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10 Terrifying Haunted Castles in Ireland

Thursday, March 15, 2018 | Culture

By: MADDI MCGILLVRAY

When one thinks about Ireland they often picture lush green hills, rolling cliffs, and maybe a pint of Guinness or two. But just like any place with a rich history, Ireland has its fair share of hauntings.

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, why not celebrate early by taking a tour through Ireland’s most haunted castles.

1. Leap Castle – Offaly
Considered as one of the most haunted castles in the world, thousands of tourists flock to Leap Castle each year in the hopes that they will run into its former occupants. The castle is said to be haunted by a number of spectres, the most terrifying being a small hunchback creature with a nauseating stench of sulphur and decomposing corpses.

2. Leamaneh Castle – Clare
Just 30 minutes from the famous Cliffs of Moher, Leamaneh Castle is haunted by the legend of Red Mary. Mary is rumoured to have had over 20 husbands, most of whom died under suspicious circumstances. After the death of her last husband, Mary was captured by a group of locals who fastened her to a hollow tree and left her to die. Some have reported hearing her chilling cackles while visiting the castle grounds.

3. Ballygally Castle – Antrim
While Ballygally Castle now operates as a hotel just outside of Belfast, the original structure dates back to the early 17th Century. The central tower still stands today and is known to be haunted by the spirit of Lady Isabella Shaw. Hotel guests have claimed to have heard her knocking on their doors late at night.

4. Clonony Castle – Offaly
Clonony is a 16th Century Tudor castle that features mystery passages and even a murder hole. The castle was apparently a gift from King Henry VIII to Thomas Boleyn in exchange for the hand in marriage of his daughter, who was later beheaded. Aside from this macabre story, a ghost known as ‘The Thin Man’ has also been spotted atop its tower.

5. Clifden Castle – Galway
Thanks to its close proximity to a number of beaches, Galway has become one of the most popular destinations along Ireland’s West Coast. Clifden Castle was built in the 19th Century, but became desolate as a result of the Great Famine of 1845. The castle is said to be haunted by the spirits of those who turned to the grounds for shelter.

6. Belvelly Castle – Cork
This 15th Century castle is haunted by several spirits, with the most famous being Lady Margaret Hardnett. Margaret was captured and brought to the castle in the 17th Century, where she was allegedly starved. Margaret is believed to still haunt the castle, with many describing her as not having a face.

7. Castle Leslie – Monaghan
While Leslie is now one of the most exclusive luxury castles in Ireland (with notable clientele like Paul McCartney), some contend that it is in fact haunted. According to most reports, the apparition belongs to a former occupant of the castle named Norman Leslie, who died in battle during World War I. The room that Norman haunts – the Red Room – is one of the main attractions of the hotel.

8. Ross Castle – Kerry
Overlooking Lough Sheelin lake, Ross Castle features the ghostly apparition of ill-tempered Richard Nugent, also called the Black Baron, and his daughter, Sabina. Unlike the Black Baron’s infamous mean streak, Sabina was well liked by locals. However, upon the tragic death of her lover, Sabina locked herself up in the castle’s tower, refusing to eat or drink up until she passed away in her sleep. 

9. Kilkea Castle – Dublin
Built in the late 12th Century, Kilkea is one of Ireland’s oldest castles. Numerous guests have seen a little girl playing in the hallway leading to the old nursery. The sound of the child’s laughter and footsteps have also been reported at all hours of the day. Kilkea is home to another apparition known as the Woman in White, who has been seen crossing the castle’s gravel courtyard.

10. Malahide Castle – Dublin
Malahide Castle has at least five ghosts. One of the castle’s most popular presences is Lord Galtrim or Sir Walter Hussey. He was killed in battle during his wedding day in the 15th Century and now wanders the castle at night groaning in pain and pointing to the wound on his side.

Maddi McGillvray
Maddi is the Editorial Assistant at Rue Morgue Magazine. She is also a PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies at York University, where she writes extensively on the horror genre. Maddi is completing her doctoral dissertation on women working in horror. She is also currently writing book chapters titled "Fleshy Female Corporealities: The Cannibal Films of the New French Extremity" as well as "To Grandmother’s House We Go: Documenting the Aging Female Body in Found Footage Horror Films."