Ireland’s most haunted castles are fascinating to visit any time of the year, but if you happen to visit during the Halloween season, it’s sure to make for an unforgettable experience. I’ve traveled to the Emerald Isle many times and have explored numerous castles, but this year, I’ll be returning to visit Leap Castle, known by many paranormal experts as the most haunted in the world.
Here is a look at this famous Irish castle, as well as some of the country’s other well-known haunted abodes.
Leap, pronounced “Lep,” can be found in the remote countryside of County Offaly, a few miles north of Roscrea. It isn’t open to the public, but the owner, Sean Ryan, does occasionally show visitors around. I was fortunate to reach him and set up an appointment so that I could see it firsthand.
The castle was built in 1250 by the O’Bannon family on land that is said to have once been used by the ancient Celtic Druids for magical rites due to its dense spiritual energy. Here, the veneer between the physical and spirit realms is known to be thinner and much more permeable. Spirits that linger may be from a number of different time periods and circumstances, with some more welcoming than others. The current owner has not felt anything sinister, but has had encounters with two little girls who were believed to have lived there in the 1600s.
The popular paranormal reality series on the Syfy channel, “Ghost Hunters,” visited the castle in 2007 and had a number of what the team felt were paranormal encounters.
Ross Castle in County Meath, about an hour and a half’s drive northwest of Dublin, is said to be another one of Ireland’s most haunted. Set in a remote area atop a hill filled with ancient trees overlooking Lough Sheelin, its origins date back to the early Iron Age with numerous remains of dolmen stones, ring forts, and Norman castles found throughout the region.
The castle was completed in 1556. Its original occupant was the British Lord of Devon, known as the Black Baron, named for his rather unpleasant demeanor, as well as cruel treatment of the locals. The Black Baron had a daughter, Sabina, who, as legend has it, fell in love with Orwin, the son of an Irish rebel chief. The pair had to meet in secrecy due to the Baron’s disapproval, and ultimately, the couple tried to run away to escape his wrath. In the process, Orwin was killed, and Sabina fell into a deep state of depression and despair. She refused to eat or drink and eventually died from her broken heart.
It is Sabina who is said to haunt the castle walls, with many visitors reporting encounters with her spirit that still searches for her lover. The Black Baron’s presence has also notably been seen in the vicinity of the castle, possibly unable to rest due to the fate of his victims and the grief of the loss of his only daughter.
Today, Ross Castle serves as a bed and breakfast with five guest rooms. On the night before Halloween, I’ll be spending the night in one of them.
Kilkenny, Ireland, is the home of Kilkenny Castle, located in the county where my ancestors were from and where numerous distant relatives live today. I’ve visited it several times, and apparently, there have been quite a few visitors from other realms, as well.
Kilkenny People reports that an electronic counter in the Parade Tower has been recording visitors at night when the 13th-century castle is completely locked up. This is a high-tech, state-of-the-art device that has recorded 100 people each night, baffling staff. Management has had the gadget tested by the company that installed it, and it’s said to be working perfectly.
The tower is a former dungeon in which a number of people were believed to have died, as well as the place where the trial against Dame Alice Kyteler on witchcraft charges took place back in 1324. There is only one door in and out of the room and just three narrow slit windows that are permanently closed with no way any human could get in or out without opening the door, which would set an alarm off.
Public tours start in this room where the counter is located, which takes an accurate measure of each person that goes in and out. There is a strange feeling of a presence when walking on the stairs, and several visitors have allegedly captured photos of a spirit in this same location. Whether or not you experience anything out of the ordinary, Kilkenny Castle is one of the best-kept castles in Ireland and well worth a visit.
K.C. Dermody is a freelance writer. She has traveled to nearly all 50 states and many countries worldwide and has a passion for imparting what she has learned from her experiences to others.
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