There are many different castles in Dublin that are well worth visiting during you’re time in the capital.
From lesser-known castles like the magnificent Luttrellstown to the more well-known, like Malahide, there are plenty of castles in the capital to have a ramble around.
Castles in the capital… that has a nice little ring to it! In the guide below, you’ll find 11 of the best castles in Dublin to visit at any time of the year.
Some offer tours, while others are castle hotels in Dublin where you can stay or just visit for a coffee, a pint, or a bite to eat.
What we think are the best castles in Dublin
The first section of our guide is packed with what we think are the most impressive castles around Dublin. These are ones one or more of The Irish Road Trip Team have visited before.
Below, you’ll find the incredible Dublin Castle and the hugely popular Malahide Castle to one of the most overlooked castles in Ireland.
1. Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle is the only castle in Dublin City in this guide. You’ll find it on Dame Street where it sits on the site of a Viking Fortress that was here in the 930s.
The fortress was actually the Viking’s primary military base and it was a key trading centre for the slave trade in Ireland.
Although the current structure (built on the orders of King John of England) dates back to 1204, there’s archaeological evidence of a wooden and stone castle on the site from the 1170’s.
The impressive castle that stands to this day survived the devastation of the 1916 rebellion and the subsequent Civil War.
2. Malahide Castle
Malahide Castle is arguably one of the best-known castles in Dublin. I live a stone’s throw from here and have walked around the grounds hundreds of times at this stage.
The story of Malahide Castle began in 1185 when a knight named Richard Talbot was given the land and harbour of Malahide.
The most ancient sections of the castle date to the 12th century, when it was used as a home by the Talbot family (they lived here for 791 years, as it happens).
That was until they were booted out by Oliver Cromwell in 1649 and the castle was handed over to a bloke named Miles Corbet. Corbet was hanged when Cromwell was sent packing and the castle was given back to the Talbots.
Interestingly enough, in 1918, during the First World War, the castle grounds housed a mooring-out base for airships.
Related read: Check out our guide to 33 of the best things to do in Dublin (hikes, museums, coastal walks, scenic drives and more)
3. Swords Castle
The castle in my hometown of Swords is arguably the most overlooked of the many castles in Dublin. Which is a bit mad, considering it’s ten minutes from Dublin Airport!
Swords Castle was built by the Archbishop of Dublin in and around 1200, with the intention of using it as a residence and administrative centre.
I’ve was here for a ramble recently and it’s brilliant. The chances are, you’ll have the whole place to yourself. You can take a look inside the finely maintained chapel, with its beautiful chandelier, or take a ramble up into one of the turrets, where you’ll see a very old-school toilet, among other things.
If you’re looking for a castle near Dublin Airport, take a spin out here. There are plenty of cafes and the likes to grab a coffee and a bite to eat.
4. Ardgillan Castle
Now, a quick disclaimer first – Ardgillan Castle is one of several castles in Dublin that, although called a ‘castle’, is more a country-style house with castellated embellishments.
The central section of Ardgillan was constructed in 1738, while the west and east wings were added much later, towards the end of the 1800s.
The castle was restored a number of years ago and the ground floor and the kitchens are now open for guided tours.
I live close-ish to Ardgillan Castle and tend to visit every couple of months. We usually grab a coffee from the busy little cafe and head for a ramble around the extensive grounds.
5. Dalkey Castle
Dalkey Castle is one of seven castles that are scattered around the gorgeous little seaside town in South Dublin.
It was built to store goods that had been offloaded in the town during the Middle Ages when the town acted as the port of Dublin.
For many years, from the mid-1300s to much further on in the late 1500s, large ships could not use the River Liffey to access Dublin, as it was silted up.
They could, however, access Dalkey. Dalkey Castle required a number of defensive features to fend off thieves from plundering the goods that were stored inside. Many of these features can still be viewed to this day.
More very popular Dublin castles
The next section of our guide takes a look at some of the more popular castles around Dublin, with a mix of ruins and beautifully preserved structures.
Below, you’ll find everywhere from Howth Castle and Luttrellstown to some often overlooked Dublin castles, like Drimnagh Castle.
1. Howth Castle
The mighty (and often missed) Howth Castle dates back to the 1200s and it boasts a fine bit of folklore that should spark your interest.
The story goes that the pirate queen of Connacht Grace O’Malley dropped by Howth Castle one night in 1575, with the intention of dining with Lord Howth.
By all accounts, Lord Howth turned her away and she was understandably none pleased. Legend has it that she kidnapped the Earl of Howth’s grandson in retaliation.
She’s said to have only agreed to let him go in return for a promise that no guest would be turned away from Howth Castle ever again.
If you’re looking for castles in Dublin with a fine bit of history, a nice whack of folklore and, randomly enough, Europe’s largest rhododendron gardens, get yourself here.
2. Clontarf Castle
Clontarf is home to one of the few castles in Dublin that you can stay in. Now, while the current castle here dates back to 1837, keep in mind that it has been modernised throughout.
There has been a castle on this site since 1172 (no trace of the original remains, unfortunately). It’s believed that it was built by either Hugh de Lacy or a chap named Adam de Phepoe.
Over the years Clontarf Castle has been held and owned by everyone from the Knights Templar to Sir Geoffrey Fenton, the latter of which was granted it by Queen Elizabeth in 1600.
The castle lay vacant for a number of years during the 1900s and was bought and resold several times. In 1972, it was turned into a cabaret venue.
Several years later, in 1997, the castle reopened as a four-star hotel boasting 111 rooms and modernised interior.
3. Drimnagh Castle
Drimnagh Castle is one of the lesser-known castles in Dublin. Out of the many castles in Ireland, Drimnagh is the only one with an intact moat.
The story of Drimnagh Castle began in 1215 when the land that the castle is plonked upon was given to a Norman knight by the name of Hugo de Bernivale. Very fancy altogether.
As was common at the time, Hugo was given the land in return for his family’s help in the invasion of Ireland.
Over the years, Drimnagh Castle has served as a filming location for a number of TV shows and movies, like the award-winning Tudors and The Old Curiosity Shop.
4. Ashtown Castle
If you’re in search of castles in Dublin that are easily accessed from the City Centre, look no further than Ashtown Castle.
You’ll find this tower house in the grounds of the mighty Phoenix Park where it was discovered hidden inside the walls of a much bigger castle many years ago.
This medieval tower house is thought to date back to the 17th century but, like many castles in Ireland, the exact date of construction is unknown.
Visitors to Ashtown Castle can enjoy a ‘lively and entertaining exhibition on the history and the wildlife of the Phoenix Park’ along with a historical interpretation of the park from 3500 B.C.
5. Rathfarnham Castle
I’ve always thought that Rathfarnam Castle looks a bit like a prison when seen from above. You’ll find this 16th-century fortified house, unsurprisingly enough, in Rathfarnam in South Dublin.
There was an earlier castle in place here but it was replaced when the lands were confiscated after the family that owned it were involved in the Second Desmond Rebellion.
It’s believed the present castle was constructed in and around 1583, although the exact date is unknown.
Over the years, the castle has been attacked on a number of occasions. In 1600, it was required to withstand a flurry of attacks by clans from Wicklow during what was known as ‘the Nine Years’ War’.
It came under siege again, not long after, during the 1641 Rebellion. The castle has passed through many hands over the years and it was actually set to be demolished in the 80s until the Irish State purchased it.
6. Luttrellstown Castle
There’s a lot of uncertainty around when our next castle, Luttrellstown, was first built. Unfortunately, many people over the years have found it impossible to seperate the current structure from the much earlier stronghold.
What we do know is that that this Irish castle is pretty damn old. There’s clear evidence that the estate was seized in 1436, when King Henry VI was manning the throne.
Over the years, this castle in Dublin has welcomed its fair share of celebrities. It hosted the wedding of David and Victoria Beckham in 1999 and everyone from Ronald Reagan to Paul Newman have spent the night here.
7. Monkstown Castle
Monkstown Castle is another of the slightly off-the-beaten-path castles in Dublin. In medieval times, this castle was at the centre of a huge farm owned by the monks of St. Mary’s Abbey.
When the abbey was dissolved in 1540, Monkstown Castle was given to an Englishman from Cornwall named John Travers who was a Groom of the Chamber to the King of England.
During Cromwell’s time, the castle was granted to a General by the name of Edmund Ludlow. The castle was large and boasted several different buildings, many of which can no longer be seen.
Those that visit Monkstown Castle can check out the original gatehouse with its three-storey tower and overhead vault.
Castles Near Dublin
From Kilkenny and Trim Castle that welcome thousands of tourists per year to lesser-known castles steeped in folklore in Louth, you’ll find something to tickle every fancy in this guide.
What Dublin castles have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant Dublin castles from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best castles around Dublin
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are the oldest Dublin castles?’ to ‘What are the most unique castles Dublin has to offer?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the most impressive castles in Dublin?
Dublin Castle, Malahide Castle and Drimnagh Castle are arguably three of the most impressive castles Dublin has to offer.
What is the best castle in Dublin?
This really depends how you define ‘best’. Dublin Castle is central, hugely impressive and the tour is excellent. Malahide is beautifully maintained and right by the sea.