Given that the country of Ireland has a history spanning back for centuries it is not surprising that there are many stories of legends, and hauntings.
Ireland has a large wealth of old buildings with historic ties to ancient lands, clans, and families.
Today we will examine some of the most haunted castles of the Emerald Isle and find out where they are located.
What Are The Most Haunted Castles in Ireland?
Some of Ireland’s castles date back thousands of years. With stories and ghostly sightings spooky enough to stop you sleeping at night.
Owing to the far-reaching history of the county there are castles in all corners of the country. Built by wealthy landowners, lords, and warriors, we will find out where 18 of these haunted structures are situated on the Emerald Isle.
If you are brave enough to discover the ghosts, ghouls, and spirits of the Most Haunted Castles of Ireland then continue reading…
1.Killua Castle, County Westmeath.
A 1780’s building that was recently restored in the year 2000. Killua Castle has passed through generations of the Chapman family and has ties to Walter Raleigh and T.E.Lawrence.
The Chapman family had some links with Sir Walter Raleigh’s ancestors and there are rumors that Raleigh himself planted the first potato plant in Ireland. It was more likely that the plant was brought back to the country by Spanish sailors, but the myth still endures.
For a time during the 1950s the castle stood empty and rumors of hauntings began. Killua Castle is reportedly haunted by Jack Dalton. Jack was a land steward for Benjamin Chapman.
He reportedly cheated Chapman out of a large sum of money. After Chapman’s death several years later, Jack Dalton was so filled with remorse that he drowned himself in the lake nearby, and his spirit still roams the area today.
2. Charleville Castle, County Offaly
Situated in one of Ireland’s oldest oak forests that were once used by Irish Druids, Charleville Castle is believed to be one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. It has been featured on the television shows ‘Most Haunted’, ‘Scariest Places on Earth’, and ‘Ghost Hunters International’. The castle has also been used as a filming location for films and TV series.
The castle is haunted by the ghost of ‘Harriet’. A young girl that fell down the castles large winding staircase and died. She had been upstairs and being a young and playful girl had thought it would be fun to slide down the staircase’s balustrade. Unfortunately, Harriet slipped, lost her grip, and fell to her doom.
Visitors, on many occasions, have reported seeing a young girl in a blue and white dress skipping down the stairs or felt a cold chill on the staircase. Others reported hearing a girl’s voice singing or laughing.
3. Ballygally Castle, County Antrim
Located on Ballygally Bay and with stunning views, this castle is now operated as a hotel. It is the only 17th-century building in Northern Ireland that is still used as a residence, and it is also rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Ulster.
Ballygally Castle was built in 1625 and is said to be home to several ghosts. Lady Isobel Nixon was locked in a room and starved by her husband and died by falling out of the window. Lady Nixon resided in the castle during the 1800s and the sound of her silk dress can be heard rustling as she passes by.
Lady Shaw has been heard knocking on the doors of rooms and then vanishing. There is also a ‘Ghost Room’ in the castle which remains permanently unused.
4. KinnityCastle, County Offaly
This castle is situated between Kinnity and Camdanstown in County Offaly. It dates back as far as 1209 when it was destroyed in a fire and in 1213 was rebuilt by the Normans. It changed hands a few times and was finally extended and made into a castle in 1811. An abbey is also located close to the castle on the grounds. Currently, Kinnity Castle is used as a hotel.
There have long been stories of haunting’s at Kinnity and it has been featured on the television program ‘Most Haunted’. The most prevailing story is that of a ghostly monk that is said to inhabit the structure. Some people have seen him as a real person while others experience seeing a shadowy figure. He has been known to communicate with staff and visitors on occasion.
5. Leap Castle, County Offaly
Another castle located in the County of Offaly, Leap Castle dates back to the 1200s and was originally home to the O’Bannon clan. The O’Bannon’s did not live in the castle for long however, it was seized by the O’Carroll’s and most of the ghost stories are attributed to their family.
There is evidence that the castle was built on top of a pre-existing ancient structure and that the area dates back to the Iron Age. The building has been investigated by paranormal researchers on multiple occasions and has been featured on the television programs ‘Ghost Hunters’, ‘Scariest Places on Earth’, ‘Most Haunted’ and ‘Ghost Adventures’.
It is no wonder that Leap castle has been investigated so many times by paranormal researchers. With is an extensive list of ghosts and spirits and its grisly history, it is possibly the most haunted castle in Ireland.
Two of the O’Carroll brothers living in the castle were involved in a fight to the death. One of the men was a priest and his brother murdered him during mass in the chapel, now known as ‘The Bloody Chapel’. The priest’s spirit is said to appear in the chapel and walks a nearby stairway.
The Mcmahon’s were invited to a meal at Leap castle and were then poisoned by the O’Carroll’s. The ghosts of the McMahon’s are reputed to haunt the castle and grounds.
The ‘Red Lady’ was allegedly imprisoned, repeatedly raped and impregnated by the O’Carroll’s who then murdered her child. Grief-stricken she committed suicide. She is seen in a red dress holding a dagger or a blade. The same blade that she used to end her own life.
In the 1920s skeletons were discovered behind the wall of the castle. It is thought that the O’Connell’s liked to drop their guests through a trap door on to spears or spikes below. It took 3 cart loads to remove the dozens of skeletons.
There are even more stories of Leap Castle and its dark history, too many to detail here, but freak accidents and evil elemental spirits also add to the dark and creepy tales of hauntings at the castle.
6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly
Built in the early 1600s and now just a ruin, this structure was a Tudor period castle that was once given to Henry VIII. It was then given by Henry to Anne Boleyn’s father when he wanted to marry Anne. Anne’s two sisters lived at the castle for their whole lives and are buried nearby in the grounds.
There is just one ghost at the Clonony Castle but he is regularly reported as a tall thin man that resembles a peasant wearing what appears to be clothes from the medieval period. He also exudes a faint glowing light and appears regularly in the tower of the castle where numerous passing car drivers have reported seeing him.
There is also a cave below the building that was used as a crypt while the castle was occupied. There are rumors of an evil spirit that lurks in the cave.
7. Antrim Castle, County Antrim
Beginning construction in 1613, rebuilt in 1813 and destroyed by a fire in 1922 this castle was located on the Sixmilewater River in County Antrim. After the fire, Antrim Castle stood as a ruin until being destroyed in the 1970’s. The gardens and grounds of the castle still remain and are a popular tourist attraction. They formed part of a £6 million restoration project to preserve the historic site.
The area is said to be haunted by Ethel Gilligan who was a young servant girl working at Antrim Castle. During the castles fire in 1922, Ethel was rescued from the flames by a local man but died from smoke inhalation. Her ghostly apparition can be seen wandering the gardens in the area where the castle used to stand. The locals in the area refer to her ghost as ‘The White Lady’.
8. Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim
One of the most well preserved medieval structures in Ireland. This Norman castle at one time or another found itself under siege from the English, Scots, Irish and French.
It was an important military building and still has cannons and historic items on display dating from 1600 to 1800’s. It was also used as a prison for a period during the 1700’s.
The ghosts of a young soldier are said to haunt Carrickfergus Castle. Known as ‘Buttoncap’ he was discovered having an affair with his Captains brother’s wife and was executed for his transgression.
It is said that wails of him protesting his innocence can still be heard echoing off the castle’s walls. It is also said that the headless ghost of Buttoncap can be seen walking the castle’s battlements.
9. Malahide Castle, County Dublin
One of the oldest castles in Ireland dating back to 1175 and owned for 800 years by the Talbot family. Located in a seaside town, Malahide Castle is situated on over 260 acres of lands.
The Talbot’s were involved in the famous Battle of the Boyne and 14 family members dined together in the Great Hall before the battle. Every one of them lost their lives in the skirmish. These days the castle is open to the public and plays host to concerts and events.
Most castles and historic buildings report one or two ghosts but at Malahide Castle, there have been FIVE regular ghostly visitors documented that appear in the castle and one or two more that have been sighted roaming around the castle’s grounds.
The White Lady
In the Great Hall of the castle there hung a painting of a lady in a white dress. Nobody knows who she is or who painted the artwork. Legend has it that in the dead of night she leaves the painting and wanders the halls of the castle. She has been reported as seen by several people and over the years has become known as The White Lady.
Miles was given the castle by Oliver Cromwell but during his residency committed many crimes, including the desecration of the nearby Abbey. He was charged, convicted and executed by being hung, drawn, and quartered.
It is said that anybody that sees Miles’s ghosts witnesses a soldier in whole form wearing his armor. But in front of the onlooker, the ghost will then proceed to fall into 4 separate pieces.
Sir Walter Hussey, Lord Galtrim
Sir Walter and his bride were married in 1429, unfortunately, the marriage was rather short. Sir Walter was killed in a skirmish later that day and his new bride abruptly became a widow.
His ghost can be seen walking the castle pointing at his wound, left by a spear in his side, and groaning in pain. Legend has it that he haunts the building to show resentment at his young wife.
On Walters death, she immediately married another man. A well-known ballad call ‘The Bride of Maldahide’ was written based upon the incident.
Lady Maud Plunkett
Ironically, Sir Walters wife, Lady Maud Plunkett also haunts Malahide Castle. She married 3 times in total and her spirit appears as she looked on her 3rd marriage to a Lord Chief Justice.
By this time, she had become known as somewhat of a harridan. Her displeased spirit appears to chase her unfortunate last husband through the castle.
When the Talbots, the original owners resided as Malahide Castle, they had a jester named Puck who entertained them. A very short man of only 4 feet tall, Puck, when not entertaining also worked as a watchman.
He was charged with the important task of raising the alarm should the castle ever come under attack. Unfortunately, one night Puck was found stabbed close to the castle walls and died. Before his death, he swore that he would haunt the castle.
Puck has been seen in the castle and photographed many times by visitors. His most recent appearance was in the mid-1970s when an employee of Sotheby’s was visiting the building and reviewing some items for sale. The employee swears that Puck appeared before him on the staircase.
Our Lady’s Acre
In the grounds of Malahide castle, there have been reported a sighting of 2 sad looking, grey-haired women that wander around the gardens in the area known as Our Lady’s Acre.
No-one really knows who they are but it has been suggested that they may be the ghosts of Danish women that were driven from the area by one of the Talbot family.
10. Leamaneh Castle, County Clare
Built circa 1480 on the south edge of The Burren this castle is now just a ruin. It was originally owned by the O’Brien family. It was passed down through the generations and inherited by Conor O’Brien around 1550.
Conor was married to Mary, who was commonly known as Máire Rúa or Red Mary. She is a common figure in Irish folklore and was described as having flaming red hair.
She was also a fierce woman, accompanying her husband on raids against English settlers. After Conor died Mary realized that Leahmaneh Castle could be seized and promptly married a British soldier to ensure that she could retain her property.
There are many stories about Mary, tales of her having 25 husbands, and rumors that she was brutal to her maids at the castle. Some of these are just myths or hearsay, but the one story that seems to be agreed on is that Mary was eventually captured.
Her attackers holed her up in in a hollow tree on Leamaneh Castle’s grounds and left her there to eventually die from starvation. The ghost of Mary is said to haunt the castle still today, walking around the property and grounds.
11. Ross Castle, County Kerry
A 15th-century building that was a typical structure for Irish chieftains of the time. It was one of the last buildings to be surrendered to the Roundheads during the Irish Confederate War. The building is said to have underground walkways and caves beneath it.
Around the early 1500s, Ross Castle was owned by Richard Nugent an English Lord, also known as the ‘Black Baron’. He was reported as a bad-tempered man with a mean streak.
There are stories and legends of him executing people on his lands on a whim. Richard had a daughter Sabina, who unknown to him was carrying on an affair with the son of an Irish Chieftain. Since this was forbidden Sabina and her lover were seeing each other in secret.
The mismatched couple wanted to be together so they decided to elope and got into a boat to row across the nearby lake. A storm whipped up from nowhere and capsized the boat.
Sabina was rescued but her lover drowned. When Sabina learned of his death, she locked herself in her room and refused to eat or drink until she passed away.
Sabina’s restless spirit roams the castle today in search of her true love. Visitors are said to have encountered her spirit frequently. It is also said that Sabina’s father, the Black Baron, also roams around the castle, grief-stricken at the loss of his only daughter.
12. Athcarne Castle, County Meath
An Elizabethan castle where it is rumored that King James II slept the night before the Battle of the Boyne just a few miles away. King James lost the battle and it is said that his bewildered ghost still roams Athcarne Castle trying to understand how he was defeated.
There have been reports of hearing dying soldiers cries outside the castle and the ghost of a soldier seen hanging from a nearby tree. Also, there have been reports of a young, crazed-looking girl covered in blood making appearances to visitors at the castle.
13. Cabra Castle, County Cavan
Operating as a hotel and once named the 2nd Scariest Hotel in the World is Cabra Castle. The building is a mix of Norman and Gothic building styles and dates back to the late 1700s.
It was restored in the early 1990s and opened as the 4-star hotel it is today. Cabra Castle was beaten to the number 1 spot for World’s Scariest Hotel by Hotel Del Coronado in California, USA.
Guests at Cabra Castle hotel have reported hearing doors rattling, seeing apparitions, or have had the feeling of being constantly watched by an unseen entity.
The most famous ghost that inhabits Cabra Castle is Sarah. A young servant girl that was having an affair with the owner’s son and became pregnant. Sarah lived at the castle in the late 18th century.
When the affair and resulting pregnancy was discovered the castle’s owner had her dragged from her bed in the dead of night and ordered her execution. She was hung from the nearby bridge and she and her unborn child both died.
It is said that Sarah continues to roam the grounds of Cabra castle searching for her missing baby and weeping. Sometimes a phantom carriage arrives and leaves a baby on the castle steps. Only then does the young woman cease her crying.
Several other sightings of ghosts and apparitions have been reported by guests at Cabra Castle. One man recently told of seeing a soldier in full military uniform from the early 20th century striding down the hotel’s corridor. Another man reportedly witnessed an argument between an elderly gentleman and his some regarding the sale of Cabra castle.
14. Kilkea Castle, County Kildare
Another restored Irish castle that operated as a hotel until 2009 when it was sold. It then reopened as a golf resort after a multi-million dollar renovation.
Kilkea Castle was owned by the Fitzgeralds. Earls of Kildare and built in 1180. It remains one of Ireland oldest habitable castles and sits of over 185 acres of park-like grounds.
Several ghosts have been spotted at Kilkea, particularly in and around the room that was the nursery. Many guests have reported seeing a little girl playing in the hallway outside of the room.
During all hours of the night footsteps and a young girl’s laughter have been heard on numerous occasions. Guests have also experienced feeling a strange pulling sensation on their bed covers as night as though being pulled on by a small child.
There is not much history about the young girls that seems to still inhabit the castle but it is thought she was probably a past resident of Kilkea.
A slightly more threatening spirit of the castle is ‘The Wizard Earl’, he was the 11th Earl of Kildare who was known for studying alchemy and meddling in Black Magic and the dark arts.
Apparently, he proved his wizardry to his wife by turning himself into a bird – and was promptly pounced upon and eaten by a black cat. The room where the Earl practiced his magic is at the top of a spiral staircase in the main tower of Kilkea castle. His spirit is still said to inhabit the room and it remains abandoned and unused to this day.
Outside the castle, visitors have reported seeing ‘The Woman in White’ a lady wearing an old-fashioned white dress. She glides soundlessly across the gravel courtyard and passes through stone walls to reach the garden gate where she then disappears. Sightings of her are a relatively consistent occurrence at the castle.
15. Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
Built on the cliffs of County Antrim around 1500 Dunluce Castle has had a long and dramatic history. The building was first recorded in 1513 and was owned by the MacQuillan family.
Since then it has been seized, been the seat of Earls, seen a small local town being built and then abandoned, and has yielded artifacts during several archaeological digs.
It is also used as Castle Greyjoy in the hit TV series Game of Thrones and several movies have been filmed at the location.
The Banshee of Dunluce Castle
Parts of the castle echo with eerie noises and sounds. Legend has it that it is the spirit of Maeve Roe, the daughter of Lord MacQuillan’s. He had arranged for Maeve to be married to an eligible suitor. She had different ideas, however, and was not agreeable to the wedding or her father’s choice of husband.
After Maeve had defied her father by refusing to wed, he had taken to locking her in a room in the tower each night. What her father didn’t know what that Maeve was in love with another man, Reginald O’Cahan. One night this Reginald managed to rescue Maeve from the tower room and they planned their escape by sea.
Unfortunately, the boat they were in was slammed into the rocks and both were washed into the ocean. Reginald’s dead body washed up onto the shore the next day but Maeve’s body was never recovered. It is said she can still be seen in the tower room and heard crying and wailing, presumably for her lost lover.
16. Clifden Castle, County Galway
Clifden Castle is deemed as being relatively young in castle terms. Built in the Gothic Revival style in 1818 it became uninhabited by 1894 and started to fall into disrepair. By 1935 Clifden Castle’s ownership passed to joint tenants but for whatever reason, it was abandoned and quickly turned in to ruin.
The castle first began to fall into disrepair when the potato famine of 1845 hit Ireland. The famine lasted until 1849 and almost a million people lost their lives from starvation or disease.
The deprived and poor people of the area sought shelter in the castle and on its ground during this time. Many of them died due to the terrible famine and It is said that their spirits still haunt the castle and its grounds today.
17. Belvelly Castle, County Cork
This castle dates back to the 14th or 15 century and was originally built for the Hodnett family. There are rumors that Sir Walter Raleigh occupied the castle during the 1600s but the stories are yet to be proven.
More recently the castle was sold and planning permission granted to restore the structure to a private dwelling. It was extensively renovated with the majority of the work being completed in 2018.
Margaret Hodnett was one of the descendants of the original owners of Belvelly Castle and she resided in the building during the 17th century.
She was a woman that was renowned for her good looks and was always admiring herself in her mirror. She had a somewhat on and off again love affair with Lord Rockenby.
The Lord worshiped Margaret and had proposed many times, but Margaret always declined. Its rumored that she had many admirers but always went back to Rockenby when she grew bored of them.
Tired of being rejected and waiting for Margaret’s hand in marriage, Rockenby laid siege to the castle to take it by force. The Hodnetts held out for almost a year before surrendering.
By this time, owing to scarce food and resources, Margaret’s looks had begun to fade and Rockenby, angered by this fact, smashed Margaret’s mirror in a rage. The story goes that Margaret eventually went insane and spent her time constantly searching for mirrors.
In the hope that she could see if her good looks had returned. Of course, they didn’t, and she eventually died in the castle from old age.
It is said that Margaret still haunts the castle today, appearing as a woman in white wearing a veil, or sometimes with no face at all.
Her ghost can be seen standing silently at a certain spot on the castle wall and rubbing it as though peering into a mirror. The stone is said to be worn smooth by her constant rubbing.
18. Castle Leslie, County Monaghan
Castle Leslie Estate is the site of the restored castle and its grounds. It was built in 1870 in the Scottish Colonial style and owned originally by the Leslie family.
After a large investment and restoration program, it is now one of the finest luxury estates in Ireland, receiving guests and visitors from all over the world. Most notably Paul McCartney married Heather Mills in 2002 at the estate’s family church.
One of the Leslie family, Norman Leslie, died in battle during World War I. At the time of his death, his mother reported seeing Norman at the side of her bed in the Red Room.
When she asked him what he was doing there he vanished. Encounters with Norman has been reported by visitors, he can be heard ‘shhh’ ing guests that are noisy and shuffling papers.
A prior occupant of Castle Leslie was Lady Leonie, she was on her deathbed in the Mauve Room being attended by a nurse when an elderly lady entered and conversed with Leonie just before she died.
The nurse assumed that the visitor was a family member until the funeral service the next day. The nurse spotted a portrait on the castle walls and recognized the woman in the painting as the lady that had visited her dying patient.
The woman was Lady Constance who had died in 1925 some years earlier. Apparently, Lady Constance still visits the Mauve room and levitates the bed on occasion.
Guests and staff at Castle Leslie have reported several other spooky encounters. There have been numerous stories about people witnessing ghostly apparitions throughout the building.
Reported sightings have included a crying child, a ghostly monk and people hearing bells ringing at various times throughout the castle.
That concludes our list of the Most Haunted Castles in Ireland. From ghostly apparitions to wailing specter’s, these castles all have some sort of reported occurrences of things that go bump in the night.
Many of the buildings have been restored and returned to their former glory. Now they have a second life operating as hotels or resorts.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Ireland and are feeling brave, book a room at one of these establishments.
Be sure to leave your comments should you experience a ghostly encounter during your stay!