Although the building of castles began in earnest in England during the 11th century, it didn’t begin in Ireland until the 12th century.
Ireland was ruled by native kings until the 12th century who made use of simpler fortifications that were quite different from the castles later built.
Normans invaded Ireland at the beginning of the last quarter of the 12th century and they established castles as they expanded their reign of control.
Most of the castles built in Ireland during the medieval ages were built by Norman barons and lords, with local lords rarely constructing castles of their own.
Huntington Castle is located in County Carlow. It was originally constructed as a garrison fortification comprising of a tower house to be used by the Caviness clan. It was later used as a strong and strategic point of defense during the Plantation.
When royalist forces took a stand in Ireland and Oliver Cromwell marched on the country, Huntington Castle was among the ones captured by Cromwellian troops. The castle is particularly noted for its beautiful gardens, originally laid out in the 17th century.
Today, the castle is in private ownership and is open to visitors during part of the year.
Bunratty Castle is located in County Clare. It was constructed in the 15th century in the style of a tower house. Some historical evidence exists that suggests the presence of previous fortifications at the site of the castle, such as a motte and bailey castle constructed in the 12th century.
The Bunratty Castle, as it stands today, was built in 1425 and was the seat of the O’Briens clan. Confederates took control of the castle during the 17th-century Irish Rebellion. It later became a barracks for the Irish Royal Constabulary in the 19th century.
Today, the castle is open to tourists and hosts an open-air museum.
Cloughoughter Castle is located in County Cavan, on a small island. The construction of the castle began in the 13th century after the Normans had gained control of the area. However, the O’Reilly clan took control of the region and the castle in 1233 and completed the castle.
The castle remained in the control of the O’Reilly clan for centuries, serving as prisoners for some high-profile personalities during the Irish Rebellion in the 17th century. The castle was heavily bombarded and captured when Cromwellian troops marched into Ireland.
It lay in ruins until preservation efforts were launched in the late 20th century.
Carrigaholt Castle is located in County Clare. It was constructed in 1480 by the McMahon clan. The castle’s structure is notable for its height, comprising a five-story building. The castle passed through many hands over the course of history.
From McMahon’s control, it was captured by Earl of Thomond in the 16th century, later owned by his brother and passed on in the Earl’s family for centuries.
It was finally abandoned in the 19th century and is today a popular tourist attraction, although little of the glory of the original structure remains.
Doonagore Castle is located in County Clare. Originally, a stone castle was built at the site of the present castle in the 14th century. The present-day structure is dated to the 16th century and is comprised of tall tower houses flanked by a walled enclosure.
This structure was constructed by the O’Briens who soon lost its control to Clancys. The castle fell into repair, and was restored sometime in the 19th century but fell into disuse and ruin by the end of the century.
In the late 20th century, the castle was restored and today it is owned privately.
Dromore Castle is located in County Clare. It was constructed in the 16th century. It underwent significant reconstruction and expansion in the 17th century when it came under the control of the O’Brien clan. It was later granted to the Earl of Thomond and later returned to the ownership of O’Briens.
The castle was finally left by the O’Brien clan in the 17th century and reached a state of ruin and neglect in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle first became the seat of the Crowe family.
Today, the castle and the surrounding area are under the National Parks and Wildlife Service office.
The Knappogue Castle was originally built in 1467 by the MacNamara clan. The structure of the castle comprises of a tower house. During the Confederate Wars, the castle remained in MacNamara’s hands but later during the Cromwellian conquest, its control was taken over by Cromwellian troops, later to be granted to a Cromwell support.
The MacNamaras returned to the ownership of the castle in the late 17th century. The castle was an important point of an organization during the 20th century War of Independence. It was later purchased and restored by an American family.
Today, a part of the castle is under the control of the Irish government and is open to visitors.
The O’Dea Castle is located in County Clare, near Corofin. It was originally constructed in the latter part of the 15th century by Diarmaid O’Dea. The stand-out architectural feature of the castle, which comprises a tower house, is its sheer height. The tower house rises to a height of 50 feet.
Its control was taken away by the Earl of Ormond in the 16th century but a few years later, the O’Dea was able to recover it. The O’Dea owners supported the Confederate forces during the Confederate Wars but later, the family supported the cause of James II and lost control of the territory along with the castle.
The castle fell into ruin in the 18th century but underwent significant restoration in the 1970s.
Today, the castle is the site of a museum showcasing ancient archaeological artefacts and other exhibits from the recent history of the area
Belvelly Castle is located in County Cork and was originally constructed sometime in the 14th or 15th century. The original castle was built by the Norman nobility but soon passed to the hands of the De Barra family by the end of the 14th century.
Some historical sources claim that the castle was briefly owned by Sir Walter Raleigh. During the 17th century, the castle was used as a garrison by the Earl of Orrery during the Irish Confederate Wars. It fell into ruin in the 18th century but was restored by the Irish army during the 1940s.
Today, most of the original structure of the castle is extant and open to visitors.