Ireland’s Top 10 Most Interesting Castles: Part 1

Ireland’s Top 10 Most Interesting Castles: Part 1

Donegal Castle is located on the banks of the River Eske in the center of the town of Donegal in County Donegal, in the northwest of Ireland. The first tower house on this site was built by the powerful O’Donnell clan in the 15th century . The O’Donnell family burned the castle and abandoned it in 1600 so that it would not be used by English troops. In 1623, the ruined fortress was given to Sir Basil Brooke, a captain in the English army. He repaired and remodeled the tower house, adding windows and several gables.

He also added a three-story Jacobean mansion to the tower . The Brooke family owned the castle until the 18th century, when it was demolished. The next owner was the Earl of Arran, who kept the ruined castle in good condition and donated it to the state in 1898, but alas, the mansion remains in ruins. The roof and floors of the castle have been restored using 15th and 17th century materials. Among the many interesting features and props you’ll find 15th-century cobblestones, a large fireplace with Brook’s coat of arms carved into it, a spiral staircase, and collections of antique furniture.

Top 10 the most interesting castles in Ireland: Part 1 - Photo 2

1st place: Donegal Castle

2nd place: Lip Castle

Lip Castle is located about 6 km north of the town of Roscrea and 10 km south of Kinnitty in Offaly County. The exact date when the tower house was built is unknown, but it is believed to have been built between the late 15th and early 16th centuries by the O’Bannon clan, who were subordinate to the ruling O’Carrolls. Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, tried to seize the castle in 1513 and 1516, but failed. In 1649 the castle passed into the hands of Cromwell’s soldier Jonathon Darby as payment for his services. Lip Castle remained the family home of the Darby family for about 350 years. An expansion began in the 1950s of the 18th century, transforming the tower house into a neo-Gothic mansion. Two wings were added to the north and south sides of the castle, and a large Gothic doorway was added to the west wall.

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During construction work in the early 1900s, workers discovered dungeons with the remains of about 150 human skeletons and three upright skeletons imbedded in one of the castle walls. Since then, Lip Castle has earned a reputation as one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. In the turbulent year of 1922, while its owners were away, the castle was set on fire and then looted by locals. In 1974, the castle ruins were purchased by Australian Peter Bartlett, who carried out reconstruction work until his death in 1989. Since 1991, the new owners, Sean and Ann Ryan, have continued the renovations, making the castle accessible to visitors.

Top 10 most interesting castles of Ireland: Part 1 - Photo 3

2nd place: Lip Castle

3rd place: Birr Castle

Birr Castle is a large castle located in the town of Birr, in Offaly county. The first structure on this site was a Norman motte and castle, built at the end of the 12th century. The castle became a stronghold of the O’Carroll clan, powerful Irish chieftains, and remained in their possession until the 1580s, when it was sold to Ormond Butlers. In 1620, the ruined tower house and 1,277 acres of land were given to the Parsons family and remain in their hands to this day. The new owner, Sir Lawrence Parsons, expanded the old castle by building two side towers on either side of the old structure, giving it the shape we know today. In the 17th century, Birr Castle withstood two serious attacks. The first during the rebellion of the Irish Confederacy in 1641, and the second during the Williamite Wars in 1689. In the late 18th century Sir William Parsons began planting many shrubs and trees, deepening the lake, and landscaping the surrounding park. He also laid out a large lawn in front of the castle.

In the early 19th century, his son Lawrence built a one-story addition at the end of the castle above the Camcor River and added Gothic motifs to the front facade. In 1832, after the roof was damaged by fire, an additional story with a jagged roof line was added to the central part of the castle. In the early 1840s, William Parsons built the largest telescope in the world at the time on the castle grounds. In 1859 his wife, Lady Mary, a pioneer of photography, received the first silver medal awarded by the Irish Photographic Society. The darkroom, which Lady Mary installed at Birr Castle, is the oldest surviving example of its kind in the world. The next members of the Parsons family devoted themselves to the development of the 120 acres of gardens at Birr Castle. The fifth Earl planted beautiful shrubs and trees along the banks of the Camcor River. The 6th Earl collected many rare plants from the Himalayas and the Far East and developed a huge collection of magnolias. The current 7th Earl of Ross, Brendan Parsons, and his wife Allison continue to develop the garden and add to the collection of exotic plants from around the world. Today the gardens of Birr Castle are among the most famous in Ireland.

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Part 10 of the most interesting castles

3rd place: Birr Castle

4th place: Huntington Castle

Huntington Castle is located in the village of Clonegal in County Carlow. It was built in 1625 by Sir Lawrence Esmond as a garrison, which later became his family home. He received the title of Lord Esmond for his faithful service. In the 1680s, Sir Lawrence Esmond’s grandson began modernizing and transforming the castle into a more comfortable family home. He also created a garden that we can still admire today. The garden includes the French Lime Alley, the Yew Trail, lawns and fish ponds. Other extensive changes took place in the 1860s and were carried out by Alexander Durdin and then Manning Durdin Robertson in the early 20th century. One of the most interesting features of Huntington Castle is the temple of Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess. The eclectic spiritual center, located in the basement of the castle, was founded by Olivia Robertson, her brother Lawrence and his wife Bobby in 1976. The Temple of Isis promotes the feminine aspect of divinity. To this day, the castle is owned by the Durdin Robertson family and serves as a guest house, tourist attraction and private event venue. There are also tea rooms and a gift store.

Photograph of the 10 most interesting castles

4th place: Huntington Castle

5th place: Listowel Castle

Listowel Castle is a tower house located in the town of Listowel, about 25 km northeast of Tralee in County Kerry. It was probably built in the 15th century by the Fitzmaurice family (Lords of Kerry) on the site of an earlier castle believed to have been built in the 13th century. The castle stands on the banks of the River Feale, above a strategically important ford. Originally the castle had 4 towers and 4 floors connected by a curtain wall, like the castle of Banratty. Only half of the castle has survived. Listovel Castle was the last bastion against Queen Elizabeth I during the First Rebellion of Desmond, defeated after 28 days siege on November 5, 1600 by Sir Charles Wilmot, who subsequently executed the survivors of the castle garrison. Unfortunately, the castle has since remained abandoned and turned into ruins.

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6th place: Dunguerre Castle

Dunguir Castle is a well-preserved tower house located near the port village of Kinvara, in southwest Galway County. It is almost entirely surrounded by the waters of Galway Bay, except for the narrow causeway that connects it to the mainland. Its picturesque location makes it one of the most photographed castles in Ireland.

The castle was built around 1520 by the O’Hain family, the Gaelic chieftains of Wee Fiachrach Eidne. The castle is believed to have been built on the site of an earlier fort, the residence of King Connacht Guaire in the 7th century, and the name of the castle comes from his name. In Irish, “Dun Guaire” means: “Fort Guaire.” In 1924, the tower house was purchased by the famous surgeon and famous writer, Oliver St. John Gogarty. He began repairing and modernizing the castle, trying to turn it into a residential home, but he never moved in. The restoration was completed by Christabel, Lady Ampthill, who bought Dunguer Castle in the 1950s. Since the 1970s it has passed into the hands of Shanon Heritage and is open to the public as a tourist attraction. Today it is a medieval banqueting venue where guests can experience the spirit of the Middle Ages.

Photograph of the 10 most interesting castles

6th place: Dunguerre Castle

7th place: Portumna Castle

Portumna Castle is a semi-fortified Jacobean mansion built in 1618 by Richard Burke and at that time was one of the finest residences in Ireland. It’s a fine example of the transitional period when castles were transformed into more comfortable manors. It is located on the north end of Loch Derg, near where the Shannon River flows into the lake. The residence is 3 stories and rectangular in shape with square protruding towers at each corner and is surrounded by gardens. There is also a walled vegetable garden with fruits, vegetables and herbs. After an accidental fire in 1826, the castle remained in ruins until the second half of the 20th century. In 1948, Portumna Castle was sold to the Irish state, and reconstruction began in the 1960s.

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Photograph of the 10 most interesting castles

7th place: Portumna Castle

8th place: Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle is an Anglo-Norman fortress built in the early 13th century by William Marshall. In 1391 it came into the possession of the Butler family and remained in their hands for nearly 600 years, until 1967, when it was transferred to the state and has been in their custody ever since. It was built in the shape of a square, with rounded towers on the corners, but over the centuries of its existence many additions and alterations have been made, making it a complex structure of various architectural styles. The current form is largely due to a 19th-century reconstruction. Kilkenny Castle and its park area are open to the public and, it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ireland.

Top 10 the most interesting castles of Ireland: Part 1 - Photo 8

8th place: Kilkenny Castle

9th place: Ohanoor Castle

Ohanoor Castle is located on the banks of the River Drimnin, about 3 km from Oterard, in County Galway. This well-preserved six-story tower house was built in the early 16th century by the very powerful and fierce O’Flaherty clan who controlled the lands of Western Connacht. The outer case includes the remains of a banqueting hall and five frescoes. The wedge-shaped inner rampart has remnants of a gate and drawbridge in the northwest corner and a circular watchtower in the southeast corner. The castle is located in the center of the inner field and has typical defensive features such as machicolation, bartisan and a mordere hole. For most of the time O’Flaherty owned Ohanour Castle, and in 1952 Peter O’Flaherty turned the castle over to the Irish state. Now Ohanour Castle is run by the state.

10th place: Parke Castle

Parke Castle is an early 1600s fortified mansion picturesquely located on the shores of Loch Gill in County Littrim. It was built by Captain Robert Park. Before Parke Castle was built here, it was the site of a 16th-century fortress of the O’Rourke family, the strongest clan in the land. Its last owner, Sir Brian O’Rourke, was executed for treason in 1591 in London. O’Rourke’s lands were given to Captain Park, and the tower house was completely destroyed.

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Its foundations were discovered under the cobblestone yard when the present castle was excavated. After Robert Park’s death in 1671, the castle passed into the hands of his daughter Anne, who married Sir Francis Gore. The castle was abandoned in the early 18th century and began to decline. After more than two centuries of decline, Parke Castle eventually passed into state ownership and was carefully restored in the 1990s. It is now one of the most important tourist attractions in County Littrim.

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