The Republic of Ireland is home to many of the most impressive castles in all Europe, and there is no better way to see these amazing fortresses than by boarding a barge cruise that travels along the River Shannon (the longest river in Ireland). Meandering through the heart of Ireland, a cruise will slowly reveal the great beauty of the country and allow you to hop off at numerous weird and wonderful strongholds along the way.
Nestled at the northern point of Lough Derg, this beautiful castle in County Galway was inhabited by the de Burgo family for over two centuries. Fire and neglect would later take its toll, but fortunately it was repaired and restored to its former glory in 1968 and is now a popular tourist attraction. This is thanks to its magnificent stone facades, grand gardens and unique architecture which reflect the transition from medieval strongholds to Renaissance manors. Its beauty is enhanced by the picturesque location, and a barge cruise is the perfect way to discover this marvellous seventeenth-century structure.
Leap Castle has garnered worldwide interest and is regularly shown on television due to the fact that it is considered to be one of the most haunted castles in the world - you are sure to spot a few ghost hunters lurking in the corridors here! Located in the scenic Count Offaly, this fifteenth-century building certainly has a spooky feel to it which makes visits here good fun. This is furthered by the eccentric owner, Sean Ryan, who will happily give you an animated tour and tell you all you need to know about the ghosts that supposedly still live within the walls. These include the Red Lady, who holds a dagger in one hand, and “It”, a rotting presence with a foul stench and decomposing face. Keep your eyes peeled!
Birr Castle has been an important place for innovation and is famous within the science, engineering and astronomy communities. It was inhabited by the third Earl of Rosse during the 1840s who designed a telescope that could be used to observe the spiral formation of galaxies. This amazing invention can still be seen on the grounds today, along with a blend of architecture that includes the original medieval walls and a striking octagonal Gothic Saloon which was added only in the nineteenth century.
These are just three of the most atmospheric castles found in the Republic of Ireland, all of which vary drastically but add to the country’s great charm. Those that are intrigued by these cool fortifications will love a castle-hopping barge cruise along the River Shannon, which will show you the breathtaking natural beauty of Ireland whilst showcasing a selection of important, historic and castles.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge cruise itineraries. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.