Ross Castle – Ireland’s Tall Maiden (History & Travel Tips)


Ross Castle is a magnificent structure that was raised in the fifteenth century and still stands tall on the beautiful shore of Lough Leane. This site is an antique wonder with a rich history and welcomes quite a crowd each day. If you are passing through the southwest of Ireland, it is highly recommended that you drop by this wondrous symbol of medieval Irish architecture. Besides the castle, the view around it is also a sight to behold. Let’s take a look at its history and current condition:

The castle has a strong defense structure with features like a thickened-end wall and barzitans (projecting turrets) upon the tower house in order to keep its inhabitants secure.

The beautiful sunset view of ross castle beside the river.
The beautiful sunset view of ross castle beside the river.

Frequently Asked Questions


Early History

The Origin Story (15th-16th Centuries)

The castle was constructed by an Irish clan known as O’Donoghue Mór in the 15th century. In the Second Desmond Rebellion in the early 1580s, the McCarthy Mor clan took ownership of the fortress. It was then leased, along with its surrounding land, to Sir Valentine Browne, who was a forefather to the Earls of Kenmare.

17th Century

During the eleven-year-long Irish Confederate Wars, the castle was lost to the English General Oliver Cromwell’s army. It was the last territory to be surrendered, captured after the English artillery was brought down the River Laune by boat. 

Oliver Cromwell's portrait by Samuel Cooper
Oliver Cromwell’s portrait by Samuel Cooper. National Portrait Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Late 17th Century & The Browne Demise

After the Irish Confederate Wars ended, the Brownes were able to retrieve their lands by proving their heir was far too young to have participated in the revolt. By around 1688, they had constructed a luxurious abode close to the castle. Unfortunately, their loyalty to King James II of England following the Glorious Revolution resulted in their exile. 

The castle was then turned into military barracks, remaining so until the beginning of the 1800s. The Browne family did not come back to reside at Ross Castle, rather opting to construct Kenmare House close to Killarney.

Ross Castle's interior with high stone wall.
Ross Castle’s interior. Castle Interior flickr photo by jjmusgrove shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Current Times

In current times, the site is under the control of the Office of Public Works as an active tourist destination. With a set entrance fee, you can explore the magnificent castle in all its ancient glory either by yourself. Alternatively, consider taking a guided tour by a well-informed guide.

Lakeside and mountain view of Ross Castle.
Lakeside view of Ross Castle. Ross Castle, Killarney National Park, Ring of Kerry (506673) flickr photo by Bob Linsdell shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Interesting Ross Castle Facts

  • The castle has a strong defense structure with features like a thickened-end wall and barzitans (projecting turrets) upon the tower house in order to keep its inhabitants secure.
  • Each floor of the castle had a specified purpose. The first floor was used for the purpose of storage, the second floor was a living space for the castle staff, the third floor was for preparing food (and eating for the castle staff), and the fourth floor was the living space of the chieftain. The chieftain ate and entertained on the fifth story.
  • The windows on the lower floors of the castle were constructed as narrow vertical slits to prevent invasion into the castle while still allowing guards to shoot arrows or guns at invaders from the inside. The windows on the higher floors were larger in order to let light enter.
  • The parapet on the castle’s rooftop has crenellations which assist defense by providing elevations for the defenders to retreat behind and gaps for them to fire arrows or guns through.
  • The ceiling of the front entrance, the only entrance to the castle, has a structure called a Machicolation: a gap through which stones or boiling oil could be dropped by defenders at invaders coming through the front door. 

Visiting Ross Castle – Tips and Tricks

Ross Castle is a thing of beauty and attracts many tourists to its lush green grounds. Its striking facade is complemented by serene greenery and a tranquil lakeshore. It’s a great place to experience Irish culture while enjoying time with family or friends. If you’re planning a visit, here’s all you need to know:

The stunning night view of Ross castle at the lakeside with the lights on.
The stunning night view of Ross castle at the lakeside. Ross Aglow flickr photo by Denis Moynihan shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How to get to Ross Castle?

To get to Ross Castle from the town of Killarney, you can take the bus or a taxi. The ride would take you around 10-12 minutes and should cost  €5- €8 ($6-$9 USD). It’s a short 3-minute walk from the bus stop to the castle.

A taxi ride would take you even shorter – about 4-5 minutes. Taxi fare would cost you around €9-€12 ($11-$14 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Information was checked & updated on October 5, 2023.

The entrance ticket costs €5 ($6 USD) for an adult. For groups and seniors it costs €4 ($5 USD); for children and students, the entrance fee is only €3 ($4 USD); and you can get tickets for your whole family for €13 ($15 USD).  

You may roam the grounds outside the tower free of charge. Alternatively, you can also pay €25 ($30 USD) to acquire a heritage card, which allows you to tour all the heritage sites in Killarney National Park.

Ross Castle surrounded by tourists outside.
Ross Castle surrounded by tourists outside. Ross Castle flickr photo by larrywkoester shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

The guided tour of the castle can take from 45 minutes to an hour. 

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • The site has steep inclines, which can be difficult for people with physical impairments. 
  • You can get a horse ride for yourself or your kids to tour the grounds without getting tired while reliving the full medieval experience in the process. 
  • Be sure to make time for a boat trip across the lake next to the castle as the scenery and experience is not one to be missed. 

Quick Video Tour of The Main Ross Castle Areas

Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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