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The Top 10 Castles in Ireland

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The Top 10 Castles in Ireland

A trip to Ireland would be incomplete with a visit to Irish castles.

 

Here is our list of The Top 10 Castles in Ireland

Malahide Castle County Dubllin

Kilkenny Castle County Kilkenny

Dungaire Castle County Galway

Dublin Castle, County Dublin

Ross Castle County Kerry

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

Blarney Caslte, County Cork

Bunratty Castle, County Clare

Cahir Castle, County Tipperary

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

 


 

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Following below is more detail on every castle

Malahide Castle County Dubllin


King Henry II gifted Richard Talbot the lands and harbour of Malahide for his services to the crown in 1185. From that point on, the Talbot family became intertwined with Malahide’s history and development.

The original stronghold built on the lands was a wooden fortress but this was eventually superseded by a stone structure on the site of the current Malahide Castle. Over the centuries, rooms and fortifications were added, modified and strengthened until the castle took on its current form.

 

The Talbots are reputed to have been a diplomatic family and during the eight centuries between 1185 and the 1970s, their tenure at Malahide Castle was broken for only a brief interlude between 1649 and 1660 when their lands were seized by Cromwellian soldiers and the castle was occupied by Myles Corbet, Lord Chief Baron of Ireland.

 

The final Baron de Malahide, Lord Milo Talbot, lived in the castle until his death in 1973. His sister Rose inherited the estate and subsequently sold it to the Irish State in 1975. Since then, Malahide Castle has continued to play an important part in Ireland’s political and social landscape, hosting international leaders and summits, and welcoming thousands of local and international visitors each year.



Kilkenny Castle County  Kilkenny


Kilkenny Castle (Irish: Caisleán Chill Chainnigh) is a castle in Kilkenny, Ireland built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defences of the town with four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade.


The property was transferred to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for £50 and the castle and grounds are now managed by the Office of Public Works. The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are open to the public. The Parade Tower is a conference venue. Awards and conferring ceremonies of the graduates of "Kilkenny Campus" of National University of Ireland, Maynooth have been held there since 2002.


Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, commonly known as Strongbow constructed the first castle, probably a wooden structure, in the 12th century. The Anglo-Normans had established a castle in 1173, possibly on the site of an earlier residence of the Mac Giolla Phádraig kings of Osraighe. Kilkenny formed part of the lordship of Leinster, which was granted to Strongbow. Strongbow’s daughter and heiress, Isabel married William Marshall in 1189.


Marshall owned large estates in Ireland, England, Wales and France and managed them effectively. In 1192, he appointed Geoffrey FitzRobert as seneschal of Leinster and so began a major phase of development in Kilkenny, including the development of Kilkenny Castle. The first stone castle on the site, was completed in 1260. This was a square-shaped castle with towers at each corner; three of these original four towers survive to this day.


The castle was owned by the seneschal of Kilkenny Sir Gilbert De Bohun who inherited the county of Kilkenny and castle from his mother in 1270, in 1300 he was outlawed by Edward I but was reinstated in 1303, he held the castle until his death in 1381. It was not granted to his heir Joan, but seized by the crown and sold to the Butler family in 1391.

 

Dungaire Castle County Galway


Dublin Castle, County Dublin


Dublin Castle dates back to the 18th century but a castle has stood here since the early 13th century. It was originally built for defensive measures but later became a royal residence, which you can see inside. It also once served as a military garrison and was part of the Easter Rising of 1916.  Irish presidents are inaugurated here. An unsolved mystery took place here-the Irish Crown Jewels were stolen and as you can see in the video, there is a theory as to why no one was ever arrested for the crime.


Ross Castle County Kerry


Ross Castle (Caisleán an Rois) is a 15th-century tower house and keep on the edge of Lough Leane, in Killarney National Park. Built by the local ruling clan, the O'Donoghues, it is surrounded by a fortified bawn and its curtain walls are defended by circular flanking towers, two of which remain today. 


The ownership of the castle changed hands during the Second Desmond Rebellion of the 1580s to MacCarthy Mór. He then leased Ross Castle and the surrounding lands to Sir Valentine Browne, ancestor of the Earls of Kenmare. The castle was amongst the last to surrender to Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars. Ships were brought from Kinsale via the River Laune and then dragged by oxen to Ross Castle. This water attack, along with 4,000 foot soldiers and 200 horsemen finally took the castle in 1652.


Legend has it that O'Donoghue leapt from a window of the grand chamber at the top of the castle and disappeared into the waters of the lake along with his horse, his table and his library. O'Donoghue now lives in a great palace at the bottom of the lake where he keeps a close eye on everything that he sees. On the first May every seven years he rises from the lake on his magnificent white horse and circles the lake. Anyone catching a glimpse of him is said to be assured of good fortune for the rest of their lives. 



Ashford Castle, County Mayo


Ashford Castle is a medieval and Victorian castle that has been expanded over the centuries and turned into a five star luxury hotel near Cong on the Mayo-Galway border, on the shore of Lough Corrib in Ireland. It is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World organisation and was previously owned by the Guinness family.


A castle was built on the perimeter of a monastic site in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman House of Burke. After more than three-and-a-half centuries under the de Burgos, whose surname became Burke or Bourke, Ashford passed into the hands of a new master, following a fierce battle between the forces of the de Burgos and those of the English official Sir Richard Bingham, Lord President of Connaught, when a truce was agreed. In 1589, the castle fell to Bingham, who added a fortified enclave within its precincts.


Blarney Caslte, County Cork


Built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland's greatest chieftans, Cormac MacCarthy, and has been attracting attention ever since. Over the last few hundred years, millions have flocked to Blarney making it a world landmark and one of Ireland's greatest treasures.


Now that might have something to do with the Blarney Stone, the legendary Stone of Eloquence, found at the top of our tower. Kiss it and you'll never again be lost for words.


Kiss The Blarney Stone

The Stone of Eloquence

For over 200 years, world statesmen, literary giants, and legends of the silver screen have joined the millions of pilgrims climbing the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence. Its powers are unquestioned but its story still creates debate.


Once upon a time, visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, we are rather more cautious of the safety of our visitors. The Stone itself is still set in the wall below the battlements. To kiss it, one has to lean backwards (holding on to an iron railing) from the parapet walk. The prize is a real one as once kissed the stone bestows the gift of eloquence.


Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster

The lower walls are fifteen feet, built with an angle tower by the McCarthys of Muskerry. It was subsequently occupied at one time by Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster, who is said to have supplied four thousand men from Munster to supplement the forces of Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Legend has it that the latter king gave half of the Stone of Scone to McCarthy in gratitude. This, now known as the Blarney Stone, was incorporated in the battlements where it can now be kissed.


Queen Elizabeth

The Earl of Leicester was commanded by Queen Elizabeth I to take possession of the castle. Whenever he endeavoured to negotiate the matter McCarthy always suggested a banquet or some other form of delay, so that when the queen asked for progress reports a long missive was sent, at the end of which the castle remained untaken. The queen was said to be so irritated that she remarked that the earl's reports were all 'Blarney'.


Cromwell's General, Lord Broghill

The castle was eventually invested by Cromwell's General, Lord Broghill, who, planting a gun on Card Hill opposite and above the lake below the present mansion or new castle, succeeded in breaking the tower walls. However, when his men entered the keep, he found two old retainers, the main garrison had fled by the underground caves situated below the battlements known as the Badgers Caves. There are three passages, one to Cork, one to the lake and one seemingly to Kerry. At any rate, all had gone together with the reputed gold plate.


Bunratty Castle, County Clare


Early History


Robert De Muscegros, a Norman, built the first defensive fortress (an earthen mound with a strong wooden tower on top) in 1250. His lands were later granted to Thomas De Clare who built the first stone castle on the site. About this time Bunratty became a large town of 1,000 inhabitants.


In 1318 Richard De Clare, son of Thomas was killed in a battle between the Irish and the Normans. His followers were routed and the castle and town were completely destroyed. The castle was restored for the King of England but was laid waste in 1332 by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the O'Briens and MacNamaras. It lay in ruins for 21 years until it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby but was once again attacked by the Irish and the castle remained in Irish hands thereafter.


MacNamaras and O’Briens


The powerful MacNamara family built the present structure around 1425 but by 1475 it had became the stronghold of the O'Briens, the largest clan in North Munster. They ruled the territory of North Munster and lived in great splendor. The castle was surrounded by beautiful gardens and it was reputed to have a herd of 3,000 deer.


Under Henry VIII's 'surrender and re-grant' scheme, the O'Brien's were granted the title 'Earls of Thomond' and they agreed to profess loyalty to the King of England. The reign of the O'Briens came to an end with the arrival of the Cromwellian troops and the castle and its grounds were surrendered. The O'Briens never returned to Bunratty but later they built a beautiful residence at Dromoland Castle, now a luxury 5 star hotel.


Plantation Families


Bunratty Castle and its lands were granted to various Plantation families, the last of whom was the Studdart family. They left the castle in 1804 (allowing it to fall into disrepair), to reside in the more comfortable and modern Bunratty House, which is open to the public in the grounds of the Folk Park.


Bunratty returned to its former splendor when Viscount Lord Gort purchased it in 1954. The extensive restoration work began in 1945 with the help of the Office of Public Works, the Irish Tourist Board and Shannon Development. It was then opened to the public in 1962 as a National Monument and is open to visitors year round. It is the most complete and authentically restored and furnished castle in Ireland.



Cahir Castle, County Tipperary





Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary



The Rock of Cashel (Irish: Carraig Phádraig), also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick's Rock, is a historic site located at Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland. 


According to local legends, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil's Bit, a mountain 20 miles (30 km) north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel. Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.


The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. In 1101, the King of Munster, Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the Church. The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.


The oldest and tallest of the buildings is the well preserved round tower (28 metres, or 90 feet), dating from c.1100. Its entrance is 12 feet (3.7 m) from the ground, necessitated by a shallow foundation (about 3 feet) typical of round towers. The tower was built using the dry stone method. Modern conservationists have filled in some of the tower with mortar for safety reasons.


Cormac's Chapel with parts of the cathedral on either side

Cormac's Chapel, the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh, was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134. It is a sophisticated structure, with vaulted ceilings and wide arches, drawing on contemporary European architecture and infusing unique native elements. The Irish Abbot of Regensburg, Dirmicius of Regensburg, sent two of his carpenters to help in the work and the twin towers on either side of the junction of the nave and chancel are strongly suggestive of their Germanic influence, as this feature is otherwise unknown in Ireland. Other notable features of the building include interior and exterior arcading, a barrel-vaulted roof, a carved tympanum over both doorways, the magnificent north doorway and chancel arch. It contains one of the best-preserved Irish frescoes from this time period. The Chapel was constructed primarily of sandstone which has become waterlogged over the centuries, significantly damaging the interior frescoes. Restoration and preservation required the chapel be completely enclosed in a rain-proof structure with interior dehumidifiers to dry out the stone.


The Cathedral, built between 1235 and 1270, is an aisleless building of cruciform plan, having a central tower and terminating westwards in a massive residential castle. The Hall of the Vicars Choral was built in the 15th century. The vicars choral were laymen (sometimes minor canons) appointed to assist in chanting the cathedral services. At Cashel, there were originally eight vicars choral with their own seal. This was later reduced to five honorary vicars choral who appointed singing-men as their deputies, a practice which continued until 1836. The restoration of the Hall was undertaken by the Office of Public Works as a project in connection with the European Architectural Heritage Year, 1975. Through it visitors now enter the site.


In 1647, during the Irish Confederate Wars, Cashel was sacked by English Parliamentarian troops under Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin. The Irish Confederate troops there were massacred, as were the Catholic clergy, including Theobald Stapleton. Inchiquin's troops looted or destroyed many important religious artefacts.


In 1749, the main cathedral roof was removed by Arthur Price, the Anglican Archbishop of Cashel. Today, what remains of the Rock of Cashel has become a tourist attraction. Price's decision to remove the roof on what had been called the jewel among Irish church buildings was criticised before and since.


Queen Elizabeth II visited the Rock of Cashel during her 2011 visit to Ireland.


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