castles clare

Castles Clare

There are many beautiful interesting castles in County Clare, The area is full of history. Some of the buildings are in bad condition, some have been turned into 5-star hotels, and others are major tourist attractions. There a number of castles close to the Cliffs of Moher, we have compiled a list of few castles within a 1-hour drive of the Cliffs of Moher, almost all of the buildings are FREE to visit from the outside, you can take some photos or cool selfies. Some of the buildings are turned into top-class hotels, and some are turned into visitors centre, one being Bunratty castle and folk park which is highly recommended.

If you looking for some cool things to do in Clare see our Things to do and see in Clare page.

Doonagore Castle

This is a 16th-century tower house, its located about 1 kilometre from Doolin and around a 9 minutes drive from the Cliffs. Its is a nice area overlooking the local coastline with the Aran Islands in the distance. The building was built close to an early ring fort dating back to the 14th century.Tadhg(Teigue) MacTurlough MacCon O’Connor ordered the castle to be built, the current castle dates to around the 16th century. The interesting structure was built with sandstone from a local quarry. In the 1500s the building ownership changed to Sir Donald (O Donnell) O Brien of the O Brien Dynasty family. In 1582 Brian Mac Cahill O Connor has possession of the building. 1583 a lot of the property and land in the area was won over by the Crown, then it was re-granted to Turlough O Brien from Ennistymon County Clare. The building was then passed to the Mac Clancy (Clancy family).In 1588, a Spanish Armada ship was destroyed close to the coastal area by the Castle, 170 survivors from the ship were taken hostage by the High Sheriff of County Clare Boetius Clancy, these survivors of the ship wreckage were hanged either in Doonagore Castle or nearby area called Hangman’s hill. In the 1694 rebellion, the building was given to John Sarsfield of the Cromwellian settlement. The 17th century seen Doonagare Castle given to the Gore Family. The Gore family repaired Doonagore. The building fall into a bad state of disrepair and was restored in the 1970s. An Irish American John C Gorman did the restoration project and they still own the building. The cylindrical design is one of three other castles with a similar design in the Burren region, Newtown castle and Faunarooska castle have similar design features. The building used to have four floors and a beehive vault feature. It’s truly a lovely historical building, make sure to have your camera with you if you going to visit Doonagore Castle.

Dough Castle

Dough castle is located on the road towards the cliffs. The building overlooks Lahinch golf course. The building dates back to the 14th century and has connections to the O Connors family. The building has fallen down due to the sandy foundation and sandy soil in the area. The O Connors used to be lords of Corcomroe Abbey in the year 1306 and they use the mouth of the River Inagh, they could control all water and land passing traffic at this point. In 1471, a chieftain was killed in Dough castle and he was buried at the end of the main street of Lahinch given Lahinch its official name “O Connors Caim” (Leacht Ui Chonchuir). Dough castle did not get destroyed by the Cromwellian forces, the castle was actually saved by a Cromwellian officer. The building still stood high and was a stronghold in 1675 and one part of the building fell down in 1839, then in 1883 more of the building fell down due to sandy soil in the foundation. The area close to the Dough castle, by the bridge, is haunted by Donn Dumhacht (Donn of the sandhill). A section of the tower house was replaced with a beautiful four-storey mansion house in 1648.

Leamaneh Castle

Leamanaeh castle is a ruined castle located in the parish of Kilnaboy around 30 minutes drive from the Cliffs of Moher. The building is part of a 17th-century mansion and 15th-century tower house. The building gets its name from the words the horse’s leap or deer’s leap. The original design was a tower house dating back to 1480, believed to belong to the great Donn O Brein, one of the High Kings Of Ireland, he was a direct relation to the great Brian Boru.1543 Donns son Murrough, lost control to King Henry VIII and was given the title of the Earl of Thomand and Baron of Inchquinn. By 1660 Cromwellian forces were stationed at the castle. The building today is in ruined and is an interesting place for some photos. The structure stands today with both the tower house and the walls the large manor house grounds. The walls of the walled garden are visible and the walls of some outbuildings. The building is in a poor state, and is owned privately on farmland.

Gleninagh Castle

This castle is in a superb location overlooking the Atlantic ocean, close to the area of Ballyvaughan. This building is an L shaped plan design, it dates back to the 16th century. The building gets its name from Gleann Eidhneach meaning valley of ivy. Gleninagh overlooks Galway bay, it was the stronghold of the O Loughlin clan in the 1600s. The building changed ownership many times over the centuries, in 1839 the building would have had a thatched roof. This is evidence that of stories that the castle was vaulted and the basement possibly used as a prison. The last occupants of the building was in the 1890s. There is an early medieval church in the area, which may have been a monastic settlement, there is evidence of outbuildings also. A Holy well is also nearby dedicated to the Holy cross, the well has a stone vault and a Gothic type arch with a cross on top. Gleninagh Castle is located about 40 minutes drive from the Cliffs of Moher, its free to visit, it is located in off the road.

Newtown Castle

This very interesting building is the only of it kind in the whole of Ireland, the building has an unusual pyramidical base which is the only one in all of Ireland. The structure and area around the castle is now turned into a wonderful college called “the Burren college of art” Newtown is located next to the village of Ballyvaughan in the Burren area. The building is believed to be built in 1550 by the O Brien family. The building was enlisted to belonged to Donogh O Brien, Newtown passed to the O Lochlainn family. The King of the Burren Charles O Loghlen owned the castle in 1839 accrediting to official records. The building changed ownership over the centuries. In the 1900s the Prince of the Burren Peter O Loghlen lived in the building. Newtown is used now as the college, its in the best location being in the heart of the Burren region and next to one of Ireland’s nicest villages Ballyvaughan. Newtown Castle is a wedding venue, you can tie the knot in style at this beautiful Irish castle.

Knappogue Castle

The site of Knappogue castle dates back to 1467, the son of Sioda Mac Conmara, being Seen Mac Conmara (Mc McNamara) the built the original castle in 1467. The name of the castle means castle of the place abounding in little hills. Knappogue was the seat of Mc Namara being the Earl of West Cullen who led the Irish Rebellion. The building changed hands after Cromwellian wars, it was taken over by Arthur Smith between 1659 to 1661. When the English monarchy was put back together in 1660 Knappogue castle was awarded back the Mc Namara family. High Sheriff of Clare Francis Mc Narmara sold Knappogue castle to a Scots family Chaircon. During the period of the Irish war of independence from 1919 to 1921, Knaooogue castle was used by Clare County Council for various meetings. They were minded  at the time by the East Clare Flying column,  with the help of Michael Brennan. In 1966 an American former assistant secretary of the USA Navy from Texas, MR Mark Edwin Andrews brought Knappogue castle and its surrounding lands. There was a huge restoration project carried on Knappogue in 1969 with the help of the then Shannon Free Airport Development Company and Bord Failte Eireann. The building was returned to its former glory, and the Andrews family leased the building to the Irish government.

In 1996 Knappogue castle was purchased by Shannon Development, the castle grounds are now a major Irish tourist attractions, this is one of Ireland’s most beautiful buildings and lands. Knappogue is available for weddings, and the gardens have clinging roses, clematis and grapevines.

There are medieval  banquet events held in Knappogue castle during the peak season, the banquets start at 6.30 pm and people attending enjoy a wonderful experience of medieval fun including a large goblet of honey wine, Irish music including the harp and fiddle. There is medieval singing, and lots of history recounting in the night. Food is rolled out with lots of great Irish produce and more honey wine!!! Knappogue has a really good whiskey names after it “Knappogue Castle”, this Irish whiskey is made by Bushmills. The building is located on Quin Road, Knopoge, Ennis. It’s about a one hour drive from the cliffs of Moher.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Bunratty is a prime example of a medieval castle turned into a buzzing tourist attraction. This Irish castle dates back to the 15th century but there were settlements in this area that dates back to 977. Bunratty Castle and folk park is one of Ireland’s busiest tourist attractions. This interesting building is located close to Shannon airport, one of three main airports. The castle and the folk park is located in Bunratty County Clare around a 1-hour drive from the Cliffs of Moher. Bunratty Castle itself dates to the 15th century with a tower type design, the building has had a lot of work done to it over the years, it’s in fantastic condition for a building of its age. This Irish castle has connections to King Henry III of England. The building was damaged and attacked a number of times down through the centuries and legend has it, that Bunratty Castle was rebuilt four times with four different castles effectively.


During the 14th century, the nearby town of Limerick was an important port area for the British crown. Bunratty was used to guard via the Shannon river from attacks by the Irish. In the year 1956 Bunratty castle was bought and restored by the 7th Viscount of Gort with the help of the Office of Public Works Ireland. Bunratty Castle was opened to the public in 1960, showing off it’s beautiful design, rich stone-faced interior walls and old works of art. The current building and folk park is visited by a large number of tourists and school groups all year round. Bunratty Castle and grounds have been developed over the years, a nice gift shop was redesigned lately on the grounds. The folk park is a great place to spend half a day or so, admiring all the old Irish cottages and buildings on the grounds. There is medieval banquets held in Bunratty castle, this is a super cool night out, medieval singing and dancing, good Irish food all serviced up in a cool medieval castle.

Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle is located close to the area of New Market on Fergus in County Clare. Dromoland Castle is around 52 kilometres from the Cliffs of Moher. The building is now turned into a top-class 5-star hotel. The current building was finished in 1835, but the first building on the site was built in the 15th or 16th century. Dromoland means “the hill of litigation” In 1551 Dromoland castle was in the will of Murrough O Brien. This cool building and lands were passed to Donough Mac Murrough O Brien and he also took possession of Leamaneh Castle. In 1151 Donough was killed by hanging in Limerick charged with rebellion offences and the government of the time awarded all his property and lands to the English Crown. The building changed ownership a number of times down through the years.

In the 1960’s Donough O Brien, the 16th Baron of Inchquinn sold the beautiful Dromoland with 350 acres of lands because of financial difficulties. He then built Thomond house on a nearby hill overlooking the wonderful Dromoland. Donough O Brien moved into Thomond house in 1965, he passed away in 1968, the 18th Baron of Inchquinn now lives in the house.

Dromoland Castle was purchased by American Bernard O Mc Donough in the year 1962, it was transformed into a top-class 5-star hotel. The grounds now have a beautiful lake and a top-class golf course. Dromoland is very popular as a wedding venue. The restaurant in the hotel was awarded a Michelin star. Many famous movie stars and government officials have stayed at Dromoland Castle, one being US President George W Bush. It’s one of Ireland best hotels, you can play tennis on the grounds, go fishing, or just have a few pints of Guinness.