Welcome to the eerie realm of Ireland’s haunted castles, where the spirits of the past come to life and legends span decades. You can almost sense the ghostly inhabitants of these old castles as the mist rolls about them. For those who are brave enough to face their ghostly pasts, Ireland’s many castles serve as both majestic landmarks and haunted havens, and you can even visit some of these haunted castles in Ireland.
These 11 Irish haunted castles are rumored to be haunted by everything from ghostly figures to unexplained noises that seem to reverberate within their walls. Join us on this chilling tour of some of Ireland’s most haunted castles if you dare to venture into the shadows of history and face the unknown.
Paranormal investigators claim that there are plenty of haunted places in Ireland, but there’s something special about going to a castle. Let’s uncover the chilling tales and eerie histories surrounding some of the country’s most notorious castles.
1. Ross Castle
Location: Ross Rd, Ross Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry
Ross Castle is a historic fortress that exudes both grandeur and a haunting atmosphere. Built in 1533, the castle boasts imposing stone walls and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. However, it’s not just the castle’s architectural beauty that captivates visitors. It’s also known for its paranormal activity and ghostly legends.
Legend has it that In 1536, Sabina Nugent, the daughter of the formidable Lord of Devon (known as the ‘Black Baron’), fell in love with Orwin O’Reilly, an Irish lad. Against her father’s wishes, they eloped, seeking their happily ever after. Fate had other plans, as their getaway boat capsized in a storm, claiming Orwin’s life.
Sabina, devastated by her loss, locked herself away in a tower at Ross Castle, refusing sustenance and slipping into an eternal sleep akin to Sleeping Beauty. Her mournful cries allegedly echo through the castle as she searches for her lost love to this day.
Guests have reported witnessing ghostly apparitions, hearing mysterious voices, and experiencing doors mysteriously opening and closing. If you’re ready for an eerie adventure, there are various cottages and rooms available. Just remember to pack your courage and perhaps a box of tissues for Sabina’s heart-wrenching tale.
Ready? Book a stay at Ross Castle. Rates start at around €130 ($141)
2. Castle Leslie
Location: Castle Leslie Estate, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan
Castle Leslie, located in County Monaghan, is a historic castle-turned-hotel that offers a unique blend of luxury and supernatural encounters. Built in the 17th century, the castle boasts stunning views of the surrounding area’s picturesque rolling hills and serene lakes. The interior is more mysterious, though – it allegedly has two haunted rooms: the Red Room and the Mauve Room.
According to legend, Norman Leslie’s spirit resides in the Red Room. Norman, a former resident who tragically lost his life during World War I, has reportedly chosen the Red Room as his eternal abode. It’s said that, although his spirit is usually quiet, he has been known to shush noisy guests who disturb the peace and tranquility he seeks in the afterlife.
One of the most intriguing spirits is Lady Constance, a castle resident who passed away in 1925. Although little is known about her past, she apparently makes unexpected appearances in the Mauve Room. Visitors to the room have also shared spine-tingling stories of encountering a ghostly monk and hearing the eerie cries of a baby in the dead of night.
It’s not just the paranormal that draws attention here — Castle Leslie has hosted its fair share of celebrities too. Mick Jagger, W.B. Yeats, and even Paul McCartney, who tied the knot with Heather Mills at the castle in 2002, have graced its halls. Therefore, a stay at Castle Leslie promises to be extraordinary, regardless of your interest in the supernatural or its celebrity connections.
I actually had the pleasure of staying at this haunted castle hotel in Ireland several years ago! While I found it hard to be scared of it during the day because it’s so gorgeous (I felt like I had a room straight out of Beauty and the Beast), I’ll admit that I was too scared to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Book your room well in advance. Rates start at around €300 ($326) per night
3. Leap Castle
Location: Coolderry, Roscrea, Co. Offaly
Checking out haunted Irish castles is one of the best things to do in Ireland in the fall, and Leap Castle holds the dubious honor of being the world’s most haunted castle. Well, at least that’s what its website proudly claims. Located in County Offaly, this majestic manor has quite the reputation for being eerie.
Built in the late 13th century, the castle has a dark and turbulent history of conflicts and family feuds. One infamous event that occurred at Leap Castle in Ireland was the murder of a priest, Thaddeus O’Carroll, by his own brother during a mass in the chapel. Thaddeus is said to haunt the chapel, now known as the Bloody Chapel.
The castle is also well-known for its hidden dungeon, the “oubliette,” where workers found numerous human skeletons impaled on sticks in 1922. While the details, reasons, and number of bodies are still unknown, there were allegedly so many remains that it took three large carts to remove them all.
Despite its eerie past and supposedly being the most haunted castle in Ireland, brave souls still flock here, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ireland’s most famous spirits. Leap Castle in Offaly is now privately owned, and the owners graciously offer tours by prior arrangement. They simply request a small donation of €6 ($7) to contribute to the castle’s upkeep.
It’s a beautiful place to visit no matter what time of the year it is (although September in Ireland is particularly lovely).
4. Kilkea Castle
Location: Castle View, Kilkea Demesne, Castledermot, Co. Kildare
Kilkea Castle has a rich history dating back to 1180, making it one of Ireland’s oldest habitable castles. Thanks to its picturesque setting amid lush meadows and dense forests, it offers a getaway with history, luxury, and a hint of the paranormal.
Local legends claim Kilkea Castle has numerous ghostly inhabitants, including a mischievous little girl who enjoys playing pranks on guests. Visitors have reported seeing her apparition, hearing her laughter, and feeling her gentle tugs on their bed covers. Although the origin of this playful spirit is unknown, she is believed to have once been a resident of the castle.
If that’s not spooky enough, this haunted Irish castle is also tormented by The Wizard Earl, also known as the 11th Earl of Kildare, Gerald FitzGerald. This eccentric nobleman dabbled in black magic and alchemy during the 16th century.
It is said that he could transform into a bird until an unfortunate encounter with a black cat ended his supernatural escapades. Allegedly, his spirit still wanders the room where he practiced his magic. You’ll need bravery and your ghost-hunting equipment to capture any supernatural encounters at one of the most haunted castles in Ireland to visit.
So, if you’re up for a royal retreat filled with history, luxury, and a few friendly ghosts, book a stay at Kilkea Castle. Rates start at around €440 ($479) per night
5. Clonony Castle
Location: Clonony, Clonony More, Co. Offaly
Clonony Castle is a 16th-century Tudor marvel with a twist of mystery, history, and of course, a generous sprinkling of ghostly encounters. Situated in the notoriously spooky county of Offaly, this castle is said to be haunted by several entities.
Legend has it that Clonony Castle was a gift from King Henry VIII to Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne Boleyn. Sadly, she ended up losing her head in one of history’s most infamous beheadings.
Anne’s sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, sought refuge within these walls after her passing. Today, their final resting place lies near the tower, adding an extra layer of eerie history to the castle.
Clonony Castle is said to have a resident ghost — a thin man from medieval times who likes to make appearances at the top of the tower. Witnesses have seen him dressed as a soldier or a peasant, while some claim he dons a suit of armor with an otherworldly glow emanating from him.
While the castle remains privately owned, parts of it are open to the public during specific seasons. To experience the intriguing tales and eerie ambiance firsthand, a simple phone call to arrange your visit in advance is all it takes. Be prepared to encounter mysterious lights, peculiar sounds, and unexpected ghostly apparitions that may send shivers down your spine.
Feel like extending your stay into the holidays? You’ll love visiting Ireland during Thanksgiving.
6. Charleville Castle
Location: Charleville Demesne, Tullamore, Co. Offaly
If encountering a ghost is on your Irish bucket list, Charleville Castle might be the right destination for you. Built in the 18th century, it has reportedly witnessed many ghostly encounters. Visitors have shared spine-chilling experiences and unexplained phenomena that’ll make your hair stand on end.
Folklore states that ancient Druids roamed these grounds, and it’s said that their ghostly hooded figures still appear (probably in search of their misplaced spellbooks). Castle workers have shared accounts of hearing eerie whispering voices and haunting classical melodies echoing through its halls. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the more haunted castles in Ireland.
One name stands out among the castle’s spectral inhabitants: Harriet, a little girl whose life was tragically cut short in the early 1800s while playing in the stairwell. Her ghostly presence allegedly haunts the spot, and those who descend the steps feel an icy breeze and hear ethereal whispers.
Harriet’s mischievous spirit extends beyond the stairwell, as her giggles, conversations, and even furniture movements have been experienced in various rooms throughout the castle.
The castle welcomes visitors on a daily basis for tours, with the request to call in advance and inform them of your planned visit. You can also take a private 45-minute tour with a guide that can be arranged on their official website.
7. Dunluce Castle
Location: 87 Dunluce Road, Bushmills, County Antrim
Dunluce Castle is a medieval fortress perched on the picturesque and dramatic cliffs of the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. In fact, the castle’s location is so striking that it earned a spot as a Game of Thrones filming spot.
Built in the 14th century, it has a tumultuous history. Legend has it that Dunluce Castle has seen its fair share of raiders and bandits over the years. An English captain that attempted to infiltrate the castle soon after it was constructed was allegedly captured and hanged. It’s said that his spirit still wanders the very tower where he met his untimely end.
The captain isn’t alone in his spectral escapades. Maeve Roe, the daughter of Lord MacQuillan, defied her father’s wishes and fell in love with a rogue. They planned to escape by boat but met a tragic fate when the vessel capsized. Although the rogue’s body was recovered, Maeve was never found. As a result, her spirit is said to haunt the castle, unleashing eerie screams and mournful wails during stormy nights.
If you would like to experience these ghostly apparitions and explore the castle grounds, it is open to visitors daily from 9:30 am to 05:00 pm. Admission costs around €7 ($7.65) for adults and €5 ($5.47) for children under 17.
There are also discounted rates for groups, and you can request a knowledgeable guide to lead the tour and give insight into the history and secrets of Dunluce Castle.
8. Clifden Castle
Location: Clifden Demesne, Co. Galway
Clifden, nestled in the Connemara region of Galway, is a popular destination for its picturesque beaches. However, it’s the town’s haunted Clifden Castle that steals the show, especially during October in Ireland. The castle indulges in Irish Halloween traditions and creates a spooky spectacle that attracts curious tourists from far and wide.
Built by local landowner John D’Arcy in the 19th century, the castle served as the residence for his family. Misfortune struck during the Great Famine of 1845 when the landlord and his tenants were ravaged by hardship.
During the famine, the hungry residents and workers gathered on the castle lawn, hoping for some much-needed sustenance. Unfortunately, no food was available, and they perished in horrific conditions from starvation. Legend has it that the spirits of the poor and deprived still linger within the castle grounds.
Even though Clifden Castle is privately owned, you can still explore its haunting ruins. There are no guided tours or strict opening hours, so you can visit the castle whenever you please and take your time to soak in the eerie atmosphere.
9. Malahide Castle
Location: Back Rd, Broomfield, Dublin
Malahide Castle is a remarkable medieval fortress with a fascinating history stretching over 800 years. The castle was constructed in the 12th century and witnessed many historical events and distinguished guests, including British royalty such as King Henry VII and Queen Victoria. It has also gained a reputation for being haunted, adding an air of mystery and intrigue to its already rich history.
Legend has it that Miles Corbett, a man known for his cruelty, was granted the castle and its lands in 1694. While he lived there, he allegedly committed many heinous acts, including torture, murder, and desecration of the abbey. Karma eventually caught up with him, and he was given the brutal punishment of hanging, drawing, and quartering.
It is said that Corbett’s vengeful spirit still haunts the castle to this day. Witnesses have reported that his ghost appears in a full suit of armor before dramatically falling into four pieces.
Another famous spirit that allegedly still hangs around is Puck, the castle’s resident court jester. Rumor has it that Puck was unlucky in love and continues to nurse a broken heart in the same turret where he used to live.
Sightings of a mysterious figure known as the “lady in white” has also been reported. Although her story is unknown, visitors have recounted encountering this ethereal apparition as she wanders through the castle’s rooms and corridors.
Today, it is open to the public and offers guided tours that you can book on Malahide Castle’s official website. You can explore the castle’s rooms, learn about its inhabitants, admire the well-preserved interior, and maybe even catch a glimpse of Miles Corbett and his friends.
There are also many Dublin B&Bs to stay at nearby after you visit.
10. Kinnitty Castle
Location: Birr, Kinnitty, Co. Offaly
Kinnitty Castle is a magnificent Gothic castle with a fascinating and tumultuous history. Like many castles in County Offaly, it has its fair share of spooky legends and offers accommodation and ghost tours for those seeking a spine-chilling experience, but this ie one of the more haunted castles in Ireland.
The castle has a captivating history that spans centuries. It was initially constructed in 1209 and allegedly served as a residence for both Druids and Bards. Tales of ghostly encounters and unexplained phenomena, like whispers in empty corridors and mysterious footsteps, contribute to its reputation as a haunted location.
Kinnitty Castle’s most famous ghost is the Phantom Monk of Kinnitty, a remarkably communicative spirit known to interact with staff members and visitors. It’s claimed that he sometimes appears as a solid figure and other times as a shadowy phantom.
Two bedrooms in particular, namely the Geraldine room and the Elizabeth room, have gained a reputation for being haunted. Guests have reported experiencing unexplained phenomena like flickering televisions, echoes of child-like laughter reverberating through the hallways, and even the unsettling sensation of celestial breathing within the rooms.
In 1994, Kinnitty Castle underwent a transformation into a luxurious hotel while preserving its historic charm and allure. Today, you have the opportunity to admire the castle’s medieval architecture and immerse yourself in its mystical atmosphere and experience one of the most haunted castles to stay at in Ireland.
Book a stay and experience it for yourself. Rates start at around €239 ($260) per night
11. Ballygally Castle
Location: Coast Rd, Ballygally, Larne
Located 40 minutes from Belfast along the Antrim coastline, Ballygally Castle is an unmissable stop on your Northern Ireland drive. This castle-turned-hotel has much more than a pretty postcard view — it’s allegedly home to several otherworldly spirits that will send shivers down your spine.
The most well-known ghostly resident is Lady Isabella Shaw. Legend has it that her husband, Lord James Shaw, was less than thrilled when she gave birth to a baby girl at this haunted hotel in Ireland.
In a fit of rage, he locked her away in a tower, and nobody knows what happened to her baby. Desperate to escape, she met a tragic end when she fell — though some suspect she was more likely pushed — through a tower window. Now her ghost roams the castle’s halls, searching for the child that was taken from her.
There’s another spectral resident at Ballygally Castle: Madame Nixon. Legends say that she was a former hotel guest and that this fashionable 19th-century ghost loves playing “knock and run” in her elegant silk dress.
Once a medieval fortress, the castle has been lovingly restored into a luxurious hotel while preserving its historic allure. So,
Book a stay at Ballygally Castle. Rates start at around €189 ($206) per night
So what do you think? Are you brave enough to stay in any of these haunted castles in Ireland during your visit?