We have compiled a list of 8 Castles that are on our must-see list of Medieval Castles in Ireland!
Until the 12th century, castles in Ireland were not a common sight. The Anglo-Saxon nobility still ruled in Ireland, despite the Norman Conquest in neighboring England, and the nobles of this aristocracy generally built fortifications quite different from Norman castles.
By the last quarter of the 12th century, the Normans had launched a large-scale expansion of their dominion into Ireland.
To fully subdue the Irish nobility and cement Norman control over Ireland, the Norman barons and lords built frequent castles all over Ireland.
It was during this early period of the Norman Conquest that most of the iconic castles in Ireland were built.
The original construction of the Cloughoughter Castle began after the Norman Conquest of Ireland. The structure was started in the 13th century under Norman control, but before it could be completed, the control of the castle fell to the O’Reilly clan.
The clan then had the castle completed and it remained in its possession for several subsequent centuries. During the Cromwellian era, the castle sided with the royalist cause.
As a result, it was heavily bombarded by the Cromwellian troops and finally succumbed to the attack.
Due to this bombardment, the medieval structure of the castle underwent significant damage. It has been restored since and is well-preserved today, being a popular tourist site in County Cavan.
The Doonagore castle was originally built as a stone structure dating back to the 14th century. In the 16th century, most of this original structure was replaced with new constructions which included a huge enclosure wall lined with numerous towers.
The 16th-century construction of the castle was done by the O’Briens clan but the clan soon lost its control to the Clancys. Located in County Clare, the castle underwent nearly a century of abandonment and decline before it was finally restored and preserved in the 20th century.
Today, the castle is open to visitors and is a popular attraction in the county.
The O’Dea castle was constructed by Diarmaid O’Dea in the 15th century. It supported an unusual architecture for its time, hosting a huge tower that rose to the height of 50 feet. The O’Dea clan lost control of the castle briefly in the 16th century but regained it soon after.
During the time of James II, the O’Dea clan decided to support the James II cause, and with James’ failure, the family also lost the castle and the territory. The castle lay in ruins for nearly two centuries but then underwent significant restoration in the late 20th century.
Most of the original structure of the castle is extant today and is open to visitors.
The Knappogue castle dates back to the 15th century when it was constructed by the MacNamara clan as a tower house with fortifications. The castle sided with the royalist cause during the Cromwellian era. As a consequence, the Cromwellian troops laid siege to it and finally gained control of the castle.
However, it remained only briefly in the hands of Cromwellian authorities and returned back to the MacNamara control in the 17th century. It played an important role during the War of Independence in the 20th century.
Today, the castle is owned by the Irish government and stands well-preserved. It is open to visitors and tourists.
The Carrigaholt castle was constructed in the 15th century by McMahon clan. It is notable for its sheer height and its structure, comprising of a five-story building that served both as a fortification and as the residence of McMahon lords.
The castle passed under the control of the Earl of Thomond in the 16th century. It then remained in the Earl’s family from the 16th to 19th centuries. In the 19th century, the castle was abandoned and it underwent a significant decline.
Today, it is open to visitors but much of the original structure hasn’t been restored due to the extensive damage the castle suffered during the period of abandonment.
The Bunratty castle was constructed in the 15th century in County Clare. On the site of this 15th-century castle, a 12th-century motte-and-bailey castle originally stood which was subsequently replaced.
Although the 12th-century castle is surmised to have been constructed by the Norman lords, the 15th-century castle was built by the O’Briens clan. In the 17th century, the control of the castle fell to the hands of the Confederate forces during the Irish Rebellion.
It never returned to the control of the O’Briens clan again and today stands open to tourists.
The Huntington castle was originally constructed by the Caviness clan. The primary purpose of the castle was to serve as a garrison fortification for the clan. To this end, the original structure was equipped with a tower house. Later, lavish gardens were added to the grounds of the castle in the 17th century.
The castle sided with the royalist cause during the 17th century. When the Cromwellian troops marched into Ireland, it was captured and came into Cromwellian control.
The castle is in the hands of private owners today although it is open to tourists for some months each year.
The Dromore castle was originally constructed in the 16th century in County Clare. The castle passed under the control of the O’Brien clan in the 17th century. The O’Brien clan undertook a large-scale expansion and reconstruction of the castle.
It was under their ownership that most of the present-day architecture of the castle was added. The castle briefly passed to the ownership of the Earl of Thomond but the O’Brien clan soon regained control of it. Later in the 17th century, the castle was abandoned by the O’Brien clan.
It fell into disrepair and ruin, undergoing significant damage until it came into the control of the Crowe family in the 19th century. As a consequence, the castle was restored and came into a well-preserved state.
In the later 20th century, the castle came into the ownership of the Irish government. Today, the castle and its grounds are owned by National Parks and Wildlife Services.