Places to visit: Castles

Ardgillan Castle

Ardgillan Castle

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

Ardgillan is a large 18th Century country manor house (1738) built in extensive grounds overlooking the Irish Sea. The demesne features a walled garden and a rose garden. Within the house, the ground floor rooms and the kitchens are open to visitors (guided tour only).

Ardgillan Park is unique among Dublin’s regional parks for the magnificent views it enjoys of the coastline. A panorama, taking in Rockabill Lighthouse, Colt Church, Shenick and Lambay Islands may be seen, including Sliabh Foy, the highest of the Cooley Mountains, and the Mourne Mountains can be seen sweeping down to the sea.

Ardgillan Castle is open all year round. Access to the castle is by guided tour only. Tours are available on demand. The team of tour guides is experienced, with a great knowledge and understanding of the castle and its family occupants, The Taylors.

The Ardgillan Castle tour is approximately one hour long. Many periods of social history are brought to life with the focus firmly on the family who once lived in the castle. Visitors get the chance to explore the castle and enjoy the same atmosphere that the Taylors experienced from 1738, when the castle was built right up to 1962, when it was eventually sold.

The park area is the property of Fingal County Council and was opened to the public as a regional park in 1985. What was an arable farm was transformed  into a public park. Five miles of footpaths were provided throughout the demesne, some by opening old avenues, while others were newly constructed. They now provide a system of varied and interesting woodland, walks and vantage points from which to enjoy breath-taking views of the sea, the coastline and surrounding countryside. A sign-posted cycle route through the park means that cyclists can share the miles of walking paths with pedestrians.

Castle tours are available again post-pandemic. Please call 01 849 2212 to check availability. Castle Tour Times: Daily 11.00 am, 1.00 pm & 3.00 pm.

Ardgillan is tricky to find: it is 20 miles from the city centre near Balbriggan.

To see opening times of the park, gardens and house, please click here.

Admission to all the gardens is free. Guided tours of the Gardens are available for groups on a pre-booked basis.

Tel: 01 8492212

House tour:  Adults €5; concessions

Dalkey Castle

Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

Dalkey Castle is one of the seven fortified town houses/castles of Dalkey. The castles  were built to store goods off-loaded in Dalkey during the Middle Ages, when Dalkey acted as the port for Dublin. From the mid-1300s to the late 1500s, large Anglo-Norman ships could not access Dublin, as the river Liffey was silted up. But they could anchor safely in the deep waters of Dalkey Sound. The castles all had defensive features to protect goods from being plundered. These are all still visible on the site.

On site you will find a medieval castle/fortified townhouse, an early Christian Church, a state of the art Heritage Centre, and a Writers’ Gallery with portraits and interactive screens featuring the work of 45 writers and creative artists. Climb to the battlements for panoramic views of sea and mountains. Enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the early Christian Church and Graveyard, dedicated to Saint Begnet. Browse the interactive time line from early Christian through Viking, Medieval, Victorian and modern times.

Guided living history tours – Professional actors bring history to life with a fun theatre performance as part of the guided tour. Travel back in time and be enthralled by the work of the Archer, the Cook and the travelling Barber-Surgeon. Actors from Deilg Inis Living History Theatre Company involve you in their lives, their work and their stories. It is wise to book the tour in advance online (Adults €13.95; concessions). Entry to the Heritage Centre is included in the guided tour price.

Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 10.00 am-5.30 pm [Closed Tuesdays]
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 11.00 am-5.30 pm
June, July & August: Mon–Fri 10.00 am -18.00 pm [Closed Tuesdays]
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 11.00 am – 18.00 pm

See the Centre’s website for details of other events such as guided literary walks and low season offerings.

Tel: 01 285 8366.

Castle Street, Dalkey, Co. Dublin.

Adults €13.95; concessions.

Drimnagh Castle

Drimnagh Castle

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

This feudal stronghold is the only remaining castle in Ireland surrounded by a flooded moat. You can visit the restored great hall, the battlement tower, the stable, the coach house, and the formal 17th Century  gardens.

Open Mon-Thur 9.00 am-4.00 pm (tours on the hour every hour, last tour at 3 pm) ; Fri 9.00 am-12.30 pm (last tour at 11.00 am). Weekends by appointment.

Long Mile Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12.

Tel: 01 450 2530.

Adults €6; concessions. Cash only. Book by email in advance (

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

Dublin Castle operated in the past (for 700 years) as a military fortress, a prison, a treasury, the courts of law and the seat of English administration in Ireland.

The State Apartments dominate the south range of the Great Courtyard. They were built as the residential and public quarters of the Viceregal Court and were the seat of the executive and focus of fashionable and extravagant social life. Today the Apartments are the venue for Ireland’s Presidencies of the European Union, for Presidential inaugurations and for prestigious functions.

The Undercroft is sited at lower ground floor level in the Lower Castle Yard, opposite the Chapel Royal. The city walls join the Castle at this point. Here, the archway allowed small feeder boats to land provisions at the postern gate, from larger boats moored on the Liffey. The double archway and postern gate are still visible. Also on view here is the Viking defence bank, within the butt of the Norman Powder Tower. The original Tower was five stories high – the top storey being occupied by the Lord Deputy during the 16th century.

The Chapel Royal is a gothic revival building designed by Francis Johnston. It is famous for its vaulting, its particularly fine plaster decoration and carved oaks and galleries. Admission to the Chapel Royal is free.

A guided tour of the State Apartments, the medieval undercroft and the Chapel Royal is available (Adults €12 for a  guided tour or €8 for a self-guided visit; concessions). The tour is about 60 minutes long.

The State Apartments, the Undercroft and the Chapel Royal are open seven days a week from 9.45 am to 5.45 pm (last admission 5.15 pm).

Also on this site, in the Revenue Museum one can experience a unique window on the many and varied activities of the Revenue Commissioners, from tax collection to customs controls, over several centuries. In addition to exhibits old and new, the Museum (located in the Crypt of the Chapel Royal) contains audio-visual displays and instructive video games. See if you can find hidden contraband or guess the parts of a house that were subject to tax in days gone by.

Among the many exhibits are the first set of Exchequer Returns for Saorstát Éireann, a poitín still, a stamp duty machine, examples of counterfeit goods and endangered species seized at ports and airports, early computer technology, and a wide range of beautiful measuring instruments. All of these are housed in the atmospheric crypt of the Chapel Royal. Open on weekdays from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. Admission free. For more information about the Revenue Museum, phone: (01) 8635 601.

The Garda Museum and Archives are located at the Treasury Building, Dublin Castle. Here visitors will find an interesting exhibition about the history of An Garda Síochána and information on policing in Ireland before 1922.   The museum exhibits include photographs and documents outlining the history and development of policing in Ireland in the 19th/20th centuries.  The Museum is open to the public Monday to Friday from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm. Admission is free (phone 01-6669998).

All attractions on this site are closed Good Friday,  25-27 December & 1 January.

Dame Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01-645 8813

Malahide Castle

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

Malahide Castle is one of Ireland’s oldest castles dating back to the 12th Century. Set on 260 acres, the castle has been home to the Talbot family for over 800 years. The guided tour allows one to get a feel for the history of the house, and to admire the period furniture and an extensive collection of Irish portrait paintings.

Malahide Castle was built by the Talbots, an English family holding the title Earls of Shrewsbury. Richard Talbot arrived in Ireland in 1174, and in 1185 he was granted the lands and harbour of Malahide by Henry II for his “war-like” services in the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland. With the exception of a short time during the Cromwellian period, the Talbot family resided in Malahide for the next eight centuries.

The Talbots are reputed to have been a diplomatic family, carefully manoeuvring between the authority of church and state. During the eight centuries between 1185 and the 1970s, their tenure at Malahide Castle was only broken for a brief interlude between 1649 and 1660 when their lands were seized by Cromwellian soldiers.

Although the Talbots had taken the Jacobite side, their land holdings were not confiscated after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Fourteen members of the Talbot family, who had breakfasted together on the morning of the battle in the Great Hall of Malahide Castle, died on the battlefield.

The Talbots left an extraordinary legacy in Malahide and beyond. Among the family members were noted statesmen, churchmen and scholars and one great member of the family, Sir John Talbot, was immortalized in Shakespeare’s play ‘Henry VI’. Thirty individual Talbots had their seat at Malahide, from the first Lord Richard Talbot to Lord Milo Talbot, the 7th Baron, who died in 1973.

In 1975, Rose Talbot sold the castle to the Irish State, partly to fund inheritance taxes. Many of the contents had been sold in advance, leading to considerable public controversy, but private and governmental parties were able to retrieve some. Rose died in Tasmania in 2009.

The ornamental gardens adjoining the castle cover an area of about 22 acres and were largely created by Lord Milo Talbot, an enthusiastic plant collector who brought specimens from around the world to create the gardens here. In all, there are in excess of 5000 different species and varieties of plants present.  

The extensive system of pedestrian paths throughout the estate are perfect for walking and exploring the picturesque tree-lined park.

Open 7 days 9.30 am–5.30 pm
Last guided tours of castle at 4.30 pm Apr-Oct, 3.30 pm Nov-March

Closed 24-26 Dec.

Malahide, Co. Dublin.

Tel: 061-711 222

Adults €14; concessions.

Rathfarnham Castle

Rathfarnham Castle

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

Dating back to the Elizabethan period, Rathfarnham Castle is a fine example of an Irish fortified house. Dating back to the Elizabethan period, the building houses the Berkeley Costume and Toy Collection of 18th and 19th Century toys, dolls and costumes.

The castle was built for Archbishop Adam Loftus, an ambitious Yorkshire clergyman, who came to Ireland as chaplain to the Lord Deputy and quickly rose to become Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Chancellor of Ireland and was closely involved in the establishment of Trinity College. The castle with its four flanker towers is an excellent example of the fortified house in Ireland. In the late 18th century, the house was remodelled on a splendid scale employing some of the finest architects of the day including Sir William Chambers and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart. The collection includes family portraits by Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807), Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), and Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808).

The Castle and Tearooms re-opened in October 2015 after major improvement works designed to significantly upgrade access to the principal floors of the Castle. In general, the rooms are fairly bare so the Castle is more an interesting look at a major restoration project in progress than a detailed finished product.

Open May-Sept: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm daily (last admission 4.45 pm)
Oct-Apr: Wed to Sun and Bank Holiday Mondays 10.30 am – 5.00 pm (last admission 4.15 pm)
Closed 24-27 Dec. Open 28-30 Dec.
Closed 31 Dec & New Year’s Day.

Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Tel: 01 493 9462.

€5 Adults; concessions. Free admission on the first Wednesday of every month. Guided tours are available throughout the day. You can also tour the house without a guide.


Dunsany Castle

Dunsany Castle

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel. 

Dunsany Castle is situated in the townland of Dunsany, between Trim and Dunshaughlin. The Castle was established as a towered fortification of the Norman Pale in the period 1180 – 1200; construction is believed to have begun in 1180/1181. The Castle was built for a key Norman warlord, Hugh de Lacy, whose chief seat was at Trim. Parts of the original building still stand – the huge foundations and the four main towers form a key part of the current structure. Much additional work has been performed over the years, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the current Castle is more than three times the size of the original.

The Plunkett connection began with the knight Sir Christopher Plunkett (Deputy Governor of Ireland in 1432), who had come into the lands in the area through marriage in the early 1400s. The Castle is the longest occupied home and one of the oldest continuously inhabited buildings in Ireland.

The Castle is entered through a large lobby with a finely worked ceiling, which opens into the central hallway, featuring the principal stairway and a vaulted ceiling. On the ground floor are a fine dining room, featuring portraits of past family members from over the centuries, and a substantial, well-proportioned billiards room while up the stairs are the library and drawing-room. The bright and airy drawing-room has Stapleton plasterwork from 1780.

The unique library, which may have been worked on by James Shiel, is one of the star features of Dunsany. Displaying a form of the “Gothic Revival” style, it has a wonderful “beehive” ceiling from the early 19th century and grained Gothic decoration. There is a fine collection of books from across the centuries, including material by the writer Lord Dunsany and the writing table at which he (and others, such as the poet Francis Ledwidge) worked. Other features include a winding secondary stairway (where a “priest’s hole” formerly existed) and an old vaulted hall, built from the original 12th century kitchen and now displaying part of the Dunsany Home Collection.

As with many land holdings, much of the estate of Dunsany was transferred to tenants under Ireland’s unique Land Acts. The Demesne of the residual Dunsany Estate features farmland, park and woodland, surrounded by a Famine wall (a project to provide work for the destitute during Ireland’s terrible potato famine) with three major entrances.

The current main gateway has the appearance of a Gothic ruin but is a later “sham”, concealing a residential gatehouse; it faces the ancient Dunsany Cross, a pilgrim cross on one of the long-distance walks for the devout. The Castle is fronted by a lawn. At the back of the demesne runs the River Skane, a tributary of the Boyne. Also within the grounds are enclosed yards (farm and stables), a fine walled garden, an ice-house and wells.

The fine Church of St. Nicholas (of Myra), locally known as “the Abbey”, and built on the site of an earlier building, was commenced in the 1440s and holds tombs of family members and local residents. It is a substantial building and the walls still stand solidly, although the roof is long gone. Within are the remnants of lofts and living spaces. There are also some of the best medieval carvings surviving in Ireland, notably on the baptismal font, and a fine carved 15th century tomb (with effigies of a knight and his lady, either the first or second Lord Dunsany and his wife).

The family, headed by the 20th Lord, Edward Plunkett, and his wife, Maria Alice de Marsillac Plunkett, still live at Dunsany. They retain a fine collection of heirlooms, including an enamelled silver mug presented by Elizabeth I and the watch and cross of St. Oliver Plunkett, and some beautiful works of art, notably paintings and porcelain, though for security reasons some are no longer held at the Castle.

The Lonely Planet Guide comments – “A guided tour takes almost two hours and offers a fascinating insight into the family history as well as that of the castle. It remains a family home, and maintenance and restoration are ongoing, so opening hours vary and different rooms are open to visitors at different times – call for details”.

The Castle is the ancestral home of the Lords of Dunsany, heads of the Plunkett family, since the 1400’s. The family still live in the Castle, which holds a private collection of paintings, ceramics and furniture. Dunsany Castle also has a fine demesne, featuring the Abbey (1440). The family has opened the Dunsany Home Collection Boutique in the Castle, which stocks an important collection of unique tableware, linen and other special housewares & gifts, as well as books by Lord Dunsany (1878-1957)

Open for tours by appointment during the summer months from 24th June to 22nd August. 10:00 am to 2:00 pm daily.

Dunsany House, Dunsany, Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath

Tel: 046-9025169

Admission: Adults €25, concessions. Advance booking is essential. Please email: office @


Maynooth Castle

Maynooth Castle

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel. 

Maynooth Castle is a great stone castle founded in the early 13th Century. It was the principal residence of the Kildare branch of the FitzGeralds who at the time extended their land holdings and influence, emerging as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Maynooth Castle was one of the country’s largest and richest houses.

Garret Mór governed Ireland in the name of the King of England from 1487 – 1513 and under his son, Garret Og the 9th Earl, the Castle became the centre of political power and culture. The original Keep, constructed around 1203, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. The castle was remodelled in the 17th Century when the main focus shifted from the original Keep to the buildings in the east of the grounds.

Maynooth Castle was vested in the State in 1991 and a programme of restoration commenced in February 2000. There is an exhibition in the Keep on the history of the castle and the family. Access to the keep is by guided tour only.

Noted for its friendly staff, there are unfortunately no restaurant facilities on site. However, many fine coffee shops are available close by in Maynooth Village, a mere five minutes’ walk from the Castle.

Open every day May 12-Sept 28 from 10.00 am-5.45 pm.

Maynooth Village, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

Tel: 01-628 6744

Admission free

Slane Castle

Slane Castle

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel. 

Slane Castle is an impressive historic building, the work of famous architects James Gandon, James Wyatt & Francis Johnston. The parklands were laid out by Capability Brown. King George IV stayed here in 1821. U2 recorded “The Unforgettable Fire” here in 1984. Slane has been in the same family’s hands since 1701. It was lovingly restored after a devastating fire in 1991 and became a famed venue for open air rock concerts.

Guided tours:
Check tour availability on the Slane Castle website (              tours/castle-tours/). When you click on the “Book a Tour” link, all the available tour dates and times are revealed. Currently, tours are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 10.30 am, 12.30 p.m and 2.30 pm. Depending on the time of year, there can be up to  six daily tours. Be sure to book on the website before travelling (tour dates can be cancelled due to weddings or other events). Castle Tour tickets include admission to the new Walking Trail.

Slane, Co. Meath.

Tel: 041 982 0643.

Adults €14; concessions. [Private tours (minimum 6 persons, €24 per person) can be booked separately].