Featured Image Caption: Castles of Leinster Leap Offaly
What’s spookier than a haunted house? Ireland has an answer for you: how about a haunted castle with a gruesome past?
A castle that’s been standing for centuries sure’s got a lot of spine-tingling stories to tell. In this case, we’ve got a couple of dark, horrifying stories of murderous clans, massacres, tortures, and battles that once filled its walls with blood and terror. And most of the characters in these tragic stories didn’t leave the world of the living the moment they perished: chances are that these restless souls continue to roam the halls and make their presence felt.
We’ve rounded up 7 of the most haunted castles in Ireland. Are you brave enough to visit them?
1. Leap Castle | Offaly
A visit to this half-ruined castle in Offaly is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, it’s often dubbed as the most haunted castle in Ireland. The walls have witnessed horrifying stories of bloodshed from family murders, tortures, and massacres throughout the ages.
The castle’s “Bloody Chapel”, for instance, wasn’t called as such for no reason. Here, we have a classic tale of two ambitious brothers fighting for the family seat. One brother, who was a priest, was holding a mass in the chapel when his brother ran and stabbed his heart with a sword on the altar.
The Bloody Chapel got even bloodier during the 19th century upon the discovery of a small room with a trap door plus a spiked oubliette underneath. The unsuspecting victims would fall through the door to their deaths on the spikes, while the surviving ones were left to rot and starve to death. The workmen who were planning to renovate the chapel found a massive pile of human skeletons that belong to approximately 150 bodies.
Oh, you might also see a “red lady” wandering the castle, holding a dagger she used to take her own life but that’s a story for another day.
2. Charleville Castle | Offaly
A child’s laugh is music to everyone’s ears. But what if that laugh comes from a little girl who died in 1861?
Charleville Castle in County Offaly is said to be haunted by Harriet, who accidentally fell down a staircase and died. She was the daughter of the third Earl of Charleville. People claim that Harriet’s ghost continues to run wild until today.
3. Ballygally Castle Hotel | Antrim
Long before this cute Scottish castle overlooking the Antrim coast turned into a hotel, it used to be a home that witnessed a domestic violence that led to a woman’s death. According to the tale, Lady Isobel was locked up in a tower and starved by her husband because she couldn’t give him a male heir. She had fallen to her death from the window.
Guests and hoteliers claim that they can sense Lady Isobel and her ghost children’s presence in the castle hotel, from random knocks on the doors to mysterious kids running down the halls and laughing.
4. Malahide Castle | Dublin
If you think clowns are creepy, wait until you hear who’s haunting Malahide Castle, a medieval fortress on the Dublin coast. According to tales, the castle is haunted by a murdered jester named Puck. He had fallen in love with one of Malahide’s prisoners, Lady Elenora Fitzgerald. When the secret affair was revealed, Puck was stabbled in the heart. Before he died, he swore to haunt the castle.
Aside from Puck, four more spirits are said to roam the castle, including the Baron of Galtrim, said to have died in battle on his wedding day. Today, the Malahide Castle proudly hosts ghost tours at Halloween.
5. Kilkenny Castle | Kilkenny
Kilkenny is no stranger in the world of the supernatural. The medieval city hosted the first ever witch trial in Ireland. It’s also home to River Nore, where locals claim they see the ghosts of the people who drowned there during the Great Flood. Kilkenny Castle, the city’s landmark, also has its fair share of spooky stories to tell.
Locals tell stories of a “white lady” who roams the corridors and wanders lost through the castle gardens. Many think this is the spirit of Lady Margaret Butler, the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII of England.
Not convinced with these horror stories? Why not stay in a hotel in Kilkenny and see for yourself? Visit the castle at night, stroll around the River Nore, and step inside Kyteler’s Inn, an old pub associated with Dame Alice Kyteler, Ireland’s first alleged witch.
6. Tully Castle | Fermanagh
Many visitors report experiencing some sort of eerie vibe when exploring this castle. Well, it seems like its legend might be true: locals believe that on Christmas Day, 1641, the castle was burned to the ground during the Irish rebellion. This left many people inside, including women and children, burned alive.
7. Loftus Hall | Wexford
While Loftus Hall isn’t a castle, the sinister past of this grandiose mansion deserves a spot in your Halloween bucketlist. Dubbed as Ireland’s most haunted house, the walls of Loftus Hall have seen not just multiple invasions, plagues, famine, and personal tragedies – they’ve witnessed the devil himself.
The famous legend is about that one stormy night, when a mysterious stranger was welcomed into the mansion by the owner, Charles Tottenham. Over time, his daughter, Anne, became captivated by the guest. During a card game, Anne bent to retrieve a fallen card and was horrified to see the guest’s cloven hoof. He later revealed himself as a devil and flew through the ceiling. Loftus Hall now is haunted by the tortured soul of Anne, who was driven to madness and locked away by her family.
By Carmina Natividad
who is a travel and lifestyle writer. Aside from taking vibrant street photos, you can find her writing articles about travel, food, and lifestyle. To know more about hotels and travel blogs, you may visit Pembroke Hotel Kilkenny.