Castles, stone towers, walls, and other fortifications are an integral part of the Irish countryside and can be found all over Ireland. The Irish castles were not elaborate dwellings of royalty. Most of them were owned by the heads of clans, kings, or titled English gentry. Since the time of the Vikings, there were fortified dwellings for protection against raids and invaders including towered walls around towns and entire villages. The castle are usually small and dark, as windows are few and only large enough to see who might be approaching. The small rooms allow for a smaller fire to be adequate for cold and damp at bay.
Some of the most significant castles in Ireland are:
- Adare - The time-worn remains of an Anglo-Norman fortress on the banks of the River Maigue are among the most impressive castles in Ireland.
- Athlumny - Tower houses often provided the nucleus for the unfortified country seats that began to emerge in Ireland from the seventeenth century.
- Aughnanure - The "ferocious O'Flaherties", masters of the whole territory of west Connaught, built this fine castle in the early sixteenth century.
- Ballylee - The poet W. B. Yeats was so enchanted with this sixteenth-century tower house by the Cloon River that he purchased the property in 1916 and restored it.
- Ballymote - Began in 1300, it was the last and the mighty Norman castles in Connaught.
- Carrigaholt - Set on the verge of a cliff overlooking the Shannon Estuary.
- Conna - Like some sort of a medieval skyscraper, this captivating tower house rises about 85 feet from a great limestone bluff.
- Dublin - Remains of a great medieval fortress that once served as a symbol of Royal authority in Ireland and the center of administration.
- Dundrum - One of Ulster's most evocative medieval ruins, founded by the legendary Norman adventurer John de Courcy.
- Dunluce - Like something out of a Tolkien fantasy, the ruins of this castle have a desolate, awe-inspiring grandeur.
- Gleninagh - Looking down from a hillside across the wide expanse of Galway Bay.
- Greencastle - An impressive fortress with a dramatic setting at the mouth of Carlingford Lough.
- Kilkenny - Superbly set above a crossing of the River Nore.
- Lemanagh - Magnificent ruins of the great O'Brien stronghold on the southern fringe of the limestone wilderness of Burren.
- Mallow - The old Desmond fortress on the Blackwater River was granted in 1584 to Sir Thomas Norreys.
- Newtown - Like a rocket on its launch-pad, this unusual sixteenth century tower house takes the form of a cylinder impaled upon a pyramid.
- Swords - Built as the manorial residence of the Archbishops of Dublin around 1200.
- Trim - The largest and one of the most important Norman military constructions in Ireland.