The rugged landscape of Game of Thrones, which is filmed in Ireland, inspired us to round up our favorite Irish castles. The show has brought a new tourism industry to the country, which now includes excursions to visit film locations.
This year’s Tourism Ireland campaign, uses crowdsourcing on Facebook to “gather” people around different categories of events throughout 2013 to highlight all the things Ireland has to offer for visitors and residents. Some events located in or near the vicinities of the castles we’re featuring include the upcoming 24th Cork French Film Festival, the Kilkenny Design Workshops celebrating craft and design, and a festival dedicated to the movie The Quiet Man which was filmed in Ashford Castle (below).
Many of Ireland’s castles date to the Norman era of the 12th and 13th centuries. Some sit teetering into the ocean, some idyllically in the middle of lakes, others are supposedly inhabited by ghosts.
1. Ashford Castle (Mayo/Galway County)
Although this sprawling estate is now a luxury resort, the history of the site dates back to 1228 and passed through many different masters throughout the centuries. Ashford Castle, in its current state, was built in two different periods, the initial construction in the 19th century and the second phase in the 1970s. The film The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was filmed here. This year, a dedicated festival to the movie, The Quiet Man Festival of Events, will be organized via The Gathering featuring visits to film locations and other themed activities
2. Dunluce Castle Ruins (Antrim County, Northern Ireland )
The ruins of Dunluce Castle are accessible only by a bridge. Built in the 16th and 17th century, the place has a somewhat unlucky history. A fire destroyed the nearby town during the Irish uprising of 1641. The kitchen of the castle collapsed into the sea at some point, and a ship from the Spanish Armada shipwrecked just nearby, killing 240 people.
3. Blackrock Castle Observatory (outskirts of Cork)
This 16th-century watch tower was converted into an observatory and science center, now called the Blackrock Castle Observatory, where you can send a message to the Pan Galactic Space Station. A behind-the-scenes tour of to the dungeon and other parts of the castle take place only in July and August.
4. Trim Castle (Meath County)
Trim Castle. the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, is most well-known for serving as the set of Braveheart. Built beginning in the 1170s, the site underwent excavations and restorations in the 1990s. Amazingly, at some point in its history, the owners rented out part of the fields as the town municipal dump.
5. Narrow Water Castle (Down County)
Located in Down County, this Norman fortification was originally built by Hugh de Lacy, first Earl of Ulster in the early 1200s. The current complex was built in about 1568, and was featured in a special stamp collection in 2012.
6. Kilkenny Castle
This Norman castle was built in the 12th century and remained in the same family, the Butler family, until 1967 when it was sold to the Castle Restoration Committee for 50 British pounds in order to prevent its ruin. Kilkenny Castle is open to for public visits, with parts of the interior restored to its 18th century state. The servants wing has been converted into the Butler Art Gallery showing contemporary art exhibitions. This year, the Crafts Council of Ireland will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kilkenny Design Workshops which will take place in the Kilkenny Castle Yard.
Check out other great homes in the United Kingdom that have been featured in films and television.