The 8 best castles to visit in Dublin, Ireland

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Malahide Castle is one of the most popular castles in Dublin.
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Ireland is a land of castles. At last count, there were over 3000 of them! From the most ancient of fortresses to the grandest of palaces, Ireland’s castles are a testament to the country’s rich heritage.

Whoever said castles were boring has obviously never researched Irish castles. Tales abound of spine-chilling ghosts, swashbuckling pirates and even a robe-wearing rock star! So, get comfy, take off your armour, put down that crossbow, and sit back and enjoy our list of the top 8 castles in Dublin!

1. Dublin Castle – a castle in the heart of the city

The grand Dublin Castle is one of the most famous castles in Dublin.

If you’re staying in the centre of Dublin, it makes sense for you to start off with the legendary Dublin Castle. Conveniently located in the centre of the city, this is a great one to see if you’ve only got 2 days in Dublin. The castle also just happens to be incredible.

This grand 13th-century fortress was originally built atop a Viking settlement. It has since played host to a dizzying array of historical events. These include the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the inauguration of a plethora of Irish presidents. So, you can see a mediaeval tower and an underground Viking wall all in one visit!

More recently, the castle was controversially used as Ireland’s seat of the British government. And today, this city-centre stronghold leads a more sedate life as an administrative centre.

You can visit the castle’s grounds and gardens for free. Alternatively, pay for the 70-minute guided tour. This gives you access to the plush state apartments, the Chapel Royal and the Mediaeval Undercroft.

This is one of the most impressive castles in Dublin. It’s also the only one on our list that is located in the city centre. It couldn’t be easier to get there. Dublin Castle is open every day from 9:45 until 17:45, with the last admission at 17:15. 

2. Rathfarnham Castle – one of the many haunted castles in Dublin

Rathfarnham Castle is one of the least castle-like castles in Dublin. Its whitewashed look makes it look more like a townhouse.

Just a 30-minute drive south of Dublin is the magnificent 16th-century Rathfarnham Castle. This Elizabethan beauty was the brainchild of Archbishop Adam Loftus, who clearly had a flair for the finer things in life.

As is the case with many an Irish castle, legend has it that Rathfarnham is haunted. The story goes that a woman was imprisoned in the ballroom by her two suitors, who fought to the death for her love. During the fight, both men died. This left the unfortunate woman to haunt the ballroom for eternity.

If this terrifying tale hasn’t scared you too much, pay a visit to Rathfarnham Castle. It’s open every day in the summer season and from Wednesday to Sunday throughout the winter. Top tip? You can visit the castle for FREE on the first Wednesday of every month! So, you can save yourself a few precious pennies to go towards afternoon tea in the castle’s café!

3. Ardgillan Castle – enjoy the flower-filled grounds of this beautiful castle

The beautiful Ardgillan Castle is surrounded by greenery and flowers.

Another fortress with a phantom is Ardgillan Castle in the north of Dublin. The “White Lady” or “Lady of the Stairs” is said to haunt the bridge over the Dublin-to-Belfast railway line. Whatever you do, don’t cross the bridge at midnight on Halloween! Local folklore suggests that anyone who dares is doomed to be killed by this ghostly woman. So, you know when to avoid visiting!

Aside from the obligatory Irish castle ghost, this 18th-century castle is absolutely beautiful. It’s surrounded by forests, flowers and gardens, and offers visitors views of the wild Irish Sea.

Our favourite thing to do is take a walk around the castle, which takes around an hour. Then, you’ve got a great excuse to treat yourself to a well-deserved hot chocolate in the café. The opening hours are here

4. Howth Castle – a dramatic bayside beauty

Howth Castle is one of the prettiest castles in Dublin.

The spectacular Howth Castle is in an unassuming village on the north side of Dublin Bay. Designated as a “National Monument of Ireland,” it’s one of three castles built by the infamous King John of England.

Another notorious historical figure has featured in Howth Castle’s past: the pirate queen Grace O’Malley. They say she sailed to Howth Castle in the 16th century. Her intention was to visit the Lord of Howth, but upon her arrival, she was refused entry. Insulted by this slight, she kidnapped the Lord’s grandson. Hell hath no fury like a pirate queen scorned!

O’Malley released the boy only after forcing the Lord to make her a promise. He would always keep the castle gates open to unexpected visitors and set a place at the table for her. The tradition of setting an extra place is said to have continued at Howth Castle for many generations.

Tourists can visit the grounds of Howth Castle, but the castle itself is a private residence. However, it is open to tour groups that book in advance through their website.

5. Trim Castle – one of the most historic castles in Dublin

Trim Castle is one of the most historic castles in Dublin.

Ah, Trim Castle! You’ll find this mediaeval marvel in Trim in the heart of County Meath. It’s around 60 minutes’ drive from Dublin. The grandiose fortress is surrounded by a magical emerald landscape.

Trim Castle was built in 1173 by the dashing Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath. It is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. This behemoth is a testament to its creator’s ambitions. Its unusual cruciform (cross-shaped) design sets it apart from its mediaeval counterparts.

This architectural gem has also had its fair share of latter-day limelight. It starred as a backdrop in the blockbuster film “Braveheart” (1995). Whether you’re a history buff, a movie fanatic, or simply seeking a thrilling adventure, Trim Castle has something for you!

Trim’s opening hours are 10:00 – 17:00 in the summer, but this can change throughout the year, so it’s best to check their website. Taking a wander round the castle grounds is free. However, if you want to see Trim with all the trimmings, take a guided tour. 

6. Kilkenny Castle – a 12th-century architectural triumph

Kilkenny Castle is very old, dating back to the 12th century.

Next up on our list of fantastic castles in Dublin is Kilkenny! This regal stunner has been standing tall and proud since the 12th century. Come here to marvel at its opulent interior and exquisite gardens.

This architectural wonder is not just a pretty face. Its history is gripping. Constructed by the mighty Earl of Pembroke, William Marshal, this castle has seen it all. It went from being a symbol of Norman occupation to a lavish family home for the powerful Butler family.

in 1967, Kilkenny Castle was sold for a mere £50. The Butler family handed over the keys to the castle to the people of the town for the price of a fancy dinner. Bizarrely, a young Mick Jagger attended the ceremony wearing a cape and clutching a paper plate laden with snacks.

If all this interests you, why not pay the castle a visit? It’s open to visitors all year and there are different ticketing options are available. It’s up to you whether you wander through the castle independently or take a tour with a guide.

So, grab yourself a cap and a paper plate and head on over to Kilkenny Castle. History, charm, and intrigue await!

7. Swords Castle – an underrated gem near Dublin

Swords Castle is one of the easiest castles in Dublin to get to – it’s a 10-minute drive from the airport.

Prepare to be dazzled by the most underrated gem of County Dublin – the one and only Swords Castle! A mere 10-minute drive from Dublin Airport, this is one of the castles in Dublin that is easiest to access. Despite this, it is often overlooked as a tourist attraction. Which means that you’ll be more likely to have the place to yourself!

This mediaeval castle served as the home of the Archbishop of Dublin. It’s the best example of an archbishop’s palace that still exists in Ireland. History buffs will be in heaven here, learning about the castle’s 800 years of history.

And Swords Castle has an interesting modern history too. It was a filming location for the popular series “The Tudors“. That’s right, this unassuming fortress has rubbed shoulders with the stars!

Even more recently, in 2017, a group of local volunteers uncovered human remains in the castle grounds. The gruesome findings suggested that there was an 11th-century burial ground here before the castle was built.

The castle is open all year round, every day, and tours are available upon request. So, if you want to see a less-visited Irish castle within easy reach of Dublin, look no further than Swords Castle.

8. Malahide Castle – a well-loved castle on the outskirts of Dublin

Malahide is a handsome castle in the seaside town of Malahide.

The ever-popular Malahide Castle is in the charming seaside town of the same name, 9 miles north of Dublin. If you’re on the hunt for the crème de la crème of castles in Dublin, look no further than this regal abode.

It was built in the 12th century by the well-connected Talbot family. The surrounding land was gifted to the family by none other than King Henry II. The triumphant Talbots called Malahide home for a whopping 800 years. Talk about a family heirloom!

Now, we know by now that most castles in Dublin have their own resident ghost. But Malahide may be the most haunted castle in Ireland. It’s said to be frequented by no less than five spooky spectres. These range from the unlucky-in-love court jester, Puck, to Lady Maud Plunkett. The latter chases her husband’s ghost through the castle’s corridors in her wedding dress. So, serious ghostbusters will want to head here!

Not so keen on ghastly ghost stories? Batty about botanical beauty? Then, you should spend time in the castle’s wonderful grounds. The Walled Garden first came to life over 200 years ago. It was initially a simple garden to grow fruit and vegetables for the kitchen. Today, the horticultural haven is home to over 5,000 plant species. These come from all around the world and include rare and exotic shrubs.

If you’re bringing kids on your castle adventure, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Check out the butterfly garden, the enchanting fairy trail and the brilliant children’s playground!

Malahide Castle is open daily throughout the year from 09:30. We recommend booking in advance, especially during the busy summer months.

Go and explore the finest castles in Dublin!

That’s it for our list of the eight finest castles in Dublin! We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the captivating history of castles in Dublin and picked up a few tantalising tidbits and fun facts along the way! Why not let this list inspire you to pack your bags, plan your trip to Dublin and go explore some castles?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, in many cases it is possible to take tours of the castles in Dublin. Check the castle’s website for details (links in post above).

The oldest castles in and around Dublin are: Kilkea Castle (1 hour away from Dublin, built in 1180) Malahide Castle (30 minutes from Dublin, built in 1185). Dublin castle itself (in the city of Dublin) was built in 1204.

We recommend visiting castles in Dublin from March to September. In the winter months, some castles may close, or have shorter opening hours. The summer is the busiest time, so if you want to avoid crowds, think about visiting in Spring or Autumn.

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