Dotted across the Irish landscape are tens of thousands of castles. The oldest castle in Ireland dates back to the 11th century and whilst some of these castles are ruins, many have been lovingly restored and preserved. So if you are into towers and turrets and tales of history and heroes, here are five castles close to Dublin that you can visit on a day trip.
Leixlip Castle – Co Kildare – 24km – 40 minute drive
The Normans first landed in Ireland in 1167, but the main forces didn’t begin arriving until 1169. Soon after that, in 1172, a Norman coloniser named Adam de Hereford built Leixlip Castle.
Leixlip Castle is located in the heart of Leixlip village, which was established by the Vikings. So, as you can imagine, this area is full of history.
The Castle is well-preserved and visitors can view The Front Hall, which has a 17th century Brussels tapestry depicting Theodotus offering the head of Pompey to Caesar. You can also wander through the dining room and admire the Chippendale Chairs and Bavarian tapestries. If you head into the Drawing Room you’ll also get to see the delightful Dolls House which dates back to the 18th century, which originally came from Newbridge House.
Leixlip Castle can easily be visited as a day trip from Dublin as it is less than an hour away by car.
Maynooth Castle – Co Kildare – 27km – 50-minute drive
Maynooth Castle is a great stone castle located in the heart of Maynooth Village. For those looking for a fairytale-style castle, this may not be for you as Maynooth Castle lies in ruin but it is still worth a visit, especially as it is so close to Dublin and you can do it as a day trip or part of a tour.
Maynooth Castle was founded in the early 13th century. The original Keep was constructed around 1203 and was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. The castle was the main residence of the FitzGerald’s of Kildare, one of the most powerful families in Ireland.
In the year 2000, a programme of restoration began and now there is an exhibition in the Keep on the history of the castle and the family. Visitors can get a guided tour of the Keep. The picturesque castle grounds are open to the public all year round and the Keep is open from the end of May till September.
Trim Castle – Co Meath – 50km – 1-hour drive
Trim Castle is the big daddy. It is the largest Norman castle in Ireland. It is also one of the most important Norman military constructions in the country.
Located on the historic River Boyne in Co Meath, Trim Castle is an easy day trip from Dublin as it is just an hour away by car.
Built in 1172, Trim Castle is one of the best-preserved castles in Ireland, so if you are after a traditional castle experience, then this is the place to visit.
Fans of Braveheart will recognise Trim Castle from the film and it was also used in the 1980 Lee Marvin movie, The Big Red One. This means it is perfectly acceptable to yell “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” as you storm the Keep.
If you want to access the three-storied Keep you need to take a guided tour but you can visit the castle grounds without a tour. However, if you want to learn more about the castle and its history, you can take a guided tour of the grounds with a member of the Trim Living History community group.
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Tyrrellspass Castle – Co Westmeath – 93km – 1 hour 20 minutes drive
The Tyrells were a powerful family who arrived in Ireland at the time of the Norman invasion and Tyrrellspass Castle is the last remaining castle of the Tyrell family.
Located in Tyrrellspass in Co Westmeath, the castle dates back to around 1411 and throughout the centuries the castle occupants had to defend themselves against many bloody invasions. So if castles with gory pasts and battle scars are your thing, this is the place for you.
However, the castle is no longer a stronghold for rich and powerful families, nowadays it is a restaurant for thirsty and hungry families. That’s right, you can dine inside a real-life Irish castle and enjoy some home-made Irish cuisine. The restaurant also holds medieval banquets so you can dine like a Lord or Lady of the castle. Let’s just hope there are no invasions before dessert arrives.
Charleville Castle – Co Offaly – 106km – 1 hour 40 minutes drive
If you are looking for a more traditional-style castle, one with turrets, towers and creeping ivy, Charleville Castle ticks all those castle goals. As a bonus, it is rumoured to be haunted. What more could you want?
Charleville Castle is located near to Tullamore (famous for its whiskey) in Co Offaly, and being just 100km from Dublin City centre it is easily visited as a day trip or part of a tour.
Built in the early 19th century it is a fine (if not the finest) example of Neo-gothic architecture in Ireland. Inside there are two grand oak staircases and ornate plaster ceilings and marble fireplaces. Each room that you walk through is grander than the last and you really get a feel for what life must have been like for the families who lived and entertained here. Wait till you see The Ballroom, you can almost hear the music playing and giant, silk dresses rustling across the large oak dance floor.
As you look up at the staircases though, look out for Harriet, the youngest Daugherty of the third Earl of Charleville. She died sliding down the bannister. Harriet, with her golden curls, is known to hang out by the staircase. Sometimes you can even hear her singing around the castle.
Because of this, there has been plenty of interest in the paranormal activity of the castle and many film crews have come to Charleville Castle to try and capture the things that go bump in the night.
If you are interested in visiting any of these five castles close to Dublin as a day trip or part of a tour, Wild Rover Tours will happily help you plan a bespoke itinerary.