Malahide Castle Dublin is 800 years of Irish history in one building. This magnificent Irish castle has hosted the Talbot Family for much of that time, an unusual fact otherwise unheard of in the country. As it stands today, the castle is a great example of Gothic revival architecture. It’s unique style and circumstances in Ireland, contribute to why you must visit Malahide Castle Ireland. When you combine that with the attractions of the seaside village of Malahide, you are guaranteed an excellent day trip from Dublin city.
While most visitors to Dublin, factor in a visit to Dublin Castle, the fact is they missed out on Dublin’s best if it’s the only castle they visit. Malahide Castle ranks top in Dublin city for a whole host of reasons. Ten in fact, which I’ll happily elaborate on now.
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But before you can enjoy the best of Malahide Castle, you do of course need to get there.
How to get to Malahide Castle
Located in the superb village of Malahide, Malahide Castle is easiest reached by Dart. Dart, Dublin’s light rail system will take you from Tara Street or Connolly Station to the village in just over 20 minutes. What’s more it will throw some coastal scenery as a bonus. A return day ticket will cost €6.25, unless you decide to not ever leave. Then a single is €3.30, and you’ve picked a good place to settle down. Twenty minutes walk, much of it through the Malahide Park, and you’ll have reached your destination.
Alternatively the castle is 17 kilometres from the city centre by road, which can take you anywhere from 30 minutes to drive, depending on the time of day. It’s only 8 kilometres or 12 minutes from Dublin Airport, if you simply can’t wait to visit once you land. There is a substantial amount of parking available.
Alternatively, take one of the tours offered by Get Your Guide.
How to Visit Malahide Castle
Malahide Demesne can be wandered around to a certain extent for free, but to see its real attractions you will need to purchase a ticket. As part of the Shannon Heritage run group of historic properties in Ireland, you can guarantee a memorable experience. A €12 admission fee allows access to the fairy trail, walled gardens, butterfly house and to guided tours of the interior of the castle. The castle tour takes around 45 minutes, and with interior lifts, is suitable for those of limited mobility. Purchase your Malahide Castle tickets in the visitor centre before going to the castle. You can also book tickets online at a reduced rate. Alternatively annual membership for Malahide Castle and the nearby Newbridge House can be purchased, priced at €60 for adults, or €95 for a family of four. See the Castle Website for more details.
Reasons to visit Malahide Castle
1. Revel in 800 Years of History
Malahide Castle was the private family home of the Talbot Family for nearly 800 years. Richard Talbot, a knight who served Henry II on his campaign in Ireland during 1174, was granted the lands around Malahide. From 1185 onward, this became their home, with parts of the castle dating to the late 12th century. Of course it took time to become the beauty it is today. In 1400 the keep like section that includes the Great Hall was added, before expanding further in 1475. The towers were only added in the 19th century. The castle was the most secure in Dublin at this time.
The most turbulent period of Malahide Castle history, was during the 1600’s. From 1649-1660, Oliver Cromwell left his mark, by ejecting the Talbot’s, and installing Myles Corbet, the Lord Chief Baron of Ireland in their place. In 1690 following the Battle of the Boyne, 14 members of the family perished, on the side of King James II.
The last Talbot to call the house home was Lord Milo Talbot. On his death in 1973, his sister sold the castle to the Irish state, before settling in Tasmania. The long lineage of the Talbot family ended with her death there.
2. Take the Malahide Castle Tour
The tour of the castle interior ranks as one of the best in Ireland, recounting stories of the furniture, building, art, former residents and even those that wouldn’t leave, the ghosts. It starts and ends in the 16th century oak room, a glorious paneled room, with carvings in the aforementioned wood. This includes six carved panels depicting biblical scenes. These carvings are based on Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican. This art extends the rest of the furniture here, all decorated in minute detail. The fireplace is styled with Egyptian Motifs. Large latticed oak room windows light the room and look out onto the front lawns.
From here the tour moves room by room as most tours do. The upper floors bedrooms are still lavishly laid out as period bedrooms featuring four bolster beds, and you will surely take delight in the children’s room with the 19th century toys. On each end is a large turret, one of which features a set of portraits.
Back downstairs the drawing room is distinguished by a distinct orange terracotta wall colour, that became known as Malahide Orange. Stuccoed ceilings add to the rooms splendor, and depict exotic birds and animals. Then cringe at the confidante sofa; imagine your first date with your mum and mother-in-law listening in on your every word. The stuff of nightmares.
The Great Hall dates from 1475, and its walls contain many portraits on lend from the National Gallery. A large painting of the battle of the Boyne dominates it though. Running it’s length, is a large dining table which has come from Powerscourt House, and you will get a feel for the many dinner parties the room played host to.
3. Stroll Through and Admire Malahide Castle Gardens
But the fun doesn’t have to end at the castle. The grounds are set over 260 acres. Naturally they reflect modern times, with paved walks, and golf courses making up some of Malahide Park. But there are also many remnants of the past, thankfully.
The Botanic Gardens are a 20th century addition to the area. Lord Milo Talbot was an expert botanist, and his travels around the world allowed him to take back many plants from the Southern Hemisphere to cultivate here. In total there are over 5000 specimens in the botanic gardens. The gardens include a rose garden, and seven glasshouses in total, with a Victorian conservatory being the best of them. Also within the gardens is an old watch tower.
Malahide abbey is a ruin in the grounds located between the castle and the visitor centre. Though not open to the public, the impressive ruin can be circled. This church dedicated to St Silvester is from the 15th century. You’ll also find a few curious Sheila-na-gigs here. I wont elaborate on what they are.
The west lawn of the castle is a 20 acre area, ideal for a stroll, and a great place from which to admire the castle. You can also take the little ones here, and follow the fairy trail. The west lawn plays host to the Malahide Castle Concerts. A whole host of excellent bands have belted it out here over the last few years, including The Cure, Mumford and Sons and Snow Patrol, and 2021 will feature Lewis Capaldi and The Killers.
4. Hunt for the Malahide Castle Ghosts
The Malahide Castle ghost story counts five ghosts that are said to haunt the building (every castle has one of course, but five is a bit much).
The best story tells of Puck. Puck served as the court jester in the 1500’s. Puck was supposedly short on stature but big in heart, and fell for the Lady Elenora Fitzgerald, whom he watched from the gallery of the Great Hall. The tale didn’t end happily ever after for poor Puck though.
Conflicting reports said he either hanged himself from the disappointment, or was killed for overstepping his mark. His dying words were a vow to haunt the castle, and the apparition of a figure wearing a jesters costume has been seen many times since in the gallery above the Great Hall and the turrets.
Lady in White
Another intriguing ghost is the woman in white (why are they always in white). This specter is an unknown in the castle’s history, but it is said that a painting of her clad in white hung in the Great Hall. There were several reports of her leaving it and having a walk around the castle (that’s original though). Unsurprisingly they got rid of the painting (I would have), but the lady lingered on.
Then there’s Myles Corbet. Remember him. Before he usurped the house from the Talbot’s, his was the final signature on the death warrant of Charles II of England. That of course came round to haunt him and signed his, as he was later captured, hung, drawn and quartered. So all four parts of him, intact, in turn returned to haunt the castle.
5. Shop and dine at Avoca Malahide Castle
If the castle isn’t enough for you, then perhaps the presence of an Avoca will tilt you over the edge. Avoca, for those who don’t know is a near 300 year old Irish institution. From subtle beginnings as handweavers in a Wicklow mill, they now stand as a brand of quality, and are found throughout the country. Avoca is said to be one of the oldest manufacturers in the world. To pick up an excellent souvenir of your visit to Ireland look no further than Avoca.
Avoca also has another side to it, and the one that excites me more is the food side. Malahide features a cafe and for good honest fare with a modern twist, Avoca’s pedigree is as good as anywhere. A perfect example to this is the chicken and mushroom pie (served with 3 salads) that enticed me. Doesn’t that look good. Tasted even better.
6. Get a little unnerved by the moving picture
For all the magnificent art on show, perhaps this one stands out more than all. To the bottom of the stairs that leads to the bedrooms is a portrait featuring young Milo and Rose. As you move around the room or up the stairs, the eyes of the children move with you, and never stop staring. It’s a unique illusion by the artist. Or is it? Could there be even more ghostly going’s on here. Are the castles final residents still with us, overlooking their families interests?
7. Marvel at the castles peacocks
Because they are peacocks. Every good castle needs to have peacocks and Malahide is no exception. As birds go, you’ll find none prettier or more magnificent in Ireland.
8. Flutter around Ireland’s only Butterfly House
Who doesn’t love butterflies? As this is the only Butterfly house in Ireland it’s also unique. There are over 20 species inside, and some are huge. Its fascinating to watch them fly from plant to plant within, all dressed up in their fantastic colours.
9. See the Model Railway Museum
Now known as the Casino Railway exhibit, this attraction was once located in the castle and known as the Fry Model Railway. Now it has found a new home as of 2020. The new home is perhaps as big an attraction as the exhibit (unless trains are your thing), sited in the Casino house, which was once a hunting lodge of the Talbot Family. It dates from 1750, and is a stunning two floor thatched cottage, built as a cottage orne. Cottage orne was a style that looked to take people back to a more natural way of living. With the movement of the exhibit, the house was restored back to its original magnificence.
The Model Railway Museum showcases the collection of Cyril Fry, a famed Irish collector, who hand crafted the marvellous models on show. From an early age Fry had an interest in trains, and went on to work as an engineer with the rail service. Over his career he created 350 models of actual trains, all of them correct to scale. After his death the models were sold to Dublin Regional Tourism, and got the audience they deserved with the opening of the museum. The museum can be visited for €7.50 and tickets may be booked online at https://www.modelrailwaymuseum.ie/.
10. Finish your day in Malahide Village
With your visit to all the castle has to offer behind you, make your way to Malahide. Growing from humble origins as a fishing village, it is now an upmarket part of Dublin. This is reflected in the boutiques, restaurants and cafes that line its attractive streets. Can I recommend any of the fish at the Fish Shack. The Calamari is to die for. Or you could dine in style at McGovern’s, or in the comfortable surroundings of Gibney’s Pub.
Then end your visit with a walk along Malahide Marina, admiring the yachts and cruisers of Dublin’s most affluent families, as the breeze of the Irish sea gently caresses your face.
While I deem Malahide Castle the best in Dublin, it is not the only castle worthy of your time. I have suggested the moated Drimnagh Castle as an excellent choice, in my article, Should you visit Drimnagh castle? Alternatively the very entertaining Dalkey Castle, and the magnificent village that surrounds it, are a worthy day trip from Dublin.
Would you enjoy a visit here? Let me know in the comments.