9 captivating castles to visit with your children this summer
From picturesque settlements to rustic ruins, here are some of our favourite castles to explore across Ireland.
Between tours that are geared towards younger visitors, sprawling grounds to explore and nearby playgrounds to let loose in, a visit to one of Ireland's castles is bound to brighten up your break this summer.
Indeed, from North to South, East to West, Ireland is dotted with castles, and this summer, they're waiting for you and your family to explore them.
To kickstart your adventure and get to grips with our country's rich history, we've rounded up the very best castles to check out this summer.
A huge number of the castles mentioned here are completely free to visit, while in others, you'll find the cost of admission unlocks a full day's worth of entertainment. So, if you're looking to add a bit of magic to your short break for less, check out these unmissable attractions.
Dating all the way back to the 13th century, Nenagh Castle is a striking landmark in Tipperary, and it's completely free to visit. Clamber up this medieval castle's spiral staircase and take in the stunning vistas that await visitors following their 101 step ascent. To make a day out of your visit, pack a picnic and enjoy it in the nearby Nenagh Town Park, which features five acres to explore and a charming playground.
With a 7-gallery science centre, 120 acres of parklands, a waterfall and a treehouse playground, a trip to Birr Castle Demense makes for a jam-packed family day out in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. Get up close and personal with the castle's history, check out the Great Telescope and embark on an adventure across the castle's sprawling grounds. Unlock this fun with a general admission ticket, which costs €11 for adults and €6 for children.
In the heart of Roscommon, you'll find an imposing 13th century castle that's not only packed full of history, but completely free to explore. Download Rossie the Heritage Duck who is on hand to guide younger visitors through the ruins of Roscommon Castle, and afterwards take in some fresh air with a ramble through the grounds. The adjoining Loughnenane Park is ripe for exploration as it is home to a 14-acre recreational area and even a playground for your little ones to let loose in.
Head to Balbriggan where a day of adventure awaits at Ardgillan Castle & Gardens. Explore the site's social history with a self-guided tour of the carefully preserved castle which costs €5 per person, while two adults and two children can be admitted for €15. After your tour, download the Fairy Tree Trail Map and Quiz, and head off on a magical – and completely free – walk. While you're there, enjoy a family stroll through the Rose Garden, the Walled Garden, the Ornamental Gardens and the Seasonal Gardens. When hunger hits, pop into the Castle Tea Rooms to refuel and refresh.
In the southern suburbs of Dublin stands the proud Elizabethan Rathfarnham Castle, which is a popular attraction for visitors of all ages. Explore the castle's splendid art and architecture on a guided or self-guided tour, and check out the castle's highlights, which include the exquisite ballroom, the stained glass windows and the gilt room ceiling. Afterwards, enjoy a tasty hot chocolate in the Stuart and Chambers Tearoom, or go to Morilles Bistro across the road and treat your kids to some delicious ice-cream. Tickets for the castle cost €5 for adults and €3 for children, though you can enjoy this attraction for free on the first Wednesday of each month on a first come, first served basis.
Kilkenny is renowned for its medieval history, so it comes as no surprise that it's home to a magnificent castle. Wander through the castle and take in 800 years of history. After touring the castle, explore the parklands and head to the playground. To level up your visit, download one of the many free courses available and challenge your family with a spot of orienteering. The parklands are completely free to explore, while tickets for a self-guided tour of the castle cost €8 for adults, €4 for children between the ages of 12 and 17, while kids under 12 go free.
Head to Co. Meath in Ireland's Ancient East and take in Trim Castle, the country's largest Anglo-Norman fortification. Thanks to the modern walkways, families are given the opportunity to get up close and personal to this fascinating site. Explore the castle grounds for free or book a guided tour of the keep for €5 for adults, or €3 for children. Afterwards, continue the adventure with a relaxing stroll along the nearby River Boyne or pop into the town of Trim and visit St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Widely considered to be one of the strongest fortresses in Ireland, Carrigafoyle Castle in Ballylongford is a must see along the Wild Atlantic Way. This Co. Kerry castle – which is free to visit – dates all the way back to the fifteenth century, and it invites visitors to step back in time and see the world through the eyes of the O'Connor family of Co. Kerry. Climb up the tower – which is over 24 meters in height – and take in some unparalleled views of the Shannon Estuary. After your castle visit, take in some of the breathtaking nature of your surroundings. The nearby Mortara Bay Beach, for instance, is ideal for a fresh coastal walk.
Situated on the banks of the River Feale, Listowel Castle is a prime example of Anglo-Norman architecture steeped in history. Just one of the four original square towers remains but visitors of the castle are able to climb the steep stairs for themselves and take in the castle's history as well as some incredible views. There is free admission to Listowel Castle and when you're done, check out Seanchaí, the cultural and literary centre next door.
For more ideas on how to make the most of your short break in Ireland, visit discoverireland.ie.
Book early for best value and keep discovering.
From Anglo-Norman castles in Co. Kerry to Elizabethan buildings in Dublin, Ireland has so many fascinating castles to explore this summer.
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Brought to you by DiscoverIreland.