Most beautiful places in Ireland: historical attractions worth a visit
Ireland is a country famous for its rich cultural heritage and unique fairytale atmosphere. There are many beautiful places and historical attractions to be found here, with castles being particularly notable among them. In this article, we will have a look at some of Ireland’s most beautiful castles and historical sites to visit and learn their stories.
List of historical attractions in Ireland
These are just some of the many historical attractions in Ireland that are worth visiting and exploring.
- Muckross House Official Website
Mucross House Castle is a beautiful mansion located in Killarney National Park in County Kerry in south-west Ireland. The house was built in the mid-nineteenth century for the Herbert family, one of Ireland’s wealthiest and most famous families at the time.
In 1861, Queen Victoria visited the castle, making it even more famous and attractive to tourists. However, after the Herbert family’s financial problems, the castle was sold to the Guinness family in 1899. In 1910, the estate became a wedding gift for the daughter of wealthy American William Bourne and her husband Arthur Vincent.
For a long period of time after the transfer of the house and property to the Irish nation, Mucross House Castle became vacant and slowly deteriorated. In the mid-1960s, the estate was restored and opened to the public.
Today, Mucross House Castle is open to the public. In the castle, you can see the original furniture and décor that has been used over the years. There is also a museum dedicated to the history and culture of the region and a botanical garden with unique flora and fauna.
The castle is in a beautiful setting surrounded by a nationally important park where you can spend time outdoors, walk the trails, enjoy the beautiful views and even take a boat trip on the lake for a cup of coffee and delicious cakes on an islet.
Kylemore Abbey in Connemara
Kylemore Abbey is a historic castle and monastery located on the west coast of Ireland, in the Connemara region of County Galway. It is a prime example of Victorian architecture and one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations.
The history of Kylemore Abbey dates back to the 1840s, when Mitchell Henry, a wealthy Irish-born doctor from London, purchased the land on his honeymoon to build a home for his family. He built a castle with 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 reception rooms, a billiard room, library and other rooms, as well as a Gothic church and a family mausoleum.
After a tragedy in the Henry family, the castle was sold to the Duke of Manchester who, after living there for a few years, was forced to sell it due to gambling debts.
In 1920 the building was purchased by the Benedictine community, who have looked after the abbey and gardens ever since. In the same year, the nuns opened a boarding school for girls here, but the institution closed in 2010.
Apart from history, Kylemore Abbey is known for its legends. One of them says that the soul of Mitchell Henry still roams the castle, pining for his beloved.
Today, Kylemore Abbey is a popular tourist destination, attracting thousands of visitors every year. They can enjoy not only the magnificent castle and gardens, but also walks in the surrounding countryside and enjoy the beauty and majesty of Connemara’s natural surroundings.
Kylemore Abbey also has a shop where you can buy handicrafts, souvenirs related to the history of the abbey. There is also a restaurant and café where you can sample local food and drink.
Blarney Castle is two castles on the same site, near the city of Cork, in the county of the same name. One is a former medieval fortress, which later became a castle and Blarney House, which is still home to the Baron Colthurst family.
Although earlier fortifications (dating from 1200) were built on the same site where the old fortress now stands, the present one was built by Irish chieftain Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, 9th Lord of the Muskerry dynasty, the younger branch of the Desmond kings, and dates from 1446.
This castle, once a fortress, has a complicated fate. It was first besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars and captured in 1646 by the English. However, after some time the castle was repossessed by Donough McCarthy, who became the 1st Earl of Clancarty.
During the War of the Two Kings in the 1690s, the 4th Earl of Clancarty was captured and his lands (including Blarney Castle) were confiscated by William III, King of England.
The castle was then sold, changing hands – and finally in the early 18th century it was bought by Sir James Jeffreys, Governor of Cork.
Later members of the Jeffreys family built a family estate next to the 15th century castle. This estate was destroyed by fire and in 1874 a new mansion, known as Blarney House, was built in its place, overlooking the nearby lake. The house was built in the Scottish baronial style.
In the mid-19th century, the Jeffreys and Baron Colthurst families were united by marriage, and the Baron Colthurst family still reside on the estate.
Stone of Eloquence
At the top of the castle is the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that to gain the gift of eloquence you must kiss the stone, and it is positioned so that visitors need to hang upside down.
There are many versions of the stone’s origin, but most agree that it was the Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny or Talking Stone), one of the four treasures of Ireland. Near this stone, Irish kings were crowned in the distant past.
You can also take a stroll through the picturesque park and beautiful gardens, as well as enjoy views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the castle tower. The castle and gardens are open to visitors all year round, except for a few holidays during Christmas and New Year.
Dunluce Castle is located in Northern Ireland, in County Antrim, near the famous Giant’s Causeway.
The history of Dunluce Castle dates back to the 13th century, when the first fortress was built on a rocky promontory jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Over the centuries, the castle was rebuilt and improved, becoming one of the largest castles in medieval Ireland.
One of the most fascinating features of the castle is its location. It was built high above the coastline. Because of this position, in the past the inhabitants of Dunluce Castle were able to watch for any hostile ships approaching the shores, making the castle impregnable to attack.
Several family ‘clans’ owned the castle at different times, including McQuillan and McDonnell, but it was Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, who built the first township at Dunluce and became the most famous owner of the castle in its history.
Richard was also known in his own right as the highest-ranking Earl of Ireland, and his daughter Elizabeth became the second wife of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland.
However, despite its importance and beauty, Dunluce Castle did not stand the test of time. In 1639, during a devastating storm and violent gale, part of the castle collapsed into the sea and the remainder was left in ruin. The castle has remained a ruin ever since.
Apart from its history, Dunluce Castle is also known for its legends and mystical stories. One of them says that the castle is cursed and that it was built on land that used to be used by the Druids for their cult rituals. According to this legend, the curse caused the castle to be destroyed by a storm, and that the ghosts of past inhabitants still roam the cave beneath the castle.
Although Dunluce Castle is now just a ruin, it continues to attract tourists from all over the world with its history and legends.
- Glenveagh Castle Official Website
Glenveagh Castle is located in the north-western part of Ireland, in County Donegal. It is a beautiful and unique castle complex that attracts thousands of tourists every year. The castle was built by the Scots-Irish businessman John George Adair in the late 19th century.
Adair wanted to build such a castle and estate to surpass Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s Scottish retreat.
The castle has had several changes of ownership over the years and is steeped in stories.
One of the most famous legends associated with Glenveagh Castle is the curse placed on the castle due to the brutal evictions of tenants from the land by John George Adair. Because of this, people called him «Black Jack Adair» among themselves, and the curse is said to have resulted in him having no heirs.
But the castle didn’t bring happiness to the next owner either.
In 1929, the castle was bought by Arthur Kingsley Porter, a professor at Harvard University. He used the castle as a second home and exhibited his art collection here. However, Porter mysteriously disappeared in 1933 from a fishing lodge on the estate, and his disappearance is still a mystery.
In 1938, the castle was purchased by Henry Plumer McIlhenny of Philadelphia. In 1979, he donated the castle and gardens to the Republic of Ireland and the Irish people, reserving the right to live there for the rest of his life. This is how Glenveagh National Park came into being, and it has been open to the public since 1986.
Even today, Glenveagh is open to tourists. Visitors can walk around the castle and lake, enjoy the beautiful gardens and parks, visit exhibitions and learn more about the history of the castle and its owners.
Ashford Castle Hotel
The history of Ashford Castle dates back as far as 1228, when William de Burgo built the first building on the shores of Lough Corrib. Since then, the building has gone through many changes and renovations until it became the magnificent castle we can see today.
Ashford Castle has been home to many nobles, and has hosted many famous guests. The Prince of Wales and his future wife, Queen Mary, stayed at the castle during their first official tour of Ireland. Other famous guests included John Lennon, George Harrison, Oscar Wilde, President Ronald Reagan, Prince Edward, Earl of Sussex, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan, and Prince Rainier III of Monaco and his wife, Princess Grace.
Today, Ashford Castle is a popular resort hotel that offers guests a wide range of facilities and entertainment. The castle has a variety of rooms, including luxury suites, as well as several restaurants, bars and a spa centre. Guests can enjoy fishing on the lake, playing golf on the castle’s famous course, or walking in the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Ashford Castle is also a historical landmark, and a visit to the castle will allow guests to immerse themselves in ancient Irish culture. The castle has many interesting exhibits and artefacts that reflect the history of this amazing place.
- Cro-Patrick Official Site
Mount Croagh Patrick is located in County Mayo, near the town of Westport. This mountain is one of the most significant pilgrimage sites in Ireland, as it is believed to be the place where St Patrick spent his forty days of prayer.
According to legend, St Patrick came to the top of the mountain in 441. After driving away all the snakes in Ireland, he created a stone cross, the remains of which are still on the top of the mountain. Mount Croagh Patrick has since become a place of pilgrimage for many Irish people and tourists from all over the world.
There is also a small stone chapel at the top of Mount Croagh Patrick, which was rebuilt in 1905 after years of destruction.
On the last Sunday in July, thousands of pilgrims climb the mountain in honour of St Patrick, and masses are held in the chapel at the summit. Some pilgrims climb the mountain barefoot as a sign of penance.
Mount Croagh Patrick also offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the Irish coastline. The climb to the top of the mountain can be very tough, especially in bad weather, but it is worth the effort to see this beautiful this historical and cultural landmark of Ireland.
Malahide Castle & Gardens
Malahide Castle is a historic castle located on the outskirts of Dublin. The castle was built in the 12th century and is one of the oldest castles in Ireland. It has gone through many changes and rebuilds over the centuries.
Malahide Castle was built on the shores of the Irish Sea for defence against Viking attacks. In 1185, the castle was presented by King Henry II of England to one of his knights, Richard Talbot, 2nd Baron Talbot. He received «the lands and harbour of Malahide».
The castle is also known for its beautiful botanical garden, created by the 7th Lord Talbot, as well as pavilions and terraces that give the impression of a secluded retreat in the hustle and bustle of the city. Inside the castle, you can see many interiors and artefacts that have been preserved since the 12th century. Portraits of the Talbot family and many art objects can be seen here.
The Talbot family was one of the most influential families in Ireland, and their family history is closely linked to the history of Malahide Castle. Having owned the castle for over 800 years, with the exception of the period from 1649 to 1660 when Oliver Cromwell gave it to Miles Corbett. After Cromwell’s death, Corbet was hanged and the castle was returned to the Talbots.
Over the centuries, the Talbot family has left a deep mark on Irish history.
The estate has experienced losses such as the Battle of the Boyne, when fourteen members of the owner’s family sat down to breakfast in the Great Hall and by evening all were dead.
During the Irish War of Independence in the early 20th century, the castle was occupied by troops of the Irish National Army Corps. During this time, a hospital was established here, and a prison was in operation.
In 1918, during the First World War, a docking base for airships was established on the castle grounds. These airships, carried out anti-submarine operations in the Irish Sea.
Malahide Castle is not only a historic building, but also a place where many legends and stories have been preserved. Among them is the story of the ghost of the Lady in White. This is the ghost of a woman in a white dress who appears in the Great Hall of the castle. No-one knows who she is or how her portrait ended up in Malahide Castle. However, it is said that this young lady emerges from her portrait and wanders the castle halls.
In conclusion, Malahide Castle is not only a magnificent example of Irish architecture, but also a true historical monument.
Today, the castle is open to the public and attracts tourists from all over the world with its beauty and atmosphere of mystery. Here you can not only learn a lot of interesting things about the life and traditions of the Irish nobility, but also walk through the picturesque gardens, and perhaps even meet the ghosts of the castle.
Dromoland Castle Hotel
- Dromoland Castle Hotel Official Website
Dromoland Castle, located in Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, Ireland, is a magnificent castle that has been a symbol of Irish history and culture for centuries. Originally built in the 16th century, the castle has undergone many renovations and changes over the years, but its grandeur and beauty has remained unchanged.
Dromoland was built in the 16th century by the O’Brien family, one of Ireland’s most powerful and influential families. It became their ancestral home. The O’Briens were one of the few native Irish families of royal blood. They are descendants of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland. The castle was designed in the style of a typical Irish tower house, with thick walls, narrow windows and defences.
Over the centuries, the castle has been passed down through inheritance and has undergone several reconstructions. At the beginning of the 19th century, the castle was completely rebuilt by Count Inczykin into a Gothic-style mansion. The count wanted to modernise the castle and make it more comfortable for his family.
The castle remained in the possession of the O’Brien family until the middle of the 20th century and then was sold to a group of investors who turned it into a luxury 5-star hotel and country club.
Hotel guests here are offered a glimpse into Ireland’s rich history and culture. The castle has been meticulously restored and furnished with antique furniture and artwork, creating an elegant, chic and comfortable atmosphere for guests.
Dublin Castle is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Ireland’s capital city. Steeped in history and tradition, this iconic castle has played an important role in Irish politics and culture for over 800 years.
Built in the early 13th century, Dublin Castle was originally erected as a military fortress to protect the English king’s interests in Ireland. It was built beside a bog or dark pond («Dubh Lynn»), as the Vikings called it, and later gave its name to Dublin, the capital of Ireland.
Until 1922 it was the residence of the British monarch, the Viceroy of Ireland. In the early months of each year, the Viceroy and sometimes a visiting British monarch would entertain the nobility here in the state rooms. These festivities, known as «the season», included balls, banquets and regal ceremonies for members of the aristocracy.
On 16 January 1922, the last ever Viceroy of Ireland handed over Dublin Castle to Michael Collins and the government of the newly independent Irish state. The end of the British presence in Ireland came with the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence. These momentous events paved the way for the establishment of the Irish Republic and were closely linked to the history of Dublin Castle. Since that historic moment, state ceremonies have traditionally been held at the castle.
Successive Irish governments have continued to use it for important state events. Since 1938, the inauguration of each of Ireland’s presidents has taken place in St Patrick’s Hall, the largest of the State Apartments.
During its existence, the castle has been visited by Benjamin Franklin, the Duke of Wellington, Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens, Countess Markievicz Princess Grace of Monaco, John F Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II and many other famous people.
Today, Dublin Castle is open to visitors, offering them the opportunity to immerse themselves in history and experience the grandeur and opulence of the past.
In addition to the State Apartments, Dublin Castle is home to museums and galleries, including the Chester Beatty Library. This is a treasure trove of rare books, manuscripts and works of art. It is well worth a visit for those interested in culture, history and art.
Bunratty Castle, located near Limerick, County Clare in the west of Ireland, It is one of the country’s most iconic and historic landmarks. With its imposing stone walls, spiral staircases and ornate interiors, the castle offers a glimpse into Ireland’s medieval past and the lives of the people who inhabited it.
The original Bunratty Castle was built in the early 15th century by the powerful O’Brien clan, who ruled much of the west of Ireland. The castle was strategically located on the banks of the River Shannon, a key trade route in medieval Ireland, and served as a stronghold for the O’Briens in times of conflict and war.
Bunratty Castle changed hands many times over the centuries, with each new owner leaving their mark on the castle’s architecture and design. In the 17th century the castle fell into disrepair and was abandoned, but later the local authorities restored it to its former glory and opened it as a tourist attraction.
Today, visitors to Bunratty Castle can travel back in time and discover what life was like in medieval Ireland. The interior of the castle is decorated with authentic period furniture, tapestries and artwork, allowing visitors to experience the luxury and grandeur of the castle’s past.
In addition to the castle itself, Bunratty Castle recreates a medieval Irish village with thatched cottages, a blacksmith’s shop and a traditional pub. Visitors can experience what daily life was like for the people who lived near the castle and often served there, and even take part in a traditional Irish feast in the castle’s banqueting hall.
Bunratty Castle also hosts a range of cultural events including traditional Irish music and dance, storytelling and historical re-enactments. These events give visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in Ireland’s rich culture and heritage and learn more about the country’s fascinating history.
In conclusion, Bunratty Castle is a must-see for anyone interested in Ireland’s medieval past and its rich cultural heritage. With stunning architecture, authentic furnishings and lively cultural events, the castle offers visitors a unique and unforgettable experience that captures the essence of Ireland’s past and present.