You may have heard that Irish castles are like street signs – there’s one on every corner. While that’s not always true, Ireland is filled with both renovated castles and castle ruins. While you could certainly fill an entire vacation touring castles in Ireland, these are the top 10 kid-friendly castles we recommend for families.
Bunratty Castle | Bunratty, County Clare
Surrounding Bunratty Castle is Bunratty Folk Park. Your family can explore and learn about the Irish and their history within traditional homes and a small village. Kids love the animals – don’t miss the Irish Wolfhounds and Connemara ponies – and a terrific playground with its own castle is a traveler favorite. If you visit, be sure to check the schedule for their Traditional Irish Night. Taking place in the Corn Barn, it’s a lively evening of music, dance, food and craic (Gaelic for fun and entertainment).
Tenon Tip: Be sure to climb to the battlements for terrific views of the Shannon Estuary!
Birr Castle Demesne | Birr, County Offaly
While you can’t tour Birr Castle as it’s privately owned, it’s the demesne that people come to visit. The science center in the renovated stables is filled with contributions made by the family of the Earls of Rosse in the fields of astronomy, botany, engineering and photography. Across the grounds, you’ll discover gardens, an early suspension bridge and the Great Telescope &emdash; the largest in the world until the mid-20th century. Recently, Birr Castle built Ireland’s largest treehouse which, in addition to the already large play area, will occupy children for hours.
Glenveagh Castle | Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal
Situated in the center of Glenveagh National Park there is plenty of exploring to be done. The castle lies 4 kilometers from the visitors center, a good stretch of the legs though you may want to catch the shuttle on the way back. Surrounded by incredible gardens, pathways to explore and stunning views, there seems to be magic around every corner of Glenveagh Castle. Plan for a day to tour the castle and grounds. The castle has a lovely little cafe or you can bring along a picnic.
Enniskillen Castle | Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
The original keep at Enniskillen Castle has been surrounded by a 17th century garrison fort and 19th century military barracks, making this Irish castle the perfect destination for military history buffs. The Curved Range, originally built as stables with rooms above for cavalrymen, now holds historical diorama and items from wars past. A fun scavenger hunt for the kids – with a prize at the end – makes history fun and interesting.
Kilkenny Castle | Kilkenny County Kilkenny
Completely restored to its original state, Kilkenny Castle is what your mind conjures when you imagine Irish castles. Since the castle is a self-tour, you can go at your own pace. Each room has staff on hand to answer questions. But what makes Kilkenny Castle so great for families is the grounds. Plenty of walking paths, a play area and natural spaces with trees perfect for climbing are perfect for an afternoon picnic or a morning outing.
Tenon Tip: Just across the street at the Kilkenny Design Centre is a lovely cafe with fresh pastries and sandwiches.
Cahir Castle | Cahir, County Tipperary
Just south of the magnificent Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle is often overlooked as travelers make their way through County Tipperary. A beautifully preserved medieval castle, travelers young and old will love looking through the arrow slits, walking along the tops of the castle walls, standing bravely beneath the sharp points of the portcullis and exploring the island on which the castle sits.
Ardgillan Castle | Skerries, County Dublin
Adults will love the beauty of Ardgillan Castle from the sweeping parkland and the sparkling ocean to the magnificent gardens. And while the kids will appreciate those sights as well, what they will love most is the absolutely amazing playground. With an ocean backdrop, it has play structures for young children and older children including a castle playset, a nice sized zipline and dual rope climbing towers.
Kylemore Abbey | Connemara, County Galway
Originally known as Kylemore Castle, Kylemore Abbey was purchased in 1920 by an order of Benedictine Nuns fleeing persecution in Germany. Once used as a boarding school, nuns now occupy the entire house. Four rooms of the castle have been restored and are interesting to view. But the best part of this Irish castle lies outside, along the pathways and in the gardens. Fun surprises await children who choose to explore the grounds. A short stroll takes you to the stunning walled garden where gardeners are happy to answer questions.
Tenon Tip: Make a stop to the onsite tea shop for delicious pastries!
The Bishops Palace | Waterford, County Waterford
History is alive at The Bishop’s Palace in Waterford. Over 1000 years of Waterford history is shared in an entertaining way with a character-led tour. At the top floor of The Bishop’s Palace is a room filled with toys from the last century. It’s great fun for kids today to see what their parents and grandparents may have played with!
Tenon Tip: Ask about the ghost that is rumored to roam the halls!
Florence Court | Florence Court Forest Park, County Fermanagh
Owned by the National Trust, there is always something happening at Florence Court. While the 18th century house is definitely worth touring, it’s the myriad of activities that will entrance your family. Costumed tours are available on the weekends, taking you through the sawmill, ice house and idyllic thatched summer house. A fun play area is right next to the pasture of cows and acres of land is open for exploring.
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