I am not going to try to hide it, I have become obsessed with castles. You probably have already realized this if you follow along this blog. I know there are a lot of castles to visit in Ireland. When I realized there was a castle in the center of Dublin, I just knew we had to fit it in the itinerary. Dublin Castle is conveniently located on Dame Street, a short walk from the Temple Bar Area.
Dublin Castle History
I had no idea the fascinating history I was about to learn. The first castle on this site was built around 1200, although most of the current buildings date back to the 18th century. Dublin Castle was the seat of the United Kingdom Government’s administration in Ireland until 1922, and is now a major Irish government complex.
While under UK rule, the castle was the residential and ceremonial quarters for the Viceroys (deputies of the British Monarch) and the Viceregal Court. Now that Ireland is an independent country, the castle is used for inaugurations and other prestigious functions. Over the years it was also as a prison and the seat of parliament.
Dublin Castle Opening Hours and Admission Prices
The castle is made up of several buildings of different architectural styles. The state apartments, medieval undercroft, the Chapel Royal, and an administrative building are all part of the castle. It’s nice that Dublin Castle is open seven days a week from 9:45 am to 5:45 pm (with the last admission being 5:15 pm). If possible, it’s best to take public transportation (or walk) to Dublin Castle. While parking is not available on site, you could try the public parking garages – either Q-Park Christchurch car park and Park Rite Drury Street.
You can choose from either a self-guided (€6.50) or guided tour (€8.50). However, you can only see the medieval undercroft and the Chapel Royal by guided tour. You need to purchase tickets from the Dublin Castle apartments (not the state apartments) in the Upper Castle Yard. If you prefer, you can also book your tickets online. We got arrived right when the castle opened so the line to get tickets was pretty short.
Our Tour of Dublin Castle
Given that the difference is only €2, I chose the Dublin Castle guided tour and I really enjoyed it. Our tour guide was entertaining and shared many interesting facts. Our Dublin Castle tour started with the medieval undercroft and a mini Dublin history lesson. The Medieval Undercroft is the ruins of the original castle that are under the administration building. They created a nice stairway and walkways so you can get close to the history without damaging it. You can even see a bit of the Dublin city walls and the River Poddle that flows under the city.
Next we visited the Chapel Royal, which opened in 1814 replacing an earlier church on this site. The woodwork inside the chapel was really impressive and it was interesting to see the coat of arms for the viceroys. Since the Chapel Royal was built on soft ground, even the parts that look like stone are actually wood to minimize the building weight. This optical illusion is amazing, you have to feel the columns to really tell the difference!
In the crypt of the Chapel Royal, there is the Revenue Museum which offers insights into the history of taxes Ireland. Unfortunately, the Revenue Museum was not part of the guided tour, and we didn’t have time to go back and visit it. Admission to the Revenue Museum is free.
The Dublin Castle State Apartments
Lastly, we saw the State Apartments. The State Apartments were opulent and what you would expect a castle to look like. The Dublin Castle interior rooms were filled with plenty of gold and impressive chandeliers. The grand staircase and artwork we saw were also impressive.
The most poignant part of the tour inside Dublin Castle was when we entered the Connelly room. It gets its name from James Connelly who led the Easter Rising in 1916 (a rebellion against British rule) and was one of the signers of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. James Connelly was held here as a wounded prisoner. The Easter Rising was unsuccessful and Connelly was executed. However, the fact that Connelly was executed when he was wounded did not sit well with the Irish people and increased the appetite for Irish independence
We ended the tour in St. Patrick’s Hall, which is the largest room in the state apartments. Parliament used to meet in this room, but now it is used for inaugurations and other stately functions. You can just sense the importance of the room when you enter, plus there are some pretty impressive paintings.
Dublin Castle Gardens
Just south of the Chapel Royal and the State Apartment behind a stone wall, you can find the Dublin Castle Gardens. These gardens were probably established early in the seventeenth century. At the heart of the gardens is the Dubh Linn Garden, where patterns representing sea serpents are cut into the grass. You should also visit the Garda Memorial Garden which honors members of Irish police who have been killed in the line of duty. The Dublin Castle gardens are not part of the guided tour and unfortunately, we did not have time to visit.
Dublin Castle Restaurant
The Terrace Café is located on the ground floor of the State Apartments in Dublin Castle. You can enjoy a relaxed coffee break or a healthy breakfast or lunch overlooking the Dublin Castle Gardens. They have great options for vegetarians and those that are gluten-free too.
I just love visiting castles and when they have so much history it is even more fascinating. I’m really glad I took the guided tour of Dublin Castle. What castles have you really enjoyed?
Expert Tips for Visiting Dublin Castle:
- Take the guided tour so you can also see the Medieval Undercroft and the Chapel Royal.
- You may also want to download the app to learn even more about Dublin Castle.
- If you have time, check out the Revenue Museum and the Dublin Castle gardens.
The Weekly Postcard
We are happy to co-host the Weekly Postcard Linkup. Everyone is invited to join us and share their travel blog posts here beginning at 12 p.m. (PST) / 8 p.m. (GMT) Friday January 13th. The instructions are below, but if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. You can also check out last week’s posts here. Happy Travels!