I’ve been to Malahide a number of times over the years but somehow never made it to Malahide Castle before last week. Which is kind of crazy. Particularly since my mum is from Swords, pretty much just up the road and we spent a lot of time there growing up!
The castle always looks so pretty in pictures and now having seen it, I can confirm that it’s every bit as beautiful in real life! What I didn’t realise was that there is so much to see when you visit Malahide Castle and Gardens.
What’s even better is that you can do so much here without spending a lot. Enjoy a walk or picnic around the grounds of the desmesne, take in the best view of the castle, see the ruins of Malahide Abbey, take the kids to the playground or browse the shops in the Courtyard buildings, including the beautiful AVOCA gift store and food market (though I warn you, you’ll have to be very strong-willed not to part with your money there!)
If you decide to purchase a ticket to take a tour of the castle then you can enjoy all the above plus your guided tour, entrance to the West Lawn (and Fairy Trail) and entrance to the Walled Garden, exhibition area and Butterfly House too.
As you can see, there’s plenty to occupy you for several hours. It’s no wonder it’s such a popular place to visit and takes a bit of patience to get a shot of the castle without anyone else in the photo!
Castle Tour and History
Maybe I’m just a nosey person but I would definitely recommend a tour of the castle if time and budget allow. As impressive as the castle is from the outside, it’s really interesting to get a peek inside and hear a little of the story behind it and the people who lived there.
Malahide castle is one of the oldest occupied castles in Ireland and was the home of one family, the Talbot family, for over 800 years. The family’s Malahide story started way back in in 1174, when Richard Talbot came to Ireland with Henry II. In 1185 he was granted the lands and harbour of Malahide. While the building had much more humble beginnings, it was reconstructed and renovated many times over the years, gradually morphing into the beautiful castle we see today.
The oldest parts of the castle date from the 12th century but many features are much more recent. The corner turrets, for example, were added when the drawing rooms were reconstructed between 1765 and 1782, following a fire in the west wing.
Apart from a brief period of about ten years, when they were booted out courtesy of Cromwell, the Talbots remained at Malahide Castle until 1975. The last members of the family to live there were siblings, Rose and Milo Talbot. Following her brother Milo’s death in 1973, Rose inherited Malahide Castle but unfortunately she couldn’t afford the upkeep. She sold the castle to the Irish State just a couple of years later in 1975.
Unfortunately, the contents of the castle had been auctioned off prior to the sale but some items were able to be retrieved or have been returned on loan to the government. Fixed features such as the stunning fireplaces in the drawing rooms are still there to be seen. Made from Italian Carrara marble, such pieces would have been purchased by the family on their extensive overseas travels.
The Walled Botanical Garden is one of only four botanical gardens in Ireland. Originally it was a kitchen garden to provide food for the castle. It was extended by Lady Isabel Talbot in 1902 and again by Milo Talbot when he and Rose moved to the property in 1948. Milo was passionate about plants, particularly those from the Southern Hemisphere and put his heart and soul into the gardens here.
There are seven glasshouses within the gardens, including the impressive Victorian Conservatory. Like the castle, the gardens are also filled with lots of treasures, mainly from Milo Talbot’s travels. A large eucalyptus tree towers over one end of the garden, close to a row of palm trees and some impressive Polynesian or Maori carvings nearby. I was starting to feel nostalgic for my days in New Zealand.
Milo’s passion for the Southern Hemisphere was probably fuelled by the fact that the Talbot family also had an estate in Tasmania. The farm, called Malahide, was established by a family member in the 1820’s. It is here that Rose lived out her years after selling Malahide Castle.
The Butterfly House is pretty special. I mean, who doesn’t love butterflies?! There were so many flitting past us, resting on the plants and trees briefly as we desperately tried to snap them. The colourful guys don’t stay still for long! There are up to 20 different species of butterflies in the glasshouse, so if you’re a lover of these beautiful insects, don’t miss it.
Getting to Malahide Castle
Getting to Malahide Castle is easy, which makes it a very popular day trip from Dublin city centre. You can choose the bus, train or even jump on a tour if you prefer.
Train – get the DART train service from the city to Malahide Train Station, which takes approximately 30 minutes.
Tour – there are a number of tours that visit Malahide Castle and many include a visit to the beautiful village of Howth too. See tours here.
If you’re driving, take the main entrance to Malahide Castle, which is off Dublin Road. There’s free parking in the lower and upper car park there and you’re very close to the Castle. Not having done my research beforehand, we parked in the Bridgefield Carpark, near Malahide train station. It’s pay and display parking so you’ll need to purchase a ticket (1st hour free) and then it’s a bit of a trek to the the Castle from there. It’s a pleasant walk through the park though and helped us smash our 10,000 steps for the day!
Toots, the Malahide Road Train
If you’re visiting with kids or anyone who might have difficulty with lots of walking, then Toots is a great option for getting around once you have reached Malahide. The Toots train does a loop around Malahide, leaving from the DART train station every 40 minutes. It stops in the village, at the beach and at Malahide Castle and Gardens. You can hop on and off along the way if you like and can use your ticket to get discounts in participating local café’s, restaurants and shops. See their website or Facebook page for more details.
Make a Day of It
Malahide Castle is an enjoyable 10 – 15 min walk from Malahide Village and all it has to offer. Grab lunch or dinner in one of the many restaurants and café’s and be sure to take a walk down to the beautiful marina area too or enjoy a brisk walk along the coast.