Ireland’s haunted hotspots…
Want to hear a spooky story? Well make your way to the island of Ireland, and you’ll find castles, pubs and museums filled with dark tales…
Hidden away in Ireland’s lush, scenic countryside and in picturesque seaside towns, you’ll find the ghosts of the past are all too near. The hairs on the back of your neck will rise, as you set foot in places where bloody battles were waged and lovers met their doom… Do you dare pay them a visit?
Visit a prison with a haunting history, and make the scenic trip up to a devilish mountain lodge…Explore Day 1
Ghosts of the past
First opened in 1796 as Dublin’s county gaol, Kilmainham has held inmates ranging from petty thieves to political prisoners involved in the struggle for Ireland’s independence. Its very structure has a bleak aspect that captures those dark times. Walking its echoing halls, flanked by empty cells, you’ll feel an eerie energy in the air as the weight of the past looms large.
And since the old building witnessed its share of violent and distressing incidents, it’s no surprise that the gaol is considered to be haunted. Since the time of the prison’s restoration in 1960, there have been many tales of ghostly goings-on – chapel lights flickering on and off, volunteers being pushed by a phantom force, and mysterious footsteps on the empty stairs.
Walk with the devil
If you fancy a scenic walk with an unexpected twist, make your way to Montpelier Hill in the Dublin Mountains. The trail will take you through a forest – with various paths of moderate difficulty leading to the top, where you’ll be treated to fine views of Dublin city. Look a little closer though, and you’ll spot an ominous, derelict building with a dark and troubling history.
Built in 1725 as a shooting lodge for the speaker of the Irish House of Parliament, William Conolly, it later became a meeting place for a group of rebellious young men with a fondness for drink, debauchery and allegedly, satanic rituals. They called themselves the Hellfire Club and the name has been attached to this building ever since. Their scandalous behaviour and the lurid rumours of what took place at their meetings fuelled the legends that have grown up around their “clubhouse”, with tales of hauntings, apparitions, and even an appearance from the Devil himself! So enjoy the walk and the sights, just don’t stray too close to that desolate shack…
Venture into Ireland's Hidden Heartlands and visit castles brimming with murderous tales and friendly ghosts…Explore Day 2
A bloody history
Tall and imposing, County Offaly’s Leap Castle claims to be “Ireland’s most haunted castle”. The structure, which has stood for over 700 years, was initially built by the O’Bannon clan and has seen plenty of violence and bloodshed throughout its history.
The castle is filled with tales of deadly rivalries and ghastly apparitions. The most famous story took place at the aptly named Bloody Chapel, where a priest was murdered by his own brother in a brutal power struggle. Other reported hauntings are a cowled monk, two ghostly little girls playing in the main hall, and a tall lady clad in red and brandishing a dagger. It seems the castle’s haunted reputation is well earned!
Visit Leap between 10am and 5pm any day except Sunday, and the owner, musician Sean Ryan, will regale you with stories of his ghostly lodgers, and give you flashlights to ascend the tower alone – if you’re brave enough!
For something a bit different, venture further north to Kinnitty Castle Hotel. While more luxurious than the grim Leap Castle, Kinnitty possesses its own beguiling, gothic charm. It’s said that two of the rooms are haunted and that a friendly spirit roams the halls called the Monk of Kinnitty.
Halloween is tied to the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain, and the Púca Festival celebrates this connection…Explore Day 3
Folklore and mischief
If you enjoy spooky goings on, and you’re visiting around Halloween, then make your way to County Meath, and you’ll be treated to a feast of mischief and merriment at the Púca Festival. This four-day event is a feast of food, art, storytelling and music, all tied together through gorgeous visuals that evoke Ireland’s rich heritage and its connection to Halloween.
Many consider Ireland the birthplace of Halloween and Púca’s locations pay homage to that, with festivities based in Athboy and Trim. The small town of Athboy is the location of the first great Samhain gathering over 2,000 years ago. Legend says druids lit a fierce fire, from which burning torches were brought to light every household.
The nearby heritage town of Trim is transformed with wonderous illuminations, dazzling street performances and great food and drink. When the festival ends, you’ll leave with a full belly and a deeper love of Ireland’s vibrant folklore.
Further north you’ll find castles filled with tales of betrayal and mysterious entities…Explore Day 4
An unhappy marriage
Standing on a rocky hilltop in the Louth countryside, the ruin of Castle Roche is a striking sight. But it has a dark past of its own. Legend says that a widow, Lady Rohesia, promised her hand to whoever could build a castle for her. An architect completed the castle and claimed her hand, but on the evening of the marriage, she pushed her unwitting new husband out their bedroom window – now known as the “murder window”. And it is said the poor man’s ghost can still be seen wandering the old castle’s ruins.
If you want to visit this stunning and spooky site bring hardy walking shoes, as there is no parking nearby. And while you’re there, check out gorgeous spots like Slieve Gullion, Annaloughan Loop Walk and the Cooley Peninsula which are only a short drive away.
Head northwest and on the pristine shores of Lough Erne, you’ll find the 2,000-acre expanse of Crom Estate, the seat of the Earls of Erne for over 300 years. The idyllic landscape is also one of the island's foremost conservation areas, with deer, pine martens and eight species of bat calling the place home.
This dense woodland is tranquil and filled with mysteries that you can explore on the Crom Ghost Walk. The trail takes you through the ruins of the old Crom Castle and passes the lake, which has tales of ghostly goings-on, including haunting spectral lights gliding along the surface of the water, and a lone woman, who stands on the shoreline.
The current Crom Castle isn’t as spooky – quite the contrary! This gorgeous Victorian structure has a more romantic vibe than its older counterpart, and the west wing is a popular spot for private hire.
From a haunting restored prison to a few ghostly pubs, Northern Ireland has more than its fair share of ghostly goings-on…Explore Day 5
Like Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast has witnessed a tumultuous period in the island’s history. The gaol itself dates back to 1845, and over 25,000 people have been held within its walls. With such a fraught past, it’s only natural (or supernatural) that it has a reputation as a haunted spot – with ghostly voices and footsteps reported by visitors. The museum hosts spooky evenings around Halloween, complete with specially prepared attractions and paranormal investigations that you can take part in… if you’re up for it!
To the west of Belfast, in the picturesque seaside town of Donaghadee, you’ll find Grace Neill’s pub. Believed to be one of the island of Ireland’s oldest pubs, it was originally opened in 1611 under the name the King’s Arms. It was bought by the titular Grace Neill, and she built a fine reputation as someone of strong spirit – so strong that her presence has lingered there ever since. The owners have reported hearing ghostly sweeping in the upstairs rooms, and glasses falling off shelves on their own. So if you fancy your pint of Guinness with a ghostly chill down your neck, you know where to go!
Further up the coast, you’ll find Dobbin’s Inn. This restored townhouse hosts a restaurant, pub, and has 15 bedrooms. It also has a distinctly historic look – a big roaring fire, high beamed ceilings, and of course it has a haunting of its own. It’s said that a young woman named Maud had an affair with a young soldier stationed at nearby Carrickfergus Castle. In a jealous rage, the then-owner Hugh Dobbins killed both of them. Guests claim to have seen Maud’s ghostly figure walking the halls, through the reception towards the large fireplace...
Venture further into Northern Ireland, and you’ll find more dark tales – and a celebration like no other…Explore Day 6
For a dream castle retreat, you can’t do much better than Ballygally Castle. Situated beside the sandy beaches of the Antrim coast, this welcoming 17th century building oozes character. And yet, legends tell of a haunted past.
The story goes that a past ruler of the castle, Lord Shaw, was so aggrieved that his wife, Lady Isabella, did not give birth to a son that he threw her from the tower window. It’s said her spirit wanders the halls still, with guests noting an eerie presence in their rooms from time to time. If you’re feeling brave, you can make your way to one of the oldest parts of the castle, and pay a visit to the room of Lady Isabella…
An island of hauntings
Off the north Antrim coast, you’ll find Rathlin Island, a lovely rugged place full of great hikes and local wildlife such as seals and puffins. But it also has a rich history, filled with supernatural goings on. Bruce’s Castle – also known as Rathlin Castle – saw much violence and bloodshed in its history. Now it stands in ruins, but the ghosts of the past persist. Local legends tell of a lonely figure in old leather armour guarding the castle grounds. There are also rumours of a woman, clad in brown, who tries to speak to passers-by, but says nothing and fades away.
The cave on Rathlin Island has a reputation as the most haunted place in Northern Ireland. It’s rumoured that it was bewitched by pagans in a time long past, and to this day there have been reports of whispers coming from deep within the cave.
Europe’s biggest Halloween celebration
What started as a humble fancy dress party over 35 years ago has grown into a truly international occasion that welcomes over 100,000 visitors into the city. It’s a celebration of Derry~Londonderry’s rich history and is imbued with the lore and mischief of Samhain.
For several nights leading up to Halloween, the city will be filled with immersive light shows, striking street performers, great food, and of course, the storytelling that brings this magical time of the year to life. There’s a good reason that Derry Halloween is known across the world as one of the top Halloween events of the year!