The breathtaking structures that are spread throughout the island were built by the Normans in the 13th century. Although castles are associated with royalty and fairytales, these castles were built as protection against rival families or invaders. Their walls could be up to ten feet thick and eighty feet high. Blarney Castle in County Cork (pictured below), one of the most popular attractions in the country, stands at around 88 feet tall. These fortresses were not only constructed to be thick and tall; they overtook miles upon miles of land. Trim Castle in County Meath occupies seven acres, Killea Castle in Kildare sprawls over 180 acres, and Malahide Castle in Dublin city’s suburbs has an enormous area of 260 acres.
Ireland’s castles aren’t just impressive in terms of scale. Each has a unique story, adding layers to Ireland’s rich history. Rock of Cashel in Tipperary, for instance, is where St. Patrick baptized King Aengus of Munster in the 5th century, making him Ireland’s first Christian ruler. Leap Castle in County Offaly (pictured below) is thought to be the most haunted castle in Ireland. A woman holding a dagger known as the ‘Red Lady’ has been seen roaming the castle, and the ghosts of little Charlotte and Emily can be found running up and down the spiral staircase.
King John’s Castle in Limerick City is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Europe and was considered the most secure fortress in Ireland, bringing prosperity to Limerick under Norman rule. It has undergone much damage and restoration over the centuries, though the walls suffered damage during the Siege of Limerick in 1642 when Irish Confederates tried to reclaim the castle from British rule. Nowadays visitors can experience a newly refurbished visitor centre, interactive exhibitions and a cafe with a gorgeous view of the courtyard and the River Shannon.
McDermott’s Castle in County Roscommon is a true wonder. Nestled into Lough Key, this medieval castle is actually located on its own island. Visitors can take a boat ride to explore this enchanting castle, which has been designated as a National Monument.
Nowadays many of these beautiful buildings have been converted to luxury five-star resorts and hotels. These venues make the perfect locations for a dream wedding. Paul McCartney married Heather Mills in Castle Leslie, County Monaghan (pictured below, left) in a lavish ceremony. Irish singing legend Enya lives in the stunning Manderley (pictured below, right), formerly Victoria Castle, built in 1840 to commemorate Queen Victoria's accession to the throne.
We can see why Ireland has been called the Isle of Castles. With so many littered around the island, the castles in Ireland form a rich and integral part of our history. From day trips to see beautiful grounds, to tours with lively history, to five-star hotels and spas, there is an experience of Irish castles for everyone.