Ireland’s Most Haunted Hidden Gems…

1st November 2011
Pól Ó Conghaile

Leap Castle, Co. Offaly…

There’s lots of debate as to the most haunted building in Ireland, but this petrifying pile always features in the final mix. The one-time seat of the O’Carroll clan near Roscrea is today home to musician Seán Ryan (pictured) and his family, who host a constant procession of inquisitive visitors, spooky tours, and paranormal investigators like Ghost Hunters International. Up to 20 spirits are reputed to share the castle with the Ryans and, although Sean once woke to find pictures taken from the wall and left beside him, he is remarkably sanguine about it all. “There’s no nastiness,” he once told me.

Details: 086 869-0547 (call in advance to arrange a visit).

Wicklow Gaol, Co. Wicklow…

If you like your days out with a healthy dose of crime and misery, then it’s time for a trip to Wicklow Gaol. The forbidding prison has hosted some notorious characters in its day, and not all of them have departed… several years ago, one visitor passed out after experiencing a tightness around her neck in a cell that once incarcerated hanged rebel, Billy Byrne. Others have reported an eerie mist in the main hall. Paranormal investigators and psychic mediums are regular visitors, and Halloween Horror Weeks have included night tours of the gaol…

Details: 0404 61599; wicklowshistoricgaol.com.

Cabra Castle, Co. Cavan…

Recently, Cabra Castle in Kingscourt was declared the world’s second scariest hotel by TripAdvisor (behind Hotel del Coronado in California). The castle dates from 1760, and a flick through some of the site’s user reviews may give a clue as to its rating. Some guests have spoken of meeting a man in full early 20th century military uniform striding down the corridor; another heard a horse and carriage pull into the courtyard in the dead of night before depositing a screaming infant at the steps of the hotel. Just for good measure, there’s also an old hanging tree in the grounds…

Details: 042 966-7030; manorhousehotels.com.

Charles Fort, Co. Cork…

Kinsale has seen some historic figures slink out of its port, including James II after his defeat at the Boyne, and Alexander Selkirk, whose marooning on a Pacific island inspired the novel ‘Robinson Crusoe’. One woman who hasn’t escaped, however, is Wilful Warrender. The White Lady of Kinsale threw herself from Charles Fort after her father, the fort’s commanding officer, mistakenly shot her husband on their wedding day – and proceeded to shoot himself in remorse. Apparitions of a wraithlike lady in a wedding gown have since been reported. “With a name like Wilful Warrender she was bound to come to a sticky end,” local tour guide Dermot Ryan quips.

Details: 021 477-2263; heritageireland.ie.

Marsh’s Library, Dublin…

The capital can be a creepy place, with blood-curdling encounters reported as far apart as the Christchurch crypts and the Hellfire Club, but this 310-year-old library is one of Ireland’s most haunted. Amongst dark oak bookshelves and ghoulish artefacts like the death mask of Jonathan Swift, Archbishop Marsh himself is still said to haunt the building. Marsh was distraught when his niece Grace ran away to marry in secret, the story goes. Grace wrote a letter which she stashed in the pages of one of his books, but the archbishop was never able to find it. To this day his ghost continues his search…

Details: 01 454-3511; marshlibrary.ie.

Duckett’s Grove, Co. Carlow…

Forget ghost estates – Carlow’s iconic Gothic Revival mansion is haunted by a banshee. Duckett’s Grove was gutted by a fire in 1933, and the last person to live there – Francis Brady, who resided in the old servants’ wing before passing away in the 1990s, claimed regularly to have heard the wailing spirit. Tales are told of people dying shortly after the banshee’s high-pitched keening has been heard and, on a recent St. Patrick’s Day, a live broadcast by the Syfy Channel’s Destination Truth threw up even more strange shapes, hollow sounds and unexplained lights…

Details: 059 913-0411; duckettsgrove.eu (free, but guides must be booked in advance).

Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo…

Croagh Patrick is more often associated with spirituality than spirits, but the craggy mountain does have an eerie atmosphere at times – particularly during fog or mist. During conditions like these, climbers have reported hearing a hand bell, which helps steer them towards the summit, though they never see the bell or its ringer. Could St. Patrick himself be keeping pilgrims safe on Mayo’s great mountain? You could find out for yourself on a series of guided walks regularly run by Gerry Greensmyth of Croagh Patrick Walking Tours, and aimed at the experienced hill-walker.

Details: 087 233-3295; walkingguideireland.com.

Leamaneh Castle, Co. Clare…

Ireland is peppered with spooky ruins, as photographer Tarquin Blake highlights to dramatic effect with his ongoing ‘Abandoned Ireland’ project. Leamaneh Castle, set on the edge of the Burren, was once the home of Mary Rua – a woman whom legend says murdered no fewer than 25 husbands by pushing them through a top-floor window. Eventually Mary was apprehended and sealed into a hollow tree trunk, but needless to say, her ghost still frequents the castle today.

Details: 065 682-8366; abandonedireland.com.

Dun an Óir, Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry

Near Smerwick Harbour on the Dingle Peninsula stands a strange monument featuring several disembodied heads. The story behind it is stranger still. The nearby fort of Dun an Óir was the site of a gruesome massacre in 1580, when English forces overwhelmed Irish and Spanish opponents during the Desmond Rebellion, beheading many and tossing their remains into the sea. The Internet abounds with stories of agonised voices heard in the Atlantic waves, but my calls to local tourist contacts drew a blank. Could the story be true? Finding out is the perfect excuse for a trip to Ballyferriter.

Details: discoverireland.ie/dingle.

Kilbeggan Distillery, Co. Westmeath…

Whiskey isn’t the only spirit believed to reside in the world’s oldest licensed distillery. Kilbeggan Distillery dates from 1757, and 250 years later, Derek Acorah of Living TV’s ‘Most Haunted’ visited to make contact with the spooks on site. They include some morbid monks (presumably still in the habit of visiting the Cistercian monastery that formerly occupied the land), and several visitors have claimed to find eerie orbs of light and ghostly shadows in their photographs.

Details: 01 833-2833; kilbegganwhiskey.com.

Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin…

The graves of Glasnevin Cemetery read like a Who’s-Who of modern Irish history, ranging from Daniel O’Connell to Luke Kelly of the Dubliners. No better place to celebrate Samhain, then. Gravedigger tours are running until Monday at 11am and 5.30pm, and a ‘Ghastly Glasnevin’ exhibition is on display in the new museum. Amongst the graveyard’s ghosts is a Newfoundland dog said to appear at the grave of Captain John McNeill Boyd, who died during a storm in Dun Laoghaire in 1861. After his master drowned, the dog refused to leave his grave, and ultimately starved to death.

Details: 01 882-6550; glasnevinmuseum.ie.

 

NB: All details correct going to press. Prices and availability subject to change.