you upon entering the abbey
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.
Brú na Bóinne
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.
It’s impossible to ignore the feeling of old spirits long gone. Each stone is steeped in tradition and history.
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.