The capital of Ireland is a mecca for anyone interested in history and royal architecture. In Dublin, you will have the chance to see the enormous 12th century St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the structures of Trinity College and even Dublin Castle itself. However, leaving Dublin for a day trip also offers the chance to explore a number of additional castles. From historic landmarks to picturesque ruins, be sure to see as many of these castles near Dublin as your schedule will allow.
Just two miles north of Dublin’s international airport is Swords Castle. Constructed around the year 1200, the castles was built for John Comyn, the 1st Archbishop of Dublin. The walls surrounding the castle are far higher than was normal for the time, and the pentagonal shape also sets it apart. It appears the castle was severely damaged and abandoned in the 14th century, but history reveals occupation of Swords Castle in later centuries again. Today, Swords Castle is used as a filming location for television shows. It is, however, also open to travelers who want to tour the exterior.
A 90-minute drive west out of Dublin will bring you to the town of Tullamore, a location best known for its whiskey. It is also home to Charleville Castle, a stunning Gothic castle with richly historic roots. As far back as the sixth century, the site was used for religious purposes, likely by ancient Druid settlements. The castle itself was built in the early 19th century. Many of its tenants only occupied the castle for a short time, and it was only in the 1970s that serious restoration work was undertaken. Now, Charleville Castle is best known for its otherworldly occupants: Ghosts! The castle has been featured extensively in supernatural and investigative pieces, and many of the tours through the property are led by ghost hunters.
The small town of Birr in County Offaly is just 140 km (85 miles) directly west of the Irish capital. While the town’s main street has a few charming shops and restaurants, the main reason to visit is undeniably Birr Castle. There has been a castle of some variety on the site since the 12th century, but many additions over the years helped create the grand appearance the castle has today. Parts of Birr Castle are still residential, serving as the home to the 7th Earl of Rosse. Other parts of Birr Castle, however, are open to the public, and some spaces even house Ireland’s Historic Science Center.
Northwest of Dublin is Trim Castle, the largest Norman castle in all of Ireland. Since it is just 45 minutes away from Dublin, it is the perfect day trip to escape the city and explore Irish history. Trim Castle took more than 30 years to build in the 12th century, and it served as an important religious and military site. In the 15th century, Trim Castle even served as the gathering place for parliament, and local currency was created on the premises with a local mint. Trim Castle is unique because of its size, its age and its cruciform shape, which was highly irregular in the 12th century.
One of the most intriguing castles in Ireland is the Rock of Cashel, which is nearly two hours away from Dublin but well worth the journey. Legends of Cashel date back to a time St. Patrick himself banished Satan from a cave, giving the destination some seriously ominous origins. Kings lived on the site for centuries, although the castle that exists today date primarily from the 12th and 13th centuries. Some of the important buildings on the Rock of Cashel to explore include the 13th century Cathedral, the Cormac’s Chapel and the Round Tower.
A castle very near Dublin is Malahide Castle, located just 14 km (9 miles) north of the capital. The proximity to the city center is a great reason to spend a few hours exploring the castle, which was built in the 12th century in the town of Malahide. While the castle remained a private residence for centuries, it became property of Ireland in the 1970s. In addition to touring the castle’s interior, you can explore the 18th century grounds in their original style. Plus, Malahide Castle has a great room for banquets, but also a smaller dining area where you can order delicious meals after a stroll through the grounds.
Heading southeast 130 km (80 miles) from Dublin will bring you to Kilkenny Castle. The castle was built towards the end of the 12th century by the Normans, and it effectively claimed the high ground overlooking the River Nore. Today, the castle is one of the biggest reasons to visit the small city of Kilkenny. Access to the grounds of the castle is free, which means that locals and visitors alike enjoy spending time strolling through the rose gardens in front as well as the forested areas surrounding the structure. If you’re in town, however, you’ll also definitely want to head inside and check out the impressive Great Hall and some of the furnished bedrooms.