In Ireland’s Ancient East there’s a castle around every corner, some in ruins, some perfectly preserved and many others now offering luxury hotel accommodation. Here’s a guide to the top 10:
1. Trim Castle, County Meath
The largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, Trim Castle is over 800 years old and has an unusual three-storey keep with 20 corners. It was used as a location in the movie Braveheart.
2. Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle, another impressive Norman bastion, boasts majestic halls and extensive parklands. Over the centuries it has been extended and rebuilt resulting in a complex structure of various architectural styles.
3. Blarney Castle, County Cork
Most famous for being the home of the Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle has a lot more to explore. The gorgeous grounds, the enchanted rock close, the badger’s cave, the witch stone and the wishing steps are all part of the magic of this castle.
4. Lismore Castle, County Waterford
Dating from 1170, Lismore is a privately owned castle offering luxury accommodation on an exclusive hire basis. It is an exceptional Irish destination, somewhere where you can make your own magic.
5. Castle Leslie Estate, County Monaghan
Set in 1,000 acres of lush countryside dotted with ancient woodland, Castle Leslie hotel offers unusual and enchanting accommodation, authentic castle interiors and old world grandeur.
6. Huntington Castle, County Carlow
Still lived in by descendants of the original builders, a guided tour of this fascinating castle takes just half an hour and brings its history and stories of its occupants to life. The gardens are full of impressive formal plantings and layouts.
7. Birr Castle, County Offaly
The castle itself is not open to the public but it is worth a visit to see the Science Centre housed in the stables and the Great Telescope built in the 1840s, which was the largest telescope in the world at the time.
8. Killeen Castle, County Meath
The history of Killeen Castle dates back to 1181 when it was built by Hugh de Lacy. In the early 19th century it was modernised creating the design for the building which stands today at the heart of the magnificent estate famous for its Jack Nicklaus signature golf course.
9. Slane Castle, County Meath
With the backdrop of the River Boyne and the surrounding parkland, Slane is as famous as a venue for superb outdoor rock concerts as it is a castle. Set in the middle of a 1,500 acre estate in the heart of the Boyne Valley, it’s well worth a visit.
10. Castle Roche, County Louth
The remains of the 13th-century Castle Roche stand on a rocky outcrop from where impressive views of the countryside can be enjoyed. It is reported to be haunted.