Ireland’s lush, diverse landscape is dotted with numerous castles. A lot of these were used as defensive structures or family strongholds. Most are built at least five centuries ago and have been witness to Ireland’s conflicted history.
Almost seamlessly intertwined with battles and conflicts are legends about the residents of these castles.
Today, there are castles in Ireland that are inhabited nor just by clans who owned them, but also by ghosts and spirits.
Visiting haunted castles in Ireland may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a unique way to learn about a certain castle’s history. It also gives a fascinating look at a certain Irish locale’s history.
Brave enough to bump into ghosts while on tour? Here’s a list of some of the most haunted castles in Ireland according to stories.
Things you'll find in this article
- 11 Haunted Castles In Ireland That You Must Visit
- 1. Athcarne Castle near Dulleek County Meath
- 2. Ballygally Castle, County Antrim
- 3. Belvelley Castle, County Cork
- 4. Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim
- 5. Charleville Castle in Tullamore, Offaly
- 6. Kilkea Castle, Kildare
- 7. Leamaneh Castle, Clare
- 8. Leap Castle, Offaly
- 9. Castle Leslie, County Monaghan
- 10. Malahide Castle in Dublin
- 11. Ross Castle in Oldcastle, Meath
11 Haunted Castles In Ireland That You Must Visit
1. Athcarne Castle near Dulleek County Meath
Built in 1590, the ruins of Athcarne Castle in Meath is said to be haunted by the fallen King James.
He used to stay in the castle before he died during a battle in the nearby Bayne.
Apart from his ghost, the screams of soldiers who also died during that same battle are allegedly heard in the castle. There were also reported sightings of a young girl with bloodied hands, and a man hanging at the nearby tree.
People also said there’s a feeling of being ‘unwelcome’ when they wander close to the castle ruins.
2. Ballygally Castle, County Antrim
County Antrim’s Ballygally Castle is known as the most haunted hotel in Northern Ireland. Legend tells of three well-known ghosts that are said to roam the rooms and the halls at this castle hotel.
Legend says that the castle is being haunted by one of its former residents — Lady Isabella.
Legend has it that she was locked in the Tower by her husband. It was believed that she either jumped or was pushed out of the window and fell to her death.
Those who have experienced being haunted by her ghost said that Lady Isabella’s presence causes a sudden cold draft and strange smells. Guests have also talked of a mysterious glowing green mist in the castle’s yard.
Ballygally Castle Hotel still operates and guests can actually still stay here, even in Isabella’s room…. if they dare.
3. Belvelley Castle, County Cork
Located not too far from Cobh is another if the most haunted places in Ireland— Belvelley Castle. The castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of a certain Margaret Hodnett.
She was a resident of the castle during the 17th century and was famous for her beauty.
Legend has it that she had a complicated relationship with the Lord Rockenby who proposed many times, but she always declined. Rockenby and his army eventually tried to take the castle by force until Margaret finally relented.
By this time, she wasn’t as beautiful anymore, which angered Lord Rockenby. He smashed her mirror and that was said to have driven Margaret to insanity.
She constantly searched for a mirror since, hoping her beauty will come back. It is said that her faceless ghost continues to search the castle up to this day.
4. Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim
The Norman era Carrickfergus, County Antrim has been the subject of numerous attacks throughout its long history. It was first built in 1180 and has been besieged by the English, French, Irish and the Scots.
The castle has also been strengthened and extended many times over the past several centuries. It also served as a prison during the 18the century.
One of the ghosts that’s said to frequently haunt Carrickfergus Castle was a soldier called ‘Buttoncap’.
Legend says that he was executed after being caught having an affair with his captain’s wife.
5. Charleville Castle in Tullamore, Offaly
The Charleville Castle in Tullamore was constructed in honor of Ireland’s victory over France in 1798.
The ghost that was said to frequent the castle was that of Harriet. She was the youngest daughter of the Earl of Charles, who ordered the construction of the castle.
Harriet was only eight when she died, after tragically falling down the main staircase.
There were reports of childish laughter, singing, and screams from the castle, which has also been investigated by paranormal experts.
6. Kilkea Castle, Kildare
One of the most haunted castles in Ireland is said to be Kilkea Castle in Kildare. It has been around since 1180, and an Earl reportedly haunts its premises.
The castle is now one of the best castle hotels in Ireland, but guests say that the clash of steel on the staircases are still heard. That’s the sound of the battles fought during the castle’s long history.
There’s also the Wizard Earl, known for his perchance for alchemy, who rides out from the Castle in the dead of night, every 7 years.
The Earl is said to wander through the plains of the Curragh on a white stallion with glistening hooves.
7. Leamaneh Castle, Clare
Located just 30 minutes away from the majestic Cliffs of Moher is the haunted Leamaneh Castle.
There’s a local legend about Red Mary, who had over twenty husbands. Most of these men were said to have died under suspicious circumstances.
She was captured after the death of her last husband, tied to a tree and left to die. People have reported hearing her eerie cackles while visiting the castle grounds.
8. Leap Castle, Offaly
Leap Castle in Offaly may be privately owned, but is still among the most haunted castles in Ireland. Curious tourists and visitors go here with hopes of seeing some of the spirits that are said to haunt the castle.
Historically, there have been numerous massacres in the castle, most of them under the hands of O’Carroll Clan.
Legend says that the O’Carrolls, poisoned, raped, tortured and brutally murdered a lot of people. These are said to be the spirits that now continue yo haunt Leap Castle. Some of the Castle’s ‘resident’ ghosts include the McMahobs, the Red Lady and the Wild Captain Darby.
9. Castle Leslie, County Monaghan
Castle Leslie in County Monaghan easily takes its place as one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. It is frequented by not just one but several ghosts, which are considered more like Casper than the sinister types.
Castle Leslie is also a hotel and if you’re brave enough, you can actually stay here to maybe ‘see’ these harmless ghosts for yourself. There are two rooms here where ghosts are said to regularly appear.
There’s the Red Room that’s haunted by the ghost of Norman Leslie, who was one of the former owners of the castle. The Mauve Room, meanwhile, is said to be where Lady Constance often visits.
Apart from these two, other ghosts have been reported around the Castle Leslie such as a crying child, a monk and the mysterious case of bells that ring on their own.
10. Malahide Castle in Dublin
A jester called Huck is said to haunt the Malahide. Legend says that she fell in love with a noblewoman.
He was murdered and as he lay dying, he vowed to haunt the castle forever.
Another ghost that frequents the castle is that of Miles Corbett, who was hung for the atrocities he committed. He was the one who got the castle after Cromwell evicted the Talbots, and was executed by Charles II.
There have been reports if Corbett’s ghost appearing in a full suit of armor before it falls into pieces.
11. Ross Castle in Oldcastle, Meath
Built in 1533 by the infamous Black Baron, Ross Castle in Meath is also a hotel.
It is considered by Lonely Planet as among the least known haunted castles in the world.
Guests have reported hearing strange voices and cries, apparitions and doors opening and closing of their own accord.
There’s also the legend of the Black Baron, who built the castle. He had a daughter named Sabina who fell in love with the chieftain’s son named Orwin.
They decided to elope but they did it on a stormy night so Orwin drowned in the loch. Sabina survived but spent the rest of her life grieving until she died.
She is now among the ghosts at Ross, making it one of the most haunted castle hotels in Ireland.
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Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.