If televisions programs like Game of Thrones have got you dreaming of life as a royal, the idea of enjoying the royal treatment may not be as farfetched as you would think at least for just a holiday. When it comes to Irish castles, they are the home of legends. If you have ever dreamed of gazing across a moat or looking out from a turret, the inner aristocrat dwelling within is likely to awaken visiting one of these magnificent estates.
This is a 5-day tour highlighting some of the best castles in Ireland, hope you enjoy it!
Touring around Ireland’s castles aren’t just a unique way to experience royal life but also a wonderful means to explore the country. Our road trip begins in Northern Ireland in the capital city of Belfast, the second largest city in Ireland. If you are flying in from the United Kingdom or Europe, Belfast is well connected to all of the major city centres with daily flights. Hiring a car is relatively easy with a number of operators to choose from located right in the Belfast Airport. If you are indeed a fan of the Game of Thrones television series, much of it is filmed inside a Belfast studio and all over Northern Ireland.
Day 1: Belfast Castle and Belfast City
Our journey begins high on the slopes of Cavehill Country Park. Resting 400 feet above sea level is the historic Belfast Castle. Its stunning location offers dramatic panoramic views of Belfast Lough and the city.
Originally built in the late 12th century, Belfast Castle was the home of the Chichesters. The original castle was burned down in 1708 with the present building being constructed between 1811 and 1870. The castle was designed in a Scottish baronial style and was turned over to the City of Belfast in 1934 later opening to the public in 1988. It is a popular venue for weddings and conferences. It features a restaurant, antiques shop, and a visitor’s centre.
If you have spare time left in the day, Belfast has many interesting places to browse and shop. Located near Belfast Central Station, St. George’s Market is the largest indoor market in Northern Ireland and one of the city’s major attractions. It is here that visitors will find a range of local culinary treats and produce, clothing, and handicrafts. The market offers a unique glimpse of Belfast life. Before settling in for the night, head over to The Duke of York Pub tucked into one of the oldest courtyards in the city’s Cathedral Quarter. No day in Ireland is complete without a pint of Guinness.
Day 2: Lough Eske Castle and County Donegal
Our second day takes us on a two and a half hour journey approximately 118 miles west toward County Donegal where we will pay a visit to the magnificent Lough Eske Castle.
Lying on a secluded lakeside estate nearby the town of Donegal, this original fifteenth century stronghold served the O’Donnell family. The actual castle seen today was constructed in the 1860’s having been fully restored in 2007 to serve as a reflection of its historic past while incorporating contemporary luxury.
Although there are a number of activities at the castle including fishing, equestrian, and cookery classes, the classic car hire might prove to be a major temptation given the stunning scenery of the nearby Atlantic coast. The region is filled with some of the best unspoilt landscapes in Ireland.
Take your classic car twenty miles West and you will arrive in Killybegs, one of Ireland’s most important fishing ports. The town is not only famous for its fresh catch of the day but also for its world-famous hand-knotted carpets. These carpets can be found in prominent landmarks including the White House, the Vatican, and Buckingham Palace. You can watch the manufacturing process unfold at the Killybegs Maritime & Heritage Centre.
Just thirty minutes further West is the Glencolmcille Folk Village where you can experience a taste of Irish life in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. If you happen to return to Lough Eske Castle for the night, the traditional Irish stew is a tantalising culinary treat.
Read the second part of this tour here: A Royal 5-day Road Tour of Ireland’s Castles, Days 3 and 4