I love visiting castles. The last time I traveled to Scotland, I walked for over an hour and a half around Loch Ness to Urquart castle, and then the next day took a two hour bus ride out to Eilean Donan Castle. So, when I realized there was a castle within a 30 minute dart ride of Dublin, I was all in.
The main reason why I like castles so much is the history. You can feel it seeping out of the often-stone walls like sap from a tree. That and I’ve always wanted to live in a house that was way too big for me, with rooms full of all of my junk. Preferably a whole wing of the house would be a library. Then another just for my cats.
Malahide is more like Bunratty Castle than Trim. There are two gardens on site, one botanical and the other winds through a forest. There’s also a rather large park on the grounds, but the main attraction is the castle itself. Unfortunately, Malahide is also one of the guided-tour castles. Most of the Irish ones are. There is no wandering. No snooping. But, there are humorous tour guides to corral you through the castle, and that almost makes up for the lack of freedom.
While I enjoyed our tour guide, I do wish we got to walk around by ourselves, and not be herded along like cattle. That and having to dodge and weave around other tourists is just not that enjoyable. But, the castle itself is beautiful, and kind of dark too– in a Gothic sort of way.
Malahide also reminded me more of an English Manor than a traditional Irish Tower House. While it was beautiful, it was missing a bit of that ancient charm that I loved about Bunratty and Trim. It felt too… real. Often when I walk through castles it’s like I’ve been transported to another Universe, but with Malahide being an operable home up until the late 1900’s it transformed that otherworldly charm into normalcy.
On our tour there was a large group of Americans, and when one of the little boys that I assume belonged to the family was asked by the tour guide if he spoke English, he said “I speak American.” It was both hilarious and terrifying. The tour guide took it with stride though and continued on like a real professional.
Malahide Castle was built by the Talbots, an English family holding the title Earls of Shrewsbury, who had arrived in England during the Norman invasion with William the Conqueror. Their tenure at Malahide Castle was only broken for a brief interlude between 1649 and 1660 when their lands were seized by Cromwellian soldiers and the castle was occupied by Myles Corbet, Lord Chief Baron of Ireland.
Although the Talbots had taken the Jacobite side, their land holdings were not confiscated after The Battle of the Boynein 1690. Fourteen members of the Talbot family, who had breakfasted together on the morning of the battle in the Great Hall of Malahide Castle, died at the Boyne. In 1831 the Talbots were again raised to the peerage with the title Baron Talbot of Malahide.
The Talbots leave an extraordinary legacy in Malahide and beyond. Among the family members were noted statesmen, churchmen and scholars and one great member of the family, Sir John Talbot known as Lord Furnival, was immortalized in Shakespeare’s play ‘Henry VI’. Thirty individual Talbots had their seat at Malahide, from the first Lord Richard Talbot to Lord Milo Talbot, the 7th Baron, who died in 1973.
The village of Malahide itself is super cute. Grey stone walls carve the path on either side of the road. Traditional, white (and sometimes colorful) Irish houses erected in the lanes. Children rush by on bikes, their parents huffing and puffing behind them. Before our tour, we peeped inside St Sylvester’s Church, saw a mass was in service and scuttled away. After our tour, we wandered down the main street and ate lunch at Cafe Provence; which had to be both a local and tourist favorite because the small café was packed. I enjoyed the sandwich I had—can’t remember what it was but, eh. I think this would be a nice town outside of Dublin to rent an Airbnb to stay out of the city, but close enough that you could pop in whenever you liked.
Out of all the castles I’ve been to, I’d have to say Malahide ranks pretty low on the scale, but I have very high standards. It was still one of the better half-day trips from Dublin that I’ve ever taken, and well worth the price. So, if you’re in the area and have a hankerin’ for a Castle tour, or visiting a small coastal Irish town, Malahide is the place to go.
Are you a castle fanatic like me? Let me know all about your favorite ones in the comments down below:)
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