There are thousands of castles spread all over the Irish isle, that every city, town, and the county is said to have at least one castle or ruins.
With its long history of battle and conflict, castles were built as strongholds against conquerors or protection from warring factions.
County Kilkenny in the province of Leinster, southeast Ireland is no exception.
There are castles set in the midst of farmlands or situated by the river, all with fascinating histories reflected in every well-preserved room or walls that are slowly crumbling.
If you’re visiting Kilkenny, it is definitely more than its stunning namesake castle in the city. That one is a must-see, but here are some of the best castles in Kilkenny that are also worth a visit.
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8 Best Castles In Kilkenny, Ireland
1. Ballybur Castle, Kilkenny
Built in 1588 by Richard Comerford, Ballybur Castle was the ancient seat of the Comerford clan. It was constructed as the typical single-family castle of that era, built as protection against warring groups.
This type of castle was usually surrounded by structures such as coach houses or outbuildings where the farmworkers lived and where livestock was kept.
Even through war and conflict that took place since it was built, the castle managed a relatively peaceful existence.
Today, it is repurposed as a self-catering accommodation that can be rented by visitors who want to experience living in a castle.
The beautifully preserved Ballybur Castle has five floors, furnished and well-appointed with large rooms and scenic views.
2. Burnchurch Castle
Regarded as a fine example of the characteristic stepped battlements in Irish castles, Burnchurch is another must-visit castle in Kilkenny.
This 15th-century Norman tower house was built by the Fitzgerald family and served as their residence up until 1817.
The castle has a prominent round gate tower, a walled courtyard that was originally attached to the caste and maze-like interiors.
Exploring Burnchurch Castle is quite a treat as it has many secret rooms and hidden passageways, with some of them tucked in walls.
Hailed as a National Monument in 1993, Burnchurch is one unique castle that you must see for yourself while in Kilkenny.
3. Clomantagh Castle, Kilkenny
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The 15th century Clomantagh Castle is a tower house enclosed in defensive walls.
It is situated in farmland in the north of the city of Kilkenny, and also includes a 19th-century farmhouse and medieval dovecote.
Home to the Earl of Ormond, Pierce Ruadh during the medieval era. Clomantagh Castle changed ownership over the next few hundred years.
In the 1800s, the castle was granted to the Shortall family, who added a farmhouse.
Its last owner was the local vet Willie White before the property was turned over to the Landmark Trus, which preserves historic buildings.
Clomantagh Castle is an interesting place to see, as the buildings showcase both a medieval tower and farmhouse from the 1800s.
4. Foulksrath Castle
Set amidst a lush scenery of open fields and woodland, the well-preserved Foulksrath Castle is a must-visit in Co. Kilkenny.
It was constructed in 1616 by the Purcell clan and it is where they stayed for over 300 years.
During the Conquest of Ireland, the castle was seized by Cromwell’s troops, and the owners were forced to stay in outbuildings.
For the next centuries, the castle fell in despair but was saved by the community around it. Foulksrath Castle was renovated and turned into a hostel in the late 1940s.
In 2009, the hostel closed its doors for the last time and the property is now on sale.
A 15th-century Anglo-Norman tower house, it has stories, built-in 2 acres of land.
A visit will take you through much of its period interiors, where you’ll see stone fireplaces and spiral staircase.
The boundary wall, gate lodge, pigeon loft house, tower, and battlements are still intact and accessible to visitors.
5. Grennan Castle
Grennan Castle may no be in ruins but it remains to be a lovely sight to behold.
Located by the bank of the River Nore, the 13th century Grennan Castle was built by Anglo-Norman Thomas FitzAnthony.
This rectangular castle spanned twenty meters and used to be in a much better condition up until the early 19th century.
Since that time though, much of the courtyard walls and outer buildings fell in disrepair, as well as outhouses, a water mill, and even surrounding orchards.
Much of the castle remains are now covered in vegetation and a closer look shows that it actually looks quite pretty, like the walls of a hidden garden.
6. Kilkenny Castle
Located in the heart of the city, the gorgeous Kilkenny Castle has a long history of continuous occupation.
The castle dates back to 1185 when it was built. For the past centuries since the castle has been renovated, parts of it reconstructed, and even more, parts added.
Since 1391, Kilkenny Castle also served as the home of the Butler Family. It is a delightful place to visit any time of the year. Join a guided tour and explore the castle’s interiors.
Take in its 19th-century splendor as seen in the drawing-room, library, and the noteworthy Long Gallery.
Situated on the castle’s east wing, the Long Gallery features the Butler Family’s impressive collection of paintings. The parklands surrounding the castle are a must-see as well.
Comprised of fifty acres of mature trees, plus a variety of flora and fauna makes it an ideal place for a relaxing stroll.
7. Mountgarret Castle
The Mountgarret Castle used to be one of the Norman fortresses situated by the River Barrow, but are now in ruins.
The castle or what’s left of it is several centuries old, believed to have been built during the 1400s for Patrick Barrett, who was then the Bishop of Ferns and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland.
It was reconstructed then went through changes in ownership for the next few centuries.
It was eventually given back to Edmund, Viscount Mountgarrett, and remained with his family until 1793 when the 12th Viscount died without an heir.
Even in ruins, the castle looks quite imposing, with its towers that are about three flora high and partly covered in vegetation.
8. Shankill Castle, Kilkenny
The scenic Shankill Castle used to be a Butler tower-house before it was reconstructed in 1708 to become the fine structure that we know now.
Designed as a Queen Anne Home, parts were added to the castle during the 1900s.
A family of artists and historians, the Cope family has been residing in the castle since 1991. They host interesting exhibitions that attract locals and tourists alike.
One noteworthy feature of Shankill Castle though is the lush spring garden. Well-maintained and home to a variety of flowering plants, fruit-bearing trees, and shrubs, this garden is a lovely place to walk around in.
More than the historic house, the Shankill Castle garden makes it one of the top attractions in Kilkenny.
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Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.