If you are an avid ghost hunter, or if you’re someone who just loves a spooky story, Ireland is the place for you! While the ‘White Lady’ haunts Ireland’s country roads and the ‘Banshee’ wails in the dead of night, those in the know will tell you that Ireland’s best ghosts are found in its castles. With over 30,000 castles, many of which lie in mysterious ruins, Ireland has plenty of ghosts who would love to meet you.
Leap Castle, County Offaly
Leap Castle is the most notorious haunted castle in County Offaly. In fact, County Offaly has a reputation among paranormal investigators as being one of the spookiest spots in Europe. This is because of the infamous haunted triangle of castles: Leap, Kinnitty, and Charleville. Top tip: For true terror, visit Offaly at Halloween when night is closing in—you’re sure to encounter a ghostly presence on its quiet country roads.
Leap has a history that is not for the faint of heart. It is steeped in the blood and betrayal of brothers. Following their clan leader’s father’s death, the brothers Thaddeus and Teighe O’ Connell fought a succession battle. It ended when Thaddeus, a priest, was stabbed to death by his brother while saying mass in the chapel at Leap Castle. To this day, Thaddeus is said to haunt the chapel, which has come to be known as the Bloody Chapel.
Charleville Castle, County Offaly
Charleville Castle was constructed in 1798 for the first Earl of Charleville, William Bury. The Castle is relatively new, as far as castles go, but the land it sits upon has an ancient history. This was an area of heavy Druid activity, and there are reported sightings of ghostly hooded figures on the castle grounds.
However, the spirits of disgruntled Druids aren’t the only ghosts that reside in this most haunted of Irish castles. Charleville’s most notorious ghost is that of an eight-year-old girl named Harriet. She fell to her death while playing on the stairs at Charleville Castle in 1861. The daughter of the third Earl of Charleville, Harriet is fond of screaming, laughing, and singing in the dead of night.
Ballygally Castle, County Antrim
Described as ‘a living postcard,’ Ballygally Castle is picture pretty, but it is one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. Various resident ghosts love to frighten the living daylights out of paying guests. Not all ghosts are mischief makers though, and that’s the case with Ballygally’s most well-known ghost, Lady Isabella Shaw. She wanders the hallways of Ballygally Castle at night, in search of the child who was snatched from her at birth.
Legend has it that Lady Isabella’s husband, on learning that he was in possession of an heir, disposed of his wife, locking her away in a tower, where she eventually fell—more likely pushed—to her death. While Lady Isabella roams the halls in search of her lost child, another of Ballygally’s ghosts, Madame Nixon, was a hotel guest in the 19th Century. She likes to play a game of ‘knock and run’ while wearing a fetching silk dress.
Castle Leslie, County Monaghan
Beloved by celebrities and ghosts alike, Castle Leslie in County Monaghan is a sumptuous rural retreat of rolling green hills and tranquil lakes. Leslie is also notoriously haunted, so much so that this 1871 castle has a dedicated ‘Most Haunted’ fan site. However, Castle Leslie’s ghosts are the friendly sort. Many are former inhabitants of the castle, such as Norman Leslie who, following his death in World War I, is said to have swapped the trenches for the Red Room at the castle. Unlike many mischievous ghosts, Norman values his peace and quiet. He is fond of hushing guests who make too much noise.
Ross Castle, County Meath
Ross has a tragic tale of star-crossed lovers. The Romeo and Juliet of their time, it was love at first sight when Sabina Nugent met Orwin O’ Reilly in 1536. But Sabina, daughter of the Lord of Devon, Richard Nugent (otherwise known as the ‘Black Baron’) was English. And she was forbidden to marry a boy of Irish descent. Orwin, the son of an Irish Chieftain, was definitely off limits. Determined to be together, the two eloped. Their getaway boat was overturned on stormy seas, resulting in Orwin’s death.
Though she survived the storm, Sabina never recovered from the loss of her love. She locked herself in a tower at Ross Castle, refusing to eat or drink, until she fell into a deep sleep from which she never awoke. Today, Sabina’s agonizing wails can be heard throughout Ross Castle, as she continues to search for her lost love.