Ballybur Castle today
Ballybur Castle today

Castles in Ireland to Stay in That Make for a Unique Experience

Some say that there are over 30,000 castles in some shape or form in Ireland.

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Whatever the actual number is, there’s no doubt that Ireland has its fair share of ancient castles.

When you think of the hundreds of years of Irish history that includes the construction of castles and other fortresses created not only by the Gaelic clans to protect themselves from invaders but additional castles and towers built by the invaders themselves, it’s really not at all surprising.

While many of Ireland’s castles are tourist attractions — Blarney Castle in Co. Cork, Bunratty Castle in Co. Clare, King John’s Castle in Limerick and Trim Castle in Co. Meath comes to mind — there are several castles dotted across Ireland that have been renovated and now serve as a unique form of self-catering accommodation.

Here are 6 self-catering castles suitable for both couples and larger groups that will give you that perfect castle experience that you've always dreamed of. Some are also popular wedding destinations.

If you're looking for a more modern castle experience, there are lots of castle-hotels in Ireland that you can stay in.

Popular ones include Ashford Castle, Kilronan Castle, Kinnity Castle Hotel, Dromoland Castle, the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, Belleek Castle, Markree Castle, Lough Eske Castle, Clontarf Castle, and Ballyseede Castle, to name a few.

1. Turin Castle, Kilmaine, Co. Mayo

While the early history of Turin Castle has been lost, it is believed that it once belonged to the powerful House of de Burgh (Burke), a family that ruled Connacht for centuries and who adopted many of the ways of the Gaelic clans.


They also happen to be the same dynasty that founded Galway City.

The one most responsible for building the defensive tower was possibly Richard de Burgh, whose father arrived in Ireland in 1185 with King Henry II of England.

Richard was widely known as “The Red Earl.”

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Some of the signage that you'll see during a visit to the Hall of the Red Earl site in Galway city. Photo: Colette Connolly.

In fact, a building called The Hall of the Red Earl is named after the said Richard, which was unearthed in Galway City several years ago.

Turin wasn’t the only castle built by the de Burgh family.

Some research claims that this area had the highest concentrations of castles in all of Connaught by the middle of the 16th century.

The castles were built strategically by the de Burghs for defensive purposes and to hold on to their power in the West of Ireland as sheep farmers who sold hides, meat, and wool to Europe.

The castle, now run by Brendan and Marnie Farrell, was abandoned for over 200 years but today, it is a wonderful self-catering accommodation that is suitable for up to 12 people.

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The Great Hall at Turin Castle. Photo: Turin Castle Ireland Facebook.

Some of the highlights of this five-story ancient tower house include the Great Hall, no doubt a place where the family ate and entertained guests, like many of the Anglo-Norman royalty at the time.

The room contains a huge stone fireplace with a vaulted 20-foot ceiling.

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One of the bedrooms at Turin Castle. Photo: Turin Castle.

Several bedrooms decorated in the medieval style add to the charm of this unique accommodation.

Explore all the nooks and crannies in this fascinating place and truly take a journey back in time. You’ll find all the conveniences of 21st-century life here, too.

Expect to pay about a $1,000/€921.10/£785.11/$1,365.25 CAD/$1,498.58 AUD per night for 6 nights in this 7-bedroom, 5-bath Turin Castle (self-catering). Rates will of course be dependent on the season.

A minimum 2-night stay is required. Prices above are based on exchange data as of June 2024.

⭐️ Read reviews of Turin Castle on TripAdvisor

Nearby Attractions:  The Quiet Man Cottage Museum, Cong, Connemara National Park, Lough Corrib islands, including the island of Inchagoill where Saint Patrick is said to have spent time.
Nearest Town: Ballinrobe

Find Your Rental Carirelandonabudget.com

2. Helen’s Tower, Bangor, Co. Down

Helen’s Tower, located in the rolling hills of County Down, is an entirely different kind of stay but will still give you the experience of staying in a castle.

The charming 3-story stone tower, which is suitable for two people, is located in the woods of the Clandeboye Estate and is considered a 19th-century folly.

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The exterior of Helen's Tower. Photo: Ross, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9154608

The building, in the Scottish Baronial style, was originally built between 1848 and 1850 as a famine relief project on the orders of Frederick Temple Blackwood, the 5th Baron of Dufferin and Clandeboye.

It was named after his mother Helen, who died at age 43.

It was originally intended as a lookout tower but later became a shrine to her memory and to the poems that she wrote.

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Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland.

Those and the writings of other poets are engraved on metal plates, which can be found in an octagonal room on the third floor of the castle.

An exact replica of this tower can be found in Thiepval, Northern France, called the Ulster Tower.

It is dedicated to the men of the 36th Ulster Division who died at the Battle of the Somme and who trained on the grounds of Helen’s Tower before going off to fight in World War I.

A cool feature of the tower includes a spiral stone staircase, a rooftop reading room, and unique furnishings from the early 20th century.

Helen’s Tower is now managed by the Irish Landmark Trust.

Rates at the castle are currently £330 Sterling/€387.26/$420.32 US/$572.15 CAD/$629.88 AUD) for two nights. Prices above are based on exchange data as of June 2024.

⭐️ Read Reviews of Helen's Tower on TripAdvisor.

Nearby Attractions: The Clandeboy Way walking trail, Belfast, Carrickfergus Castle,
Nearest Town: Bangor  

3. Annes Grove Miniature Castle, Castletownroche, Co. Cork

Feel like a royal when you stay in this miniature medieval castle designed in 1853 to impress visitors to its larger nearby property called Annes Grove House and Gardens.

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Annesgrove Miniature Castle in Co. Cork. Photo courtesy of the Irish Landmark Trust.

Located in the quiet County Cork countryside about 16 km (about 10 miles) outside of Mallow, this renovated Gothic-inspired miniature castle has electric central heating throughout, a wood-burning stove, and all of the other modern conveniences you’d expect from a rental property.

Perhaps the most enticing part of Anne’s Grove Miniature Castle is the narrow winding stairway that leads to the bedroom.

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The bedroom at Anne's Grove. Photo: Irish Landmark Trust.

While staying at Annes Grove Miniature Castle, be sure to check out the estate and gardens nearby.

The estate once belonged to the Grove family.

The walled garden, formerly an orchard, is where you’ll find native and exotic species like Himalayan rhododendrons blended together into the natural landscape.

Rates at Annes Grove Miniature Castle, also managed by the Irish Landmark Trust, are €342/$371.29 US/£291.51 Sterling/$505.54 CAD/$557.22 AUD for two nights. Prices above are based on exchange data as of June 2024. This accommodation can also be reserved on Booking.com.

Nearby Attractions: Blarney Castle & Gardens, Cork City, Fota Wildlife Park
Nearest Town: Mallow

4. Ballynagowan Castle, Kilshanny, Co. Clare

Also known as Smithstown Castle, this 16th-century tower house was once the home of Murrough O’Brien, the 1st Earl of Thomond and 1st Baron Inchiquin, more commonly known as the Last King of Munster.

Before O’Brien died in 1551, he willed the castle to his son Teige (pronounced “Tyge”).

Over the years, many notable people visited Ballynagowan Castle, including Red Hugh O’Donnell, an Irish nobleman who ruled a Gaelic kingdom known as Tyrconnell (now present-day County Donegal).

gate leading to a castle castles in Ireland
The entrance to Ballynagowan Castle in County Clare. Photo: Johnida Dockens, https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnida/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Like many other Irish castles at the time, Ballynagowan Castle was attacked by Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1649 and for the next several decades, it would serve as the seat of army generals and other powerful people.

The castle sleeps up to 8 people.

Some of its unique features include a Great Hall, the large kitchen/dining room featuring a beautifully carved 17th-century table, as well as The Minstrel’s Gallery, which overlooks the Great Hall.

Rates are approximately $563 per night at Ballynagowan/Smithtown Castle. A three-night stay in October, which is the first month available as of now (June 2024) for 8 people will cost $2,206 US/€2,031.95/£1,731.96 Sterling/$3,011.74 CAD/$3,305.86 AUD). Prices above are based on exchange data as of June 2024.

Nearby Attractions: The Cliffs of Moher, The Burren National Park
Nearest Town: Lahinch

5. Caher Castle, County Galway

Constructed in the late 1400s by the local Burke family, this castle accommodation, also known as Caherkinmonwee Castle, is situated in the peaceful County Galway countryside. The castle has been restored to its original state using traditional materials, but it also has modern conveniences such as electricity, heating, Wifi, and solar water heating.

Some of its original features can still be seen today, including the castle's bartizans (turrets) on all four corners of the building, a spiral staircase and latrines on the second, third and fourth stories.

The exterior of Caher Castle in County Galway, one of the castles in Ireland that you can stay in. Photo: Caher Castle Facebook.

The castle consists of a master bedroom with access to the castle’s turret, a living room, a dining room and two guest bedrooms, and of course winding staircases as was the style in medieval castles.

The rooms have been tastefully decorated with antique furniture, paintings, tapestries, and armor, giving it a real historic feel.

The owner, Peter Hayes, says it’s not perfect, but it does give visitors a really authentic experience.

A huge fireplace with a cast iron stove keeps it warm as well as an underground heating system, otherwise referred to as the “pet dragon that lives in the dungeon!”

Hayes suggests you send a brief profile of yourself when asking about making reservations.

You’ll find more details on the Airbnb listing.

Rates are a reasonable $196 for 2 nights.

6. The Black Castle, County Tipperary

If you don’t mind foregoing modern central heating, Wifi, showers and other modern niceities for a night so that you can make believe you’re living in 16th-century Ireland, then the Black Castle situated in the rolling hills of North County Tipperary is for you.

On their website, the owners suggest that the castle, also known as Tullaun Castle, is the ideal place for history and nature lovers, as well as artists, writers, musicians or anyone looking for solitude from our hurried, tech-obsessed world.

The castle was constructed by the O’Kennedys, an Irish royal dynasty.

The Great Hall in the Black Castle in Tipperary. Photo courtesy of Bethany Shaw, Tullaun Castle Facebook.

Its interior includes an authentically furnished Great Hall, with a bespoke king-size bed. There is no electricity available in this room and the only heat that’s available is from an open fireplace. Light is provided from the warm glow of candelight.

However, there is electricity in the kitchenette, which houses a number of modern-day appliances.

You can make reservations on Airbnb. If you have any questions before making a reservation, head to the castle website for additional information.

Rates at the Black Castle are €330 per night.

Have you always wanted to stay in an Irish castle? Well, now’s the time to plan it.

colette

Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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