We are still in the month of March, long associated with all things Irish and the blossoming of nature. Last week’s wonderful post about Celtic gods and goddesses got my creative juices flowing. So, I thought I’d take you on a mini-tour around 13 of the most fascinating Irish castles!
For such a small country, it never ceases to amaze me how there is one jewel of a castle after another scattered across the fabric of green rolling hills. I read somewhere there are over sixty Irish castles, and many are restored and inhabited. Some are open to the public. Others have morphed into splendid resorts where anyone with a high-limit credit card can feel like royalty for a few days.
Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo
It is easy to imagine a fairytale unfolding within the walls of this enchanting castle. It was built in 1228 by the de Burgo family and was owned by the Guinness (beer) family for many centuries. It is now a hotel, so if you are as rich as a princess, you can stay here and pretend you are one. Ashford Castle
Blarney Castle, Co. Cork
Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster, is said to have saved an old witch from drowning. In gratitude she revealed how to access the secret powers within the Blarney stone, gifted to an earlier McCarthy in 1314 by Robert the Bruce. Another legend says the stone is the famous Lia Fail, the magical stone upon which Irish kings were crowned. Legends abound. The stone resides atop Blarney castle. One kisses it by hanging upside down into thin air with a steep drop below (been there, done that). It is one of Ireland’s greatest tourist attractions. Blarney Castle
Dromoland Castle, Co. Clare
This fairytale castle is now a hotel for the globetrotting rich and famous. It was once home to the O’Brien clan, who were direct descendants of Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland. Of all the Irish castles, this is perhaps the most enchanting. It is said Michael Jackson spent a lot of time there and fell in love with the property. Dromoland Castle
Leap Castle, Co. Offaly
This very haunted castle is in a state of restoration. Fierce family rivalry to establish the new leader of the O’Carroll clan in the 1500s led to the brutal murder of a family priest in the chapel while he was chanting and performing mass. Paranormal investigators have filmed on location here, and I’ve seen reference that the hauntings are by malevolent spirits. Leap Castle
Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford
Built in 1185 by Prince John, the Dukes of Devonshire have held it as their Irish residence since the mid-1700s. It is one of the most romantic looking castles in all Ireland. It was rebuilt Gothic style by a prominent architect in the early 1800s. Lismore Castle
Trim Castle, Co.
This castle has been through turbulent times and is currently undergoing a vast restoration. It was once the Royal mint where Irish coins were pressed. It is open to the public from Easter through Halloween. Part of the movie Braveheart was filmed here. Trim Castle
Winterthorne Castle, Southwest Coast of Ireland
This fictitious castle features in two of my novellas, The Sheikh’s Spy and Christmas Spirits. This magical castle was inherited by Anna O’Cleary, who became Queen of Zahiria. Christmas Spirits is a ghost story romance that makes for a good read all year round. The prequel in the Sheikhs of the Golden Triangle series is The Amulet. If you’re interested, read the interview I wrote recently with Winterthorne Castle (yes, these walls do talk!) at Laurie’s Paranormal Blogspot.
Glin Castle, Co. Limerick
This was the family seat of the Fitzgeralds for hundreds of years. This stunning castle is open half the year to the public as a hotel. What a place to book a wedding! Glin Castle
Waterford Castle, Co. Waterford
This breathtaking castle hotel is away from the mainland on an island, a ferry ride across the Suir River. It is associated with the Fitzgerald family, and they are said to have lived there until as recently as the mid-1950s. Waterford Castle
Malahide Castle, Co.
For those who prefer haunted castles, this one will give you five times the fright. No less than five ghosts still haunt this inhabited castle. The most beloved of these was “Puck” who was a 16th century court jester. He met an untimely end. Malahide Castle
Slane Castle, Co. Meath
This stunning castle is near where the High Kings of Ireland resided. You may recognize this castle from the Celtic Woman concerts. The slope of the surrounding fields creates a natural amphitheater for up to 80,000 people. U2, The Rolling Stones and many more have performed here over the years, and Bon Jovi is booked for a concert June 2013. Slane Castle
Donegal Castle, Co. Donegal
This is a very different castle and is an architectural jewel. It belonged to one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 400s to the 1500s – the O’Donnell clan. It is now owned by the Office of Public Works, has been renovated, and Gaelic cultural events are often held here. Donegal Castle
By the way, one of my characters in my novella To Kiss A Leprechaun is an O’Donnell, but Tommy’s not from Donegal. This is a lighthearted fantasy romance with witches, wizards, spells and fairy mischief that takes place in Ireland, in case you care to check it out.
There’s nothing like an ancient castle, with the splendor of its history, to stimulate the imagination of a romance writer. I hope you enjoyed visiting these Irish castles with me. There are some amazing photos of them online. Let yourself be carried away to a world of lords, ladies, kings, magic and chivalry.
Thanks for reading my Thursday13. If you have time, I’d love for you to check out my books at GemmaJuliana.com.
Do you have a favorite fairytale castle? Tell us about it!