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Ross Castle or Caisleán an Ross, means "castle on a promontory" in Irish/Gaelic. The typical tower house dates back to the late 15th century, when it was built by the local ruling clan, O'Donoghue Ross.

Path to Ross Castle
Path to Ross Castle
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Where is Ross Castle? It is located southwest of Killarney, Co. Kerry, on the east shore of Lough Leane (Loch Lein) or Lower Lake, in Killarney National Park, Ireland.

Directions to Ross Castle

You can get to Ross Castle in several ways. On the west side of Killarney, there are several entrances into Killarney National Park. Admission is free.

A 1.5 mile (2.4 kilometer)-long walking trail leads to Ross Castle. Another way to see the castle is on a horse-drawn jaunting car ride from St. Mary's Cathedral into Killarney National Park.

You can also see the exterior of Ross Castle on Gap of Dunloe tours and Killarney Lake Cruises. Our Kerry tour included time to walk around the castle before we boarded a boat to cruise the three Killarney Lakes.

When we arrived, a family was feeding ducks swimming in the water nearby. Cannons guarded the exterior wall of the medieval castle behind them.

Family feeds ducks in water.
Family feeds ducks in water.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Castle tours

Ross Castle is open for tours between March and October. Authentically restored, it contains oak furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries.

On a tour of Ross Castle, you see the entrance hall, private chamber, bed chamber, banqueting hall (Great Hall) and minstrels' gallery. The length of each tour is 40 minutes.


A fortified stone bawn wall, with flanking towers at each corner, surrounded the castle in 1500. Only two of its circular towers remain today. An earthen bank and a wooden palisade enclosed the bailey, which protected the thatched homes of O'Donoghue's soldiers.

"Ross Castle was one of the last castles in Ireland to hold out against Oliver Cromwell's forces, until 1652," said Frank Walsh, our Kerry walking tour guide. After Cromwell's troops dragged gun boats up the Laune River as a surprise by attacking from Lough Leine, the occupants surrendered.

Lough Leane tour boat departs from castle.
Lough Leane tour boat departs from castle.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

By 1700, Ross Castle had changed ownership twice. In 1688, Sir Valentine Browne, an English land surveyor, knocked down the western bawn wall to build a fortified house against its side.

In the mid-1800s, it became a garrison to protect the area from a French invasion. Barracks were built on the south side, after demolishing Browne's house and most of the bawn walls.

Frank Walsh explained that the building became part of the landlord's estate until 1970. He only had one daughter, a nun, who bequeathed Ross Castle to the Ireland government in 1973.


Tourism Ireland: www.discoverireland.com

More things to see and do in Ireland:

Killarney Ireland Hiking Trail - Co. Kerry

Muckross Abbey - Killarney National Park Ireland

Muckross Traditional Farms Tour - Killarney Ireland

Muckross House Tour - Killarney National Park Ireland

Torc Waterfall to Ladies View - Killarney National Park Ireland