The castle gems of the Emerald Isle

Ancient grey castles set in stunning verdant countryside are one of the quintessential images of Ireland. Rugged, impregnable edifices that witnessed legendary battles long ago, safe keepers of dreadful or romantic secrets, homes to pirates and ghosts... the memories of great events in the history of the country are engraved on their stones.

From Cork to Antrim, from Mayo to Offaly, practically every Irish county boasts its castle, and the country is dotted with these great monuments. Whether you choose to go visiting the romantic ruins of ancient fortresses, or stay in one of those that has been transformed into a luxury five-star hotel, the castles of Ireland pay tribute to the country and the people of the past. Get ready to plan your next getaway: our photo gallery includes some of the most spectacular castles Ireland has to offer, and we're sure you'll be tempted.

Use the left and right arrow keys to view the images

Rock of Cashel, Ireland
Once the seat of the kings of Munster, the Rock of Cashel boasts a long and honourable heritage and the site includes Romanesque and Gothic buildings  / © Tourism of Ireland / Abbie Trayler-Smith 

Blarney Castle, Ireland
The fifteenth century Blarney Castle is home to the world-famous Blarney Stone, and is one of Ireland's most popular tourist attractions / © Tourism of Ireland 

Castlewellan Castle, Ireland
The stately castle at Castlewellan in County Down is now a conference centre / © Tourism of Ireland / Brian Morrison 

Ross Castle, Ireland
Ross Castle, the ancestral home of the O'Donoghue clan, is on the banks of Lough Leane – the lake beneath which legends tells us lies the land of eternal youth – in Killarney National Park, County Kerry / © Tourism of Ireland 

Dunluce Castle, Ireland
In County Antrim, the picturesque ruins of Dunluce Castle – from the Irish for 'strong fort' – are surrounded by steep cliffs, making it a perfect defensive location / © Tourism of Ireland / Chris Hill 

Rock of Cashel, Ireland
The Rock of Cashel, in County Tipperary, is set high on a limestone outcrop above the town of Cashel / © Tourism of Ireland / Chris Hill 

Johnstown Castle, Ireland
The Victorian Johnstown Castle is a more modern arrival on the scene, although it is located near Wexford, a town that has played significant role in Irish history / © Tourism of Ireland / Chris Hill 

Kilkenny Castle, Ireland
Kilkenny Castle dates from the twelfth century but was remodelled in Victorian times / © Tourism of Ireland / Chris Hill 

Kylemore Abbey, Ireland
The Neo-gothic Kylemore Abbey, located in Connemara, County Galway, is one of the main attractions in the west of Ireland / © Tourism of Ireland / Holger Leue 

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland
In the heart of Connemara, Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is now a deluxe hotel set in a forest of 450 hectares and overlooking the famous fishing waters of the Ballynahinch River/ © Tourism of Ireland / Manor House Hotels 

Doonagore Castle, Ireland
The privately-owned sixteenth century round tower-house of Doonagore Castle is set in a small walled enclosure near the coastal town of Doolin in County Clare / © Tourism of Ireland 

Glendalough, Ireland
The Round Tower, a spectacularly graceful spire, is the most well-known landmark among the extensive ruins of Glendalough, famous for its associations with the sixth century St Kevin / © Tourism of Ireland.