The 9 Best Castles in County Louth

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Castles in Louth

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Step back in time and discover the captivating world of medieval Ireland through the castles in County Louth! This charming corner of Ireland is steeped in history, with countless fortifications dotting its idyllic landscapes.

From imposing fortresses to atmospheric ruins, each castle tells a story of a bygone era filled with intriguing tales of kings, warriors, and legendary heroes. These architectural masterpieces are not just mere buildings; they serve as fascinating portals into a distant past, offering a unique glimpse into the region’s rich cultural heritage.

So, ready to embark on an unforgettable journey exploring the enchanting Irish castles in the wee County Louth? Let’s begin!

County Louth’s Castles

In total we found 20 historic Irish castles nestled in the wee county:

NameLocationBuiltStyleCondition
King John’s CastleCarlingford12th CenturyNormanRuins
Ardee CastleArdee15th CenturyTower HouseWell-preserved
Castle RocheFaughart13th CenturyAnglo-NormanRuined state
Termonfeckin CastleTermonfeckin15th CenturyTower HouseRuins
Barmeath CastleDunleer15th CenturyGothicWell-preserved, beautiful gardens & lake island.
Dromiskin TowerDromiskinUnknownRound TowerWell-preserved
Athclare CastleAthclare1550Fortified Tower HousePartially Residential
Darver CastleDarver15th CenturyTower HouseRestored by Carville family, Irish wedding castle hotel.
The MintCarlingford15th CenturyFortified Town HouseWell-preserved
Roodstown CastleArdee15th CenturyTower HouseWell-preserved
Cúchulainn’s Castle – Castletown MotteDundalk12th CenturyMotte and Bailey / Tower HouseWell-preserved
St Laurence’s Gate & Drogheda WallsDrogheda13th CenturyFortified City WallWell-preserved
Millmount Museum & Martello TowerDrogheda19th CenturyMartello TowerWell-preserved
Dunmahon CastleDundalk15th CenturyTower HouseRuins
Bellingham CastleCastlebellingham17th CenturyManor HouseRestored, hotel offering old world luxury.
Milltown CastleTermonfeckin15th CenturyTower HouseRuins
Haynestown CastleDundalk15th CenturyTower HouseRuins
Taaffe’s CastleCarlingford16th CenturyFortified Town HouseRestored, pub.
Smarmore CastleArdee14th CenturyTower HouseRestored
Ballug CastleCooley15th CenturyTower HouseRuins
Ballymascanlon CastleCooleyRestored, hotel, known for weddings and parkland.

The Best 9 Castles in Louth

If you want to cram in castles in Louth, then head straight to the medieval village of Carlingford which boasts not 1 but THREE castles! King Johns, Taaffes and The Mint.

King John’s Castle

Address: Dundalk St, Liberties of Carlingford, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Ireland
Eircode: A91 AX53
Contact details: +353 42 937 3033

Set in the stunning medieval town of Carlingford, King John’s Castle is a significant historical monument that dates back to the 12th century. Commanding a dominant position overlooking Carlingford Lough, the castle is named after King John who visited it in 1210.

This Norman castle was initially a simple enclosure fortress that underwent numerous upgrades over the centuries.

Today, it stands as a well-preserved ruin that tells a tale of a bygone era. Visitors are often intrigued by the castle’s austere grey stone walls and the remnants of its curtain wall.

It is an excellent place to explore and soak in the rich history of the region, offering splendid views over the picturesque Lough and the surrounding mountains.

King John’s Castle was recently visited by President Biden on his trip to Louth, as one of the last places his great grandfather would have seen as he left Ireland’s shores.

The Mint, Carlingford

Address: Tholsel St, Liberties of Carlingford, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Ireland Eircode: A91 YV00 Contact details: +353 42 937 3033

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A hidden gem of Carlingford, The Mint is a remarkable urban tower house dating back to the 15th century.

Nestled in the heart of the medieval town, it got its name from its use as a mint under King Edward IV.

The four-story rectangular building, capped by a distinctive vaulted roof, showcases a classic example of a fortified house from the medieval period.

This structure still bears the signs of its original machicolations and ogee-headed windows, with the top floor offering spectacular panoramic views of Carlingford Lough.

It’s a captivating monument, offering a tangible link to the town’s rich medieval history. The Mint, being one of the best-preserved tower houses in Ireland, gives visitors an authentic glimpse into the past.

St Laurence’s Gate & Drogheda Walls

Address: Laurence St, Downtown Drogheda, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland Eircode: A92 EK22 Contact details: +353 41 987 2843
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Drogheda’s St Laurence’s Gate and Walls, hailing from the 13th century, are among Ireland’s most remarkable medieval structures.

Once forming part of the walled fortifications of the town, St Laurence’s Gate is a two-towered barbican gate that stands as a symbol of the bygone era’s architectural prowess.

The gate’s name is derived from the adjoining St Laurence Street, which was likely named after the Priory of Saint Laurence.

Today, this impressive monument stands as a testament to Drogheda’s vibrant past, and visitors can admire its sheer size and imposing presence.

Walking through the gate, you can almost feel the echoes of history. The remaining portions of Drogheda Walls further offer a snapshot of medieval town fortifications, with several sections still visible around the town.

Ardee Castle

Address: Castle St, Ferdia, Ardee, Co. Louth, Ireland Eircode: A92 W291 Contact details: +353 41 685 9953
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Ardee Castle, also known as St. Legger’s Castle, is a remarkable stronghold nestled in the heart of the Anglo-Norman town of Ardee in County Louth, Ireland. As the largest fortified medieval tower house in the country, its location on the town’s main street signifies its dual role as a residence and a defensive structure.

Built in the 15th century by John St. Leger, the castle was a crucial defensive point for the Pale, a politically significant region during medieval times. In 1641, Sir Phelim O’Neil seized the castle and town, establishing the Irish Army headquarters. However, that same year, the English Forces, under Sir Henry Tichborne’s command, recaptured both.

The castle’s strategic importance continued throughout the turbulent 17th century. James II and William of Orange each resided in the castle at different times before the Battle of the Boyne. During the Cromwellian conquest, the town fell to Cromwell, despite orders from the Marquess of Ormond to destroy it preemptively.

In 1805, the castle was handed over to the Louth Grand Jury and converted into a courthouse and prison. Today, it serves as the local municipal center of Ardee, reflecting its enduring role in the community.

Castle Roche

Address: Castle Roche, Dundalk, Co. Louth, Ireland Eircode: A91 X390
See : Castle Roche Video

Regally positioned on a rocky outcrop to the west of Dundalk, Castle Roche serves as an iconic testament to County Louth’s medieval past. Constructed in the 13th century by the De Verdun family and surrounded by a moat, this Anglo-Norman fortress exemplifies the era’s military architecture.

The castle ruins, encompassing a fragmented curtain wall and partial remains of the keep, provide a striking view into the region’s history. At its prime, the castle boasted a grand hall, potentially reaching up to three stories high. Standing atop the castle, one can enjoy panoramic vistas of the verdant Irish countryside.

The site of Castle Roche marks the historical boundary between the Gaelic province of Ulster and the Anglo-Norman ‘Pale.’ It overlooks an ancient route leading into what is now South Armagh, reminding visitors of its strategic importance.

Local legend enhances the castle’s allure, with tales of Lady Rohesia de Verdun, who allegedly promised her hand in marriage to the architect of the castle. The legend tells that upon the castle’s completion, she instead had her husband thrown from a window, now ominously referred to as the ‘murder window.’

Located 7km northwest of Dundalk off the Dungooley Road out of Forkhill, the castle is signposted locally. Please be aware that Castle Roche is situated on private farmland, and visitors must take care to respect the area. The land around the castle is rough and rocky, with steep sections, particularly to the west.

Cúchulainn’s Castle – Castletown Motte

Address: Mount Avenue, Dundalk, Co. Louth, Ireland Eircode: A91 CY96
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Steeped in ancient mythology, Castletown Motte, also known as Cúchulainn’s Castle, sits intriguingly on the edge of Dundalk town.

This historic site is the location of ‘Byrne’s Folly,’ the ruin of an 18th-century castellated house built by the reputed pirate, Patrick Byrne, in 1780 AD. Perched atop the motte, the remnants of this structure provide a unique overlay of histories.

The motte itself was constructed on the site of a pre-Christian fort known as Dún Dealgan, translating to ‘The Fort of Dealga.’ This spot holds significant importance in Irish mythology as the birthplace of the legendary warrior Cúchulainn.

A standing stone marking his alleged burial site can be observed in the field to the right as visitors ascend the entrance lane.

Although the site requires some effort to reach, involving climbing over an old stone stile at the entrance, it is well worth the visit for those interested in delving into Ireland’s rich mythological and historical past.

The motte offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, immersing visitors in the landscape of Cúchulainn’s legendary exploits.

Athclare Castle

Athclare, credit buildingsofireland.ie
Athclare, credit buildingsofireland.ie

Address: Athclare Castle, Dunleer, Co. Louth, Ireland Eircode: A92 W283

Immersed in the charm of County Louth’s countryside, Athclare Castle (Caisleán Áth Cláir in Irish) stands as an enduring symbol of the region’s Tudor history. This fortified limestone tower house, erected in the 1550s for the Barnewell family, is a quintessential example of defensive architecture built in the Pale during Ireland’s Tudor era. The castle’s architecture, marked by strategic loop insertions and ventilators, is a testament to its defensive origins.

Over centuries, the castle has undergone multiple adaptations and extensions, reflecting the ebb and flow of Irish history. It presently stands as a three-story tower house with an adjoining 17th-century hall. Modern elements, including uPVC windows and steel gates, intermingle with ancient features, such as pointed arch doorways and arrow loops.

The castle is nestled 8 km from the coast and amidst the fertile farmland of central Louth, placing it within a prime location for agriculture during its heyday. The castle’s proximity to the Pale border underscores the necessity for a fortified dwelling like Athclare.

While the castle was originally built for the Barnewell family, it changed hands to the Taaffes in the 1650s and underwent significant alterations in the 1840s. The castle has the privilege of being a site of national social historical importance as per the Irish National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Roodstown Castle

Address: Roodstown Castle, Ardee, Co. Louth, Ireland Eircode: A92 WK18
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Nestled in the verdant landscape of County Louth, Ireland, Roodstown Castle stands as a prominent 15th-century tower house and a treasured National Monument.

Located just 3.6 km north-northeast of Ardee, the castle is strategically positioned between the River Glyde, River Dee, Ardee, and the Irish Sea. This location underscores its historic importance as a lookout and a fortified residence. The castle’s design is reminiscent of the ten-pound castles built under Henry VI and is locally associated with the Taaffe family.

Roodstown Castle’s structure is a rectangular four-story tower house, embellished with small turrets at diagonally opposed corners. The tower house features a spiral staircase in the southeast corner and garderobes (medieval toilets) in the northwest.

The castle’s interior displays a harmonious blend of defense and comfort. It housed a vaulted ground-floor cellar for storage, a murder-hole (a hole through which the defenders could attack assailants), and a crenelated parapet, coupled with a chemin de ronde (a walkway along the top of the castle walls). Adding a touch of elegance, the upper floors are adorned with large ogee windows and fireplaces.

Roodstown Castle’s towering presence and robust architectural details paint a vivid picture of the castle’s strategic and residential roles in the 15th century. As a National Monument, it continues to captivate visitors with its medieval allure and historical significance.

Dunmahon Castle

Address: Dunmahon Castle, Gibstown, County Louth, Ireland.

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Situated near Gibstown in County Louth, Dunmahon Castle carries a profound history marked by bloodshed and conflict, primarily due to the tragic massacre of over 300 people during Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland in the 17th century.

Approaching the four-story tower house, originally constructed in the 15th century, one can’t help but envision the scenes of horrific violence that unfolded here as Cromwell’s forces ruthlessly eliminated the castle’s occupants. Traversing the fortress’s surroundings, an unsettling sense of history and dread may envelop visitors, a chilling reminder of the ground’s past, once soaked with the blood of Ireland’s valiant but ill-fated defenders against the overpowering New Model Army of England.

Today, Dunmahon Castle, considering its turbulent past, stands in a fairly preserved state, with a fully intact stairwell that ascends to the top of the battlements. The stairs, located in the northeastern part of the building, guide visitors past a vaulted ceiling that crowns the ground floor. Reaching the castle’s peak, one can quickly comprehend the strategic choice of this site for the castle, given the expansive views it offers over the surrounding countryside.

However, the castle harbors hazards as well. In 1979, a tragic accident led to the death of a 13-year-old boy who fell 70 feet from the top of the castle. Therefore, anyone aiming to climb to the top of the battlements should exercise extreme caution. Adding to the eerie ambiance, a foreboding feature called ‘The Murder Hole’ can be found at the castle’s north entrance, its grim name indicative of its once deadly purpose.

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