By Elaine Whelan
Ireland is steeped in history and the numerous castles and estates littered around the country is proof of our extensive past. During the summer you and your family may want to explore Ireland’s past while travelling the length and breadth of the country. However due to current Covid-19 restrictions, some of our historic buildings cannot adhere to recommended guidelines and are therefore remaining closed. Thankfully this is not the case with all of our stunning castles and many have redesigned their tours and the way their visitors can explore so that we can continue to enjoy their rich history. Here are some of the iconic landmarks that are delighted to reopen their doors. This is a day out truly fit for a king.
Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny
Sitting proudly in the town centre of Kilkenny is Kilkenny Castle. Today, Kilkenny Castle is open to visitors all year round and is in most parts a Victorian remodelling of the original thirteenth century castle. Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to see this grand country house and walk through its fifty acres of rolling parkland with mature trees and an abundance of wildlife. With a tearoom and a playground on site kids will love exploring this beautifully kept castle. Kilkenny Castle is also home to a gallery of animations by Cartoon Saloon, the makers of films such as The Book of Kells and Song of the Sea.
King Johns Castle, Limerick
Located at the heart of Limerick’s medieval quarter, King John’s Castle is one of Limerick’s most iconic landmarks. A range of advanced and specialist technologies within the castles walls allow you to reach out and touch the past. Costumed guides will take you through the castle, revealing the secrets and scandals of ruthless King John, the noble knights, and rebellious natives. The castle is open daily from ten until five. Book your tickets online to receive a 10% discount. Our editor, April visited the castle recently and you can find her tour on our Instagram page.
Blarney Castle, Cork
Built nearly six hundred years ago, Blarney Castle in Cork has been attracting attention ever since with millions having flocked to Blarney over the last 100 years. Many will have heard of the Blarney Stone, the legendary Stone of Eloquence, found at the top of the tower. It is said that if you kiss it you will never again be lost for words again. However it may have to be an air kiss due to current circumstances! This building is steeped in history that stretches back as far as 1210 AD. A visit here lets you find out more about the castle, who built it and some of its more colourful inhabitants. You can also explore the fantastic gardens or take a moment to peruse in the visitor shop. Children under the age of eight go free or you can choose a family ticket for two adults and two children for €40.
Huntington Castle, Carlow
Huntington Castle was built in 1625 to house soldiers and to this day is still inhabited by the descendants of its original builders. Described as “One of Ireland’s hidden gems” by Ancient East Ireland, is now a private house open to the public for guided tours throughout June, July, August and September. The gardens on the grounds were laid out in the 1680’s and feature formal plantings, lakes, champion trees and a beautiful rose garden. There is also a woodland adventure playground which is the perfect place to play and explore. Kick back in relax afterwards in the cute tearoom. Entry to the castle and gardens costs €10 per adult and €5 per child.
Bunratty Castle, Clare
Bunratty Castle in Co. Clare is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. The impressive fortress, built in 1425 and is surrounded by a ‘living village’ which recreates life during the 15th century when the castle was built. With over 26 acres of woodland wonderland, fairy trails, nature trails, a Viking playground and idyllic walled gardens to explore, social distancing is not an issue at Bunratty. The Castle and Folk Park is open from 9:30am to 5:30pm every day and visitors can get 10% off when they book online. Again, April from Getaways with Kids was on a recent visit. You can see it all on our Instagram page.
Blackrock Castle, Cork
For only €20, a family of up to six people can explore Cork’s Blackrock Castle and Observatory. Families can marvel at the castle’s original towers, cargo holds and gunnery’s. As well as that they can reach to the stars at the observatory at the cosmos at the castle and planetarium, some of the BCO’s state of the art interactive exhibits. The castle is open from 10 am to 5 pm Thursday to Sunday.
Slane Castle, Meath
Slane Castle is a majestic structure set in the middle of a 1,500 acre estate in the heart of the Boyne Valley, County Meath. Home to the Conyngham family since 1703, the historical tours cover the family’s colourful history and stories about the world famous rock concerts. As well as that you can also venture around the Slane Distillery in a combination tour. Afterwards you can roam the extensive gardens before sampling some of the award winning food in the Gandon Room Restaurant.
As with most activities in recent times, booking is required in most of the castles before your visit, however some walk-ins are still welcomed. Check out their websites for more information and to receive 10% off on some tickets.