The Bottom Line
If you are walking up Dame Street from Trinity College to Christ Church Cathedral, you will pass Dublin Castle on you left. And miss it. Though one of the top ten sights of Dublin, it is hidden away. And not a castle in the classical sense. But the former seat of British power in Ireland should be on every agenda.
- Two towers from the 13th century are part of Dublin's rare medieval heritage.
- Unique ensemble of government buildings from the 18th century.
- State Apartments include a throne brought by William of Orange and other symbols of British rule.
- Will disappoint visitors looking for a "real" castle.
- Entrance to State Apartments by tour only.
- Anglo-Norman castle remains in the form of two much-converted towers only.
- Redesign as government buildings dates mainly from 18th century and is without character of fortress.
- Richly decorated State Apartments open to visitors (guided tours only).
Guide Review - Dublin Castle
Originally built in the 13th century, the Anglo-Norman castle burned down in 1684. Sir William Robinson then developed plans for a re-build. Without major defensive installations and with an eye on providing the government with a fine contemporary home. Thus present-day Dublin Castle was born. And visitors will usually only notice the Record Tower as being truly medieval. The adjoining "Chapel Royal" (rather its replacement, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity) was only finished in 1814 and is about 600 years younger - but with a beautiful neo-gothic exterior and a hundred intricately carved heads.
When viewed from the park (which has a gigantic "Celtic" spiral ornament doubling as a helipad) the strange mixture of styles becomes evident. On the left the 13th-century Bermingham Tower was converted into a supper room, brightly colored but uninspiring facades follow, then the romantic Octagonal Tower (from 1812), the Georgian State Apartments and the Record Tower (with the Garda Museum in the basement) and the Chapel round the ensemble off. The inner yards are dominated by brickwork, quite a contrast.
While the outside is generally open to the public, only the State Apartments can be visited on the inside of Dublin Castle. This is strictly by guided tour only.