Tenon Tours’ Five Top Irish Castles
Thursday, April 14th, 2011 | By Emilie
Some of the biggest attractions in Ireland, in fact in all of Europe, are medieval castles. Rich in history and fascinating for their craftsmanship, some of Ireland’s castles date back as early as the 11th century. Most are open to visitors and can be seen on any number of group day tours, including several offered by Tenon. Or, if you’ll be enjoying a self-drive Ireland vacation, you can create your own itinerary and experience them at your leisure. Either way, don’t let your time in Ireland pass without seeing at least a few! Read on for Tenon Tours’ list of five top Irish castles:
Built by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, nearly six-hundred years ago, Blarney Castle has been attracting attention ever since. Over the last few hundred years, millions have flocked to Blarney, making it a landmark recognized world-wide and one of Ireland’s greatest national treasures.
Legend has it that the Blarney Stone–the legendary Stone of Eloquence–found at the top of the castle tower (perhaps even more well known than the castle itself) guarantees anyone who kisses it will never again be lost for words. Notable people, from Sir Walter Scott to several U.S. presidents, world leaders and international entertainers, have been eager to take advantage.
At the center of Bunratty Village in County Clare, sits Bunratty Castle, a double-towered castle dating back to the 13th century. The land where the castle sits is thought to have been occupied by Vikings as far back as the 10th century. The castle was restored in the 1950s and is now a popular spot for medieval-style banquets.
On the Bunratty Castle grounds is the Folk Park, a living history museum featuring reproductions of cottages and buildings that would have been seen in the area during the 19th century. The castle and Folk Park are open to the public.
Situated in Donegal in the northwest of the country, Donegal Castle was built along the Eske River by the Sir Hugh O’Donnell, a wealthy chieftain, in 1474. Much of the original structure was destroyed over the centuries, but a complete restoration was done in the 1990s, making the castle a wonderful attraction for visitors. The castle often hosts Gaelic cultural events.
Just 14 km north of Dublin, Malahide Castle lies on over 250 acres of parkland once part of its original estate. Dating back to the 12th century, the castle was still under private ownership until the early 1970s at which time it became the property of the Irish government. Today Malahide is open to the public as a tourist attraction, and includes the beautiful Talbot Botanical Gardens and a restaurant on its grounds. The Castle’s hall is available for banquets.
Rock of Cashel
Located in County Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel is an attraction that some visitors believe to be an actual rock, the castle named for massive stone cliff on which it was built. The current structures at the site date back to the 12th century, but the original castle would have been much older. The castle grounds are home to a large complex of buildings, including one of the largest collections of Celtic art in Ireland, as well as an ancient burial ground.
Irish legend states that the rock landed in Cashel when Saint Patrick banished the Devil from a mountain called Devil’s Bit, about 30 km to the north.
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