Our Top 3 Most Haunted Sites in Ireland
Irish folklore is bound up in ghost stories, spirits, banshees, haunted sites and bloodshed. Every townland and parish in the country has a story of some strange happening and as a follow up to our tour around paranormal Dublin, and using your most haunted recommendations (see below!), we decided to pick three of the darkest and most fascinating for your horror and fright!
Surrounded by incredible countryside with excellent walks and hikes, these three sites are wonderful to visit with a map of the area of your choice.
But tread carefully. These are some of the most haunted sites in Ireland!
Leap Castle, Co. Offaly
While probably not the only castle to claim the title of ‘most haunted’ in Ireland, Leap Castle’s bloody and terrifying history certainly make it a worthy candidate.
Thought to have been built around 1250 the castle’s past is full of ferocious acts of violence, gruesome death and sinister happenings. The pall of darkness first descended on Leap Castle back in 1532 when the death of the chieftain, Mulrooney O’Carroll, led to a bitter and bloody feud over leadership of the clan. One day as one of Mulrooney’s sons, Thaddeus O’Carroll, was saying mass in a room above the great hall, his brother, ‘one-eyed’ Teige O’Carroll stormed into the room, stabbed his brother priest in the back on the altar while the rest of the family looked on in terror. The room, now known as ‘the bloody chapel’ still has a dark and oppressive atmosphere. Throughout the centuries passers-by have seen the window of the room light up suddenly late at night and a dark figure moving from window to window.
In the 1600s the ownership of Leap Castle passed to the Darby family and it is one of the Darbys who is believed to have brought the most infamous and evil spirit to Leap Castle. In the early 1900s the occult was a fashionable pastime for the gentry and Mildred Darby began to dabble in the black arts at the castle with terrifying results. She is credited with unleashing a dark and evil elemental spirit to the castle.
She herself described her ordeal in a 1909 article for the Journal Occult Review:
“I was standing in the Gallery looking down at the main floor, when I felt somebody put a hand on my shoulder. The thing was about the size of a sheep. Thin guanting shadowy…, its face was human, to be more accurate inhuman. Its lust in its eyes which seemed half decomposed in black cavities stared into mine. The horrible smell one hundred times intensified came up into my face, giving me a deadly nausea. It was the smell of a decomposing corpse.”
The Abbey of the Black Hag, Co Limerick
Saint Katherine’s Augustinian Abbey, founded in 1298, was one of the few known medieval convents in Ireland. The remains of the abbey church and refectory still exist today, their haunting presence, in a secluded valley south-east of Shanagolden, are a lasting reminder of the abbey’s dark and sinister past.
It is believed that the last abbess in charge of St. Katherine’s practiced witchcraft at the abbey bringing death and bad fortune to the local population. When Pope Martin V ordered the abbey’s closure on account of the conduct of the prioress the other nuns left the area. The malevolent abbess was left to live out her days in the damp, deserted abbey. Due to the depraved conditions and her twisted practices, over time her skin blackened to such a degree that it gave rise to the local name for the convent, ‘The Abbey of the Black Hag’.
That isn’t the only sinister tale associated with these macabre ruins. It is said that the Count and Countess of Desmond took refuge in the abbey when attempting to flee attackers. The countess was shot through with an arrow and believed dead by Count Desmond. who buried her in haste in a makeshift grave.
Except, the countess was not dead.
Sightings of her menacing ghostly figure prompted an investigation of her grave, where her finger bones were found to be worn out and ragged from clawing at the coffin lid. It’s said a woman’s panicked shouting can be heard in the early hours of the morning across the valley as the countess cries for her husband to realise his mistake.
Aughrim Battlefield (and its Jacobite ghosts), Co. Galway
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones you may be interested to know that Ireland has its very own White Walkers, the ghosts of the Battle of Aughrim.
In 1691, a ferocious day-long battle took place between the forces of William of Orange and James II who were vying for the crown of Britain and Ireland. Up to 40,000 men were involved in the battle.
Initially, the battle looked to be going the way of the James’ forces (the Jacobites) but fortunes reversed when General St. Ruth was horrifically decapitated by a cannonball and the Jacobites were forced to retreat. William took no mercy on the fleeing soldiers and they were routed with a savagery that had not been seen before on Irish soil. In one day, over 7,000 men were killed on the fields of Aughrim.
In one particular area of the battlefield, that became forever known as the Bloody Hollow, collected a large pool of human blood that is said to have remained for days after the battle. The mangled and decapitated corpses of the Jacobites remained on the battlefield, unburied for almost a year with the decomposing bodies becoming fodder for wild animals.
Apparitions of Jacobite soldiers in uniform, staring into the middle distance (just like White Walkers!) are a common occurrence in the area. Many say their dazed and stunned ghostly faces still show their shock at losing a battle that was theirs for the winning. There is a general air of gloom on the site, particularly near the area where St Ruth was killed, marked today by a stone Celtic cross.
There is also the story of the ghost dog: One of the fallen soldiers had been accompanied into battle with his trusty canine squire. As the soldier’s body decayed on the battlefield his dog refused to leave, guarding his masters rotting body while eating the decaying corpses of other soldiers. The dog’s ghost is often seen sitting in the exact spot where his master was killed, and sometimes a forlorn howl can be heard across the fields of Aughrim.
Dublin City has its own collection of Spooky places to visit. Visit our Spooky Dublin Story Map and keep the lights on as you read…