Haunted Castles of IrelanD
By Cosmo Brockway
The emerald isle of Ireland has a long and rich history, filled with folklore and myth. For a small country, it has an abundance of castles, some ruined, some family homes. Many of these are home to more than just their current owners. In the spirit of Halloween, we have rounded up some of the haunted and ghostly castles across Ireland that can be visited. Do let us know if you have any of your own bump-in-the-night spooky tales!
Leap Castle, Co. Offaly
Deep in the heart of Ireland lies what is reputed to be its most haunted castle. Tales of ghoulish goings-on have been reported for centuries. Owner Sean Ryan, who restored the castle and has lived here since 1994, is unperturbed by the apparitions his family regularly encounters. He describes them as people with a haze around them including a lady who likes to touch people as she goes past. The history of the place is steeped in bloodshed and battles. It was the stronghold of the violent O’Carroll clan before passing to the Cromwellian soldier Jonathan Darby and his descendants. Burnt in 1922 at the height of the Irish troubles, Leap Castle has been given a new and bright future but the ghosts remain and make this manor a worthwhile visit for anyone interested in the paranormal.
Huntington Castle, Co. Carlow
Any castle lover will enjoy this eccentric pile in County Carlow. The family home of the Durdin-Robertson family, Huntington Castle must be the only house in Europe with a temple to the goddess Isis in its basement! The current building started life as a tower for the 1st Lord Esmond in the time of Cromwell. One of its most famous ghosts is a soldier who knocks at the castle door. Legend has it he was shot in the 17th-century by his own side while entering the castle due to being disguised in the uniform of the enemy. The spirits of Barbara St Leger and her servant, Honor Byrne, roam the hallways. Honor polishes door handles with her hair while Barbara jangles keys. The beautiful Yew Walk has been the setting for a ghostly procession of monks walking in prayer.
Malahide Castle, Co. Dublin
A short drive from Dublin is the splendid Malahide Castle. It was home to the Talbot family for 800 years. Besides the wonderful interiors, with some striking art, and gardens, there is a whole gamut of ghosts to spot. There are five main haunters here. A playful spirit called Puck is known to nudge visitors, he was a dwarf jester at the castle during the reign of Henry VIII. Poor Puck had fallen in love with one of the relatives of the family, Lady Elenora FitzGerald, who was confined at the castle because she was suspected of being a rebel. It did not end well for the jester who was stabbed one snowy night in his costume. The story says that the misfortunate dwarf vowed to haunt the castle. He likes to appear in photographs! Other ghosts include the mysterious The White Lady, who steps out of her portrait and wanders the halls and a castle governor who was hung, drawn and quartered by the Crown.
Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan
Famous, among other things, for being the wedding venue for Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, Castle Leslie is a rambling manor house in a lush Monaghan estate. The Leslie family are related to Winston Churchill and the house, open to the public, is full of historic memorabilia. Visitors can stay in the Red Room, filled with ornate Italian furniture and views across the lake. In this room, the ghost of tragic Norman Leslie, killed in 1914 in France, has been seen wreathed in light. At the time of his death, charging a German machine gun, Leslie was carrying a sword given to him by the British royal family, the very same sword was found by a Belgian farmer in the fields in the 1930’s and presented back to the family. A previous Lady Leslie has also been seen pointing to a glowing vision in the sky and saying that was her home now.
Dunluce Castle, Co. Antrim
Anyone who visits the dramatic Antrim coast of Northern Ireland is impacted. Perched on a basalt outcrop and accessible only by a bridge are the ruins of Dunluce Castle. If you have ever wanted to hear a real Banshee, this is the place to come. Owned in the 1550s by the bloodthirsty warrior chief, Sorely Boy McDonnell, ancestor of the present Earls of Antrim, who drove the English away, Dunluce Castle is a gothic ruin. The inspiration of Narnia’s Cair Paravel and, more recently, used as the Castle of Pyke, in Game of Thrones, Dunluce is hauntingly magical. The Banshee is Maeve Roe who sank to a watery grave eloping with a lover after being imprisoned in the castle. Legend also says that the castle kitchen fell into the sea one night taking seven cooks with it.
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