6 Insta-worthy castles of Ireland

Ross Castle, County Kerry

A private family home, a fairytale island and Cavan’s own swan lake… Here are 6 castles that are as photogenic now as they were centuries ago…

1. Clough Oughter Castle, County Cavan (@tomarcherphoto)

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Said to be sitting on a crannóg (meaning a man-made island) Clough Oughter Castle in County Cavan dates all the way back to the early 13th century. One feature that always amazes visitors is the density of the rare rounded castle walls – perhaps that's what has helped it stand the test of time? The surrounding Lough Oughter is not just pretty to look at – in the winter months it becomes home to 3% of Europe’s entire whooper swan population. Imagine capturing that blanket of white feathers from the windows of this historic tower.

2. Belfast Castle, County Antrim (@newdaynewdestination)

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This is the unmistakable view of the picturesque Belfast Castle in Northern Ireland. Seated high on Cave Hill overlooking Belfast, this historic building has become one of the city’s must-visit spots. At 368 metres above sea level, the climb is not for the faint-hearted, but is well worth it for the panoramic views of the city and lough below. The name Cave Hill comes from the manmade caves built into the cliff, but it also goes by another moniker, "Napoleon’s Nose." Look at it from a certain angle, and there is definitely a comical resemblance to a face! Look at it from another angle and you might see a shape that is thought to have inspired author Jonathan Swift to create his sleeping giant in Gulliver’s Travels.

3. Castle Island, County Roscommon (@muenchmax)

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Sitting on an isolated piece of land on Lough Key, almost entirely engulfed in overgrown trees, is County Roscommon’s best-kept secret, Castle Island. Undisturbed out on the waters, this magical castle ruin can be visited by hiring a small row boat at the nearby Lough Key Visitor’s Centre. After a leisurely row across to the tiny island, you’ll be free to explore and let your imagination run wild! Grab your camera and climb over fallen stones, scramble through tangled vines and roam the crumbling corridors of this castle to find the perfect shot that will capture the extraordinary atmosphere of this forgotten place.

4. Adare Desmond Castle, County Limerick (@jon_burket) 

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Situated on the banks of the River Maigue in County Limerick is the majestic Adare Desmond CastleCounty Limerick has its fair share of castles, including King John’s in Limerick city. But a little further along these waters is the much lesser known Desmond Castle, which was first erected as part of a ring fort in the 13th century. Although time has certainly eroded much of its original appearance, it’s still a curiosity that visitors flock to on their quest to explore Ireland's fascinating Norman history.

5. Glenarm Castle, County Antrim

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There’s been a castle around in Glenarm since the 13th century, although the estate itself has reduced in size somewhat over the centuries. Today, Glenarm Castle is the home of Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and is a beauty from any angle. The family opens the castle doors to visitors occasionally however, open to the public all year round is the beautiful walled garden and working estate lined with forest, farmland and the meandering Glenarm River. Speaking of water, clifftop Dunluce Castle is just up the road and is yet another awe-inspiring spot to take your camera to in Northern Ireland.

6. Birr Castle, County Offaly

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Deep in the heart of County Offaly, you'll find one of Ireland's coolest castles! The fortress that is Birr Castle, has been sitting on soft Offaly terrain since medieval times and is a favourite for those exploring Ireland’s Ancient East. Most of the year, the castle is a private residence to the Parsons family – but during the summer they fling open the large doors to the public! Hugged by 50 acres of lush landscapes and colourful gardens, one unexpected feature is a huge telescope erected in the mid-19th century. In fact, it’s said to be the largest historic scientific instrument still working today! So, whether it's finely decorated dining rooms, manicured gardens or historic inventions you’re looking for, Birr Castle is firmly poised to get your followers talking!

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