10 Best Castles in Dublin

Ireland is a land of castles and the good thing is that most of them are close to the capital. If you want to know the best castles in Dublin, read my recommendations.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

8 min read

10 Best Castles in Dublin

Kilkenny Castle | @bea & txema & alan

Have you ever wanted to live in a castle? This may not be possible (or yes, who knows), but to give you an idea of what the experience would be like, I suggest you visit a few castles in the Irish capital. It is clear that there are many other things to do and see in Dublin, but there is little comparable to know its history through its fortresses.

I warn you that you will have to move a little to see them all, but always to places very close to Dublin and whose landscapes and castles are very worthwhile. The good thing is that most of them are open to the public and visiting them will bring you closer to the legends and culture of Ireland. Shall I tell you which are my favorites?

1. Dublin Castle: a fortress in the center of the city

Dublin Castle| ©Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Dublin Castle| ©Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

You can't go to Dublin and not see this castle, which has so much history. Don't think that it has only acted as a fortress or as a home for royalty, it has also been a Court of Justice and a Viking settlement. Incredible right?

Today, it is used as a place for official receptions, although its interior houses exhibitions so that its historical value and role can be understood.

You can see that it has a lot to tell, so I recommend hiring a guided tour to see Dublin Castle. So you will not lose detail. For, although the exterior is more austere by the fire that took place in 1684, the rooms are fairly well preserved and worth hearing its history.

  • Highlights: the throne room and the gunpowder tower.
  • Price of guided tour: 56€.

Book a visit to Dublin Castle

2. Kilkenny Castle: a mix of stories

Kilkenny Castle| ©bgwashburn
Kilkenny Castle| ©bgwashburn

The first thing that will strike you about Kilkenny Castle is the number of architectural styles it mixes. The reason is that, throughout its history, it has suffered attacks, invasions and reconstructions, being its appearance a reflection of all this.

I recommend a trip to Kilkenny from Dublin to know, in addition to the castle, the whole environment. And the best thing: they usually have a very good price.

One of the aspects that attracts more visitors (thousands every year) is its exquisite and luxurious interior decoration. You will be able to see the rooms, furniture and objects as they were, since a precise restoration work has been carried out.

  • Highlights: the library, the picture gallery and its imposing fireplace, as well as the ballroom.
  • Price of the excursion: 35€.

Book a tour to Kilkenny from Dublin

3. Trim Castle: a movie tour

Trim Castle| ©Andrew Parnell
Trim Castle| ©Andrew Parnell

To visit Trim Castle you will need to take one of the tours available from Dublin to the village of the same name. When you arrive, it will probably look familiar, as it was the setting for the famous movie Braveheart. I don't think Mel Gibson is still around, but many stories are.

The first thing you need to know is that it is the oldest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. It was built in 1176 and the hill of Meath, where it is located, was the site of many battles between the Irish and the English.

If you are lucky enough to go to Dublin in the summer, you are sure to see many Irish people enjoying the sunshine around the castle- join them!

  • Highlights: the outdoor garden.
  • Entrance fee: 5€.

4. Malahide Castle: an enchanting scenery

Malahide Castle| ©Christof Berger
Malahide Castle| ©Christof Berger

There is much to see on a trip to Malahide from Dublin, and its famous castle is a must-see. It is a place with a lot of charm and whose landscape allows us to escape from the pace of the capital.

Perhaps what surprises you most is that, until the late twentieth century (1975 more exactly) this place remained a private residence, that of the Talbot family, who came to Ireland with William the Conqueror and built this fascinating home.

In addition to using it as his home, Malahide Castle served as a secret Catholic church. Remember that Protestantism was for many years the only religion allowed in Ireland so the Talbot family and other faithful Catholics celebrated masses in secret.

  • Highlights: the closet that served to hide the priest.
  • Entrance fee: 12€.

5. Swords Castle: a place of worship

Swords Castle| ©Peter Gerken
Swords Castle| ©Peter Gerken

Not all castles were built for military purposes, and if not wait to know the history of Swords Castle. Its function was to house the first Anglo-Norman archbishop of Dublin in the early 13th century, but its location, its tower in the north and its walled area gave it a defensive aspect.

Beyond entering the castle, I recommend strolling through the park and have a picnic or even play tennis on one of the courts provided for it.

  • Highlights: the chapel, since it was designed for a church person.
  • Entrance fee: free of charge. But it is only open from March to October.

6. Dalkey Castle: an unstoppable defense

Dalkey Castle| ©Virtually Iris
Dalkey Castle| ©Virtually Iris

How did castles defend themselves? On your visit to Dalkey, you can find out. Its castle dates back to the year 700 and, if it is still standing, perhaps it is because of its defense system: throwing hot objects and liquids on the drawbridge, when enemies passed through it.

The castle is located in the village of Dalkey, just 16 kilometers from Dublin.

  • Highlights: the tower of the castle, you will have a beautiful view of the Irish coast.
  • Entrance fee: 8 €.

7. Maynooth Castle: the home of the mighty

Maynooth Castle| ©Permia
Maynooth Castle| ©Permia

The power of Maynooth Castle was evident during the 14th century. It was home to the Fitzgerald family, the Earls of Kildare. Some members of this lineage, such as Garret Mór, ruled Ireland for several years on behalf of the English king.

Inside there is a permanent exhibition that makes a tour of its history. When you leave, there is nothing like enjoying the well-kept vegetation that surrounds it.

Legend has it that the Fitzgeralds tried to attack Dublin. But the offensive did not go well and the biggest casualty was their castle. This is possibly the reason that when you go there it seems smaller than it really was.

  • Highlights: the tower, which is the only thing that is fully preserved and was the highest and largest in the country.
  • Entrance fee: free of charge.

8. Howth Castle: a legend and a pirate

Howth Castle| ©JP
Howth Castle| ©JP

Howth is one of the most beautiful places in the area, so I recommend booking an excursion to Howth from Dublin to see everything in this fishing village, including its castle.

The worst thing is that you can only access inside on Sundays and requesting it before through their website, as it is still the residence of the Gaisford St. Laurence family.

Although it is not always possible to enter, you can walk around the outside. Access is free and will give you an idea of what life is like there (in style, as you can imagine). The entire outside area is also used in a more public way and cooking workshops are often organized.

Legend has it

Apparently, a fearsome pirate, Gráinne O'Malley, showed up one night in 1576 at Howth Castle to ask for provisions. The lords told her no, they were dining and did not want to be disturbed.

In response O'Malley attacked the castle, kidnapped the heir and, in order to release him, made him promise that an extra plate would be set out each day in case any guests came unannounced. Today the castle keeps the promise - why not go and check it out?

9. Ardgillan Castle: a natural setting

Ardgillan Castle| ©Vasiok1
Ardgillan Castle| ©Vasiok1

Ardgillan Castle is a large country house located just an hour from Dublin. It is in one of the County Regional Parks, so be prepared for lots of nature and incredible views.

You'll be able to see the first floor rooms and kitchens, which are also open to the public. You'll be amazed by the Victorian-style décor, plus you'll be able to see the temporary and permanent exhibits.

The good thing is that you can also go down to the basement of the castle, where the service quarters were. Of course, you can't miss the exteriors.

  • Highlights: its impressive garden, from where you can see much better the architecture of the building.
  • Entrance fee: 12€.

10. Kilkea Castle: a royal hotel

Kilkea Castle| ©Camila
Kilkea Castle| ©Camila

Your visit to Kilkea Castle can become a stay. That's right, this place, which was built in the Middle Ages by the Earls of Kildare, is today a luxury hotel. It is clear that spending a night there is not always an option because of the price, but you can get closer to walk around its more than 180 hectares.

During your visit (or your stay) you will be accompanied by "Bluebells", typical trees from there. If you travel to Dublin in spring, you will be lucky to see them bloom with their tiny lilac bells.

The curious thing about Kilkea is that it is one of the few inhabited castles in Ireland, and that has been standing since 1180. It was built by Hugh de Lacy for Walter de Riddlesford, a Norman nobleman. This man played a key role in the invasion of Ireland by the Normans.

  • Highlights: its exteriors.
  • Entrance fee: approximately 145€ for the stay.

Tips for visiting the castles of Dublin

Castle and gardens| ©William Murphy
Castle and gardens| ©William Murphy

Have you already chosen the castle (or castles) you are going to visit? Each one has its charm and, depending on your interests or availability, there will be some that will catch your attention more. Whether you end up going to one or several, I want to share with you some tips for your visits.

  • Book tickets in advance: Dublin is famous for having many castles, so there are usually quite a lot of visitors (especially in high season) and sometimes, due to the historical or even private nature of some of them, the capacity is restricted.
  • Check the openinghours: not only the opening hours, but also the times when there are visits and the castles are open. Occasionally, due to maintenance work, some fortresses are not available to the public. In general, all this information can be consulted on the Heritage Ireland website.
  • Try to go in spring or summer: there is no bad time to visit the castles of Dublin, but it is true that most of them have beautiful exteriors that are best enjoyed in good weather.