There are large numbers of castles in Northern Ireland. These old and beautiful buildings include medieval fortresses that are around 800 years old to stately and modern mansions and homes, built in old castle styles.
The oldest castles in Northern Ireland are founded well and laid in the Iron Age. Most of the greatest castles were built by the Normans, who came to Ireland after ruling Wales and England in 1169. Carrickfergus Castle is one of those castles built by the Normans and one of the most prominent medieval castles in the whole of Ireland.
Southern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland became an individual state, and Northern Island announced as part of the UK. During Early Modern and Medieval periods, Ireland existed entirely, and division didn’t exist.
This way, the history behind Northern Ireland castles has the same story behind the history of palaces located in the Irish Republic.
Table of Contents
List of castles in Northern Ireland
Amongst all the North Irish castles, Dunlace castle is a real gem. Surprisingly, the Castle is a vast ruin of grey stone and is perched beautifully atop a basalt crag, juts on the choppy village nearby Antrim Sea. It is not that easy to convey how beautiful the Dunlace Castle setting is. The crag’s edges are sheer faces of the cliff, which fall sharply into the sea below.
Northern Ireland has plenty of grey days. The varied shades of grey ruins, Grey Ocean and grey sky are seen on the grey days, making it truly breathtaking. Moreover, it feels that you have entered into a new black and white world. You can access the Castle by crossing a bridge from the coffee shop and café on the mainland. It forms the feeling of isolation from the modern world.
The Castle stands on a crag where it is almost impossible for an intruder to enter. That is the reason why the fortifications of Iron Age were built here before the era of the Vikings.
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It is a beautiful and serene building located on the Cave Hill slopes facing the city, and it is an integral part of Belfast history. It has beautiful views of the city, the surrounding areas, and the harbor. It is also known well as the Castle of Northern Ireland. It has free entrance, free parking, play areas and walks.
Be sure you visit, if you stay in Belfast for over a couple of hours and it is rarely crowded. It is probably less a castle as compared to a manor house, and the history behind its popularity is nevertheless fascinating.
Belfast Castle was located in the heart of Belfast by the Normans in the 12th century, and it was a residence of the Chichester family by 1700. The original complex was originally burned down by the year 1708. The Chichester rebuilt their Castle in the early 1800s in the Victorian style, and it was relocated well to the Belfast suburbs.
The Castle’s design is similar to a Baronial style of Scotland. Its architecture is a revival of previous methods of the Medieval Gothic era. Some other castles built in the same style include the Craigievar Castle around Aberdeen, Newark Castle of Glasgow, and the Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, which populated its design and influenced the Belfast Castle’s design.
Belfast Castle was never designed for war, though it is known as a castle. It is a luxurious mansion that looks much like many forts built in the 17th century onwards. It had gone through a refurbishment program in the 1980s, and it has been open publicly since the year 1988.
Shane’s Castle stands out as a well-known shooting location for the blockbuster-hit television series Game of Thrones. Located in Antrim County, the Castle was built again by the well-known O’Neil family in the year 1345, and Eden-duff-Carrick castle renamed as Shane’s Castle by Shane MacBrian O’Neil, who was the owner of the Castle. Despite constant reshaping by John Nash, the well-known Regency architect, the Castle ruins built-in 1816 destroyed by a massive fire.
However, the arched rooms and the grounds still survived. Now it is hauntingly and astonishingly beautiful and is well worth an exploration a bit. Around the year 1800, the terrace and the Castle rebuilt as per the John Nash’s designs in 1812. Unfortunately, that beauty didn’t last long as it was set on fire after four years. Only the camellia house survived.
A second house was built in the 1860s, by William Henry Lynn and Charles Lanyon of Lanyon, for the first Lord O’Neill. The demesne sprawled over 2600 acres with the shores of Lough Neagh. The Castle is also the shooting location of a blockbuster hit Game of Thrones, an HBO TV series.
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In 1169, the Normans entered Ireland and decided to rule the nation, as they had captured Wales and England earlier. Carrickfergus Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Northern Ireland. Originally, built in the mid of 1170s, usually as a very common demo of the military might of the Normans.
The Carrickfergus Castle is located in a very beautifully defensive position as it seems eastward in the Belfast Lough and was sandwiched by the sea in three directions. Today, the Castle placed on a very small sea-front and some areas of the port-land are covered by the sea.
The Castle is built using the rough-hewn stone, and it is imposing by today’s standards. It has the beautiful Norman keep at its center, which is secured by the defensive, strong curtain walls which cover tightly with it. Carrickfergus seems to be very beautiful, but it shows its strength well.
The Normans worked hard to have control of Ulster, and the magnificent Castle is more likely to have bark, which is worse than its bite. Irrespective of its horrific looks, the fact is that Norman power was weak for hundreds of years in Northern Ireland.
The Castle was used over the centuries to keep prisoners, and it was besieged many times because of its location at the entrance towards the north of Ireland, and attached by the Irish, Scots, French and English. These days, it is a great tourist attraction.
This little Castle is very atmospheric to explore, and its atmosphere spoiled by the waxworks which are larger than life and which showcase each aspect of medieval life, i.e., from pouring boiling oil to using the privy.
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Also known as Lurgan Castle locally, the Brownlow House built of Scottish sandstone in 1833. This building exudes significant character and uniqueness.
It has a range of beautiful chimney pots, each with a unique design and they all are surmounted by a serene lantern-like tower, and the whole site is commanding stunning lake views and parkland.
It served as a military base during the period of World War II, and it has a lot of amazing stories to tell about the British and American troops who are stationed there, along with a great tea room.
Lurgan is the attraction of several settlements in Plantation of Ulster, known for its wide and well-paved streets, straight streets and rows of cottages. It houses a lot of historic buildings, along with the former town hall and the Brownlow House. It also houses the iconic pintman.
The Brownlow family initially settled around the lough located at Annaloist. On the nearest ridge, they established a bawn and Castle for their accommodation by 1619 as well as a fair town of 42 buildings. All of these houses are owned by English families, and the roads are paved, with a Wind Mill and watermills.
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The picture-perfect Glenarm Castle is facing around the area of the serene beauty of the Glens of Antrim, and it still serves as a farm estate. It has used as a seat of the Earls of Antrim, McDonnell’s family for around 400 years.
The Castle occasionally opens for the public. One of the most charming and oldest tea rooms and the epic walled garden host a lot of events, workshops, and exhibitions.
If you are planning to visit Glenarm Castle, be sure to check for open days. Tea room and walled garden open every day from March 30 to September, from 10 am to 5 pm, and from 11 am to 5 pm on Sundays.
With Crenelated towers and turrets, a huge neo-Tudor pile stretches the sky, Crom Castle located around the enchanting parkland of 2000 acres, which is managed exclusively by the National Trust. The Earl of Erne owns the Castle privately.
However, you can still hire the West Wing, book the tours, and even have lunch on Sunday at the Victorian Conservatory. When it comes to lakeside walks, Crom Castle is really beautiful as it has the ruins of the last Castle, forestry, and excellent wildlife.
You can pre-book the group tours for 10-20 people or private tours to visit the Castle. 7th Earl of Erne conducts the tours. From April to March, Crom Estate remains open. On the other side, café, visitor centers, and shops are open every day from March 12 to September 30. In October, the visitor center remains open on weekdays.
Enniskillen Castle housed many rebellions and was used mostly against the English rule. It indeed became the prime hub for the power battles in the 16th century owing to its position near the Irish border.
The Castle is around 600 years old and built by the Gaelic Maguire family. It has the breathtaking views of the nearby scenery on the banks of Lough Erne, and it was the American airbase during World War II.
Today, Enniskillen Castle houses two beautiful museums – the Fermanagh County Museum, which focused on the natural, cultural and traditional history of the county, and a military museum named Innis killings Museum which exhibits the regimental royalty.
These days, the Castle is going through renovations and is going to further improve its role as a present to the epic past of the whole county.
Hillsborough Castle was built in the 1790s and is currently serving as a royal palace. The UK has had a lot of Royals, but this Castle houses the Royals when they visited Northern Ireland. In this complex, the rollers of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth have been taken out.
The Secretary of State of Northern Ireland also uses this Castle as his official residence. It also accommodates all the VIP foreign guests who visit here. You can take a guided tour to visit the elegant rooms, throne room, and a drawing-room.
The guide will also tell the tales of its fascinating history. The glorious gardens of the Castle opened throughout the year. The tours are available from March to September on selected dates.
You can also book the guided tours of the private group any time in a year. The Hillsborough Castle Project organized for the renovation of this Castle. The project will polish up the Drawing Room, Throne Room and the original features of Staircase Hall, which were destroyed on fire in the year 1934.
Harry Avery’s Castle
Located in Tyrone County, Harry Avery’s Castle is a true epitome of a stone castle built by a Gaelic chief. However, its history and origins are not officially known. It belongs to Henry Aimhréidh O’Neill or Harry Avery, and this Castle named as a tribute to him. It is considered one of the most mysterious Irish castles. It has two imposing towers having most of the leftovers in the Castle.
These towers located on a mound facing the beautiful views of the countryside. It is supposed to have been inspired by Gaelic’ bawns’ and Carrickfergus in Inishowen.
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