From castles to haunted pubs and dark scary crypts - Ireland has some stellar haunted spots riddled with history
Ireland has a long and bloody history, which means, naturally, that haunted places can be found all over the country.
From castles visited by murdered spirits to pubs run by friendly ghosts, Ireland is home to an array of specters and sure to give you goosebumps in the run-up to Halloween.
We’ve done our research here at IrishCentral and come up with what we think are the 10 most haunted places in all of the Emerald Isle.
So light a fire, curl up to your computer and get ready to learn all about the Ireland’s scariest ghouls and ghosts.
St. Michan’s Church, Dublin
St. Michan’s in Dublin is famous for many reasons. The church, built in 1095, contains the death mask of the Irish patriot Wolfe Tone and the organ on which Handel practiced his masterpiece “Messiah” before his first performance in Dublin.
The renowned Anglo-Irish philosopher Edmund Burke was christened here, while legendary nationalist political leader Charles Stewart Parnell’s funeral also took place here.
But St. Michan’s is well-known for being haunted, as well as being the home of the Mummies of St. Michan.
The dark church vaults contain remarkably preserved corpses, including those of a 400-year-old nun, brothers, and leaders of the 1798 Irish rebellion John and Henry Sheares and a body with severed hands and feet.
Though the cadavers in the crypt are cold and clammy, the air in the space is oddly warm, which makes it strange that many visitors report having felt icy cold fingers run down their necks as they stoop to examine the corpses.
Others say they’ve heard disembodied whispering voices around them, while others simply have felt a strange, cold presence.
Kilmainham Gaol, Kilmainham, County Dublin
Prisons are famously haunted buildings, and Ireland’s most famous prison is no exception.
Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin opened in 1796 and is the place where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were held and subsequently executed by firing squad. The building was shut down in 1924.
Today, the large and eerie jail is Ireland’s largest unoccupied prison. It was restored in the 1960s and is now a museum that’s said to be haunted by both former inmates and evil wardens.
Several ghostly tales have been told about Kilmainham Gaol. During its restoration, caretaker Dan McGill reported lights mysteriously turning on and off in the prison chapel.
During the same time period, a man who was painting the dungeon area of the prison experienced a powerful gust of wind, which blew him against a wall. The man managed to fight his way out of the dungeon and emerged with an ashen face and shaking hands. He refused to work in, or ever enter, the jail again.
Another worker was decorating the 1916 memorial corridor when he heard heavy footsteps climbing the stone stairs and walking up behind him. When he turned, no one was in the corridor, despite the fact that the footsteps continued right past him.
Several children who went to tour the prison have stopped at its threshold and refused to go a step further onto the grounds.
According to Dan McGill, the threatening spirits at the prison do not belong to the inmates, because they are happy that their stories are being told. “The soldiers and the guards?” he would say. “Now they’re a different matter.”
Charles Fort, Kinsale, County Cork
Military forts join theaters and jails in being the most haunted areas in many countries.
Charles Fort is Ireland’s resident military haunted site.
The fort, which was built in the 1670s, is often visited by the “White Lady of Kinsale.”
The legend goes like this: In the 1870s, Wilful Warrender was a young woman married to an officer named Sir Trevor Ashurst.
One day, Ashurst swapped places with a sentry, whom he sent to fetch flowers on his wedding day.
Wilful’s father, the commander of the fort, saw the “sentry” asleep, and shot him, only realizing afterward that he had actually killed his new son-in-law.
When Wilful discovered what had happened, she leaped to her death from the battlements, prompting Commander Warrender to shoot himself.
Ever since, Wilful, the “White Lady of Kinsale,” has roamed the grounds of Charles Fort, and has been seen walking through locked doors.
Charleville Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly
The Irish castle has been visited by numerous paranormal investigators and psychics, and many of its guests have reported strange happenings in the castle during their stay.
Charleville Castle was built in 1798 for the first Earl of Charleville William Bury and his family. The castle remained in the Bury family until 1963, when Colonel Charles Howard Bury suddenly dropped dead.
Today, a woman named Bridget Vance owns the property and is restoring the castle to its original Gothic Revival beauty.
Castle workers say construction has awakened the spirits of Charleville. They report having heard strange whispering voices and classical music throughout the castle.
Many have also heard the sounds of children playing in a room of the castle that was once the nursery.
According to legend, a little girl named Harriet died a tragic death at Charleville while playing in the stairwell in the early 1800s.
Harriet’s ghost has been seen in the stairwell, and people have said they felt a cold brush of wind brush past them as they descend these steps. The little girl can be heard in rooms around the castle, moving furniture and giggling and talking.
But children aren’t the only spirits to haunt Charleville.
The famous castle is said to have been built on land that was once an ancient druid stomping ground, and the Vance family reports having seen ghostly hooded figures around the castle grounds.
Ross Castle, Lough Sheelin, County Meath
A famous Irish building steeped in history, Ross Castle is known as one of the most haunted places in all of Ireland and Britain.
Located on the shores of Lough (Lake) Sheelin, the castle was built in 1533 by the Lord of Devon Richard Nugent, a.k.a. "the Black Baron.”
The Baron’s tragic daughter Sabina is said to haunt the property today.
Legend has it that in 1536 Sabina met a handsome young man named Orwin, son of an O’Reilly chieftain, on a bridge on the edge of her father’s property.
The two fell in love, but they weren’t considered an appropriate match, with Sabina being English and Orwin being Irish.
So the star-crossed lovers decided to elope and took a boat out onto Lough Sheelin to escape the people who wouldn’t accept them together.
But the unpredictable lake waters got the best of them when a storm hit and their boat was overturned. Orwin struck his head on the rock beneath the shallow lake and died, while Sabina was rescued.
When Sabina woke up three days later and saw her beloved’s body laid out in the palace chapel, she screamed a blood-curdling scream. Soon after she died from shock, and she and Orwin were buried in a mound on the castle grounds.
Sabina now haunts Ross Castle, in search for her lost lover. Her agonizing wail is said to still be heard today around 3 or 4 a.m. in the back right room of the castle.
The Black Baron’s presence has also been reported visitors in the vicinity of the castle on numerous occasions. The Baron is said to roam the grounds as well, grieving for his dead daughter.
Grand Opera House, Belfast
The magnificent Grand Opera House was opened in Belfast in 1895. Though the building was damaged during the Troubles, it has since been restored to its original splendor.
Several ghosts haunt the theater, although most of them are unidentified.
Cast members have often seen a face looking in at them from a round window on their way down from the dressing rooms on the top floor. Opera House staff members have also reported a feeling that someone was behind them when nobody was there, especially while standing on stage.
Actors say they often feel like they’re being followed in the stage area, and the most commonly spotted specter at the theater is a mysterious figure in a long, black hooded cloak that is always seen on stage. Some think the ghost to be a former actor, still waiting for the curtain to go down on his final role.
The Northern Ireland Paranormal Research Association recently investigated the Grand Opera House, and claim to have come in contact with the spirits of Harry and George, a pair of deceased stagehands who worked at the theater in the 1980s.
Ghost hunters have also identified an unnamed woman who used to clean the building and an anonymous electrician who used to work for the Opera House.
Renvyle House Hotel, Connemara, County Galway
Today, Renvyle House in Galway is a charming rural hotel, but its guests, including William Butler Yeats, have experienced frightening ghostly happenings within this charming home’s walls.
The hotel has an eventful history, having been burned to the ground by the IRA in the 1920s.
Before this, the famous Dublin surgeon and poet Oliver St. John Gogarty owned the property.
Several of Gogarty’s servants reported fearful “presences” in the home, and reported bedsheets inexplicably flying off beds and doors opening and closing on their own.
One night, Gogarty even experienced a ghostly presence himself.
Gogarty was woken by heavy, limping footsteps along the hallway, slowly approaching his door. He lit a candle and went to investigate the strange noises, but as soon as he entered the corridor, the flame blew out and he was alone in the dark.
Gogarty said his limbs became heavy as if he “were exercising with rubber ropes.”
The supernatural activity at Renvyle increased when Gogarty’s close friend Yeats and his wife Georgia came to stay.
Yeats and his companions were sitting in the library at the home when the door suddenly creaked wide open. Though his friends were terrified, Yeats raised his hand and shouted, "Leave it alone, it will go away, as it came.” The door then slammed shut.
The Yeats later held a séance, in which a vapory mist appeared, and eventually assumed the form of a red-haired, pale-faced boy who looked to be about 14. "He had the solemn pallor of a tragedy beyond the endurance of a child," Georgia Yeats later said and discovered that the boy was a member of the Blake family, who originally owned the house.
Renvyle House was soon after burnt to the ground by the IRA, but it was rebuilt, and ghosts are said to still roam its corridors today.
Grace Neill’s Bar, Donaghadee, County Down
Grace Neill’s in County Down is one of the oldest pubs in Ireland.
Built in 1611, the pub was originally known as “The King’s Arms,” but was renamed after Grace Neill, who ran the inn for many years until her death in 1918 at the age of 98. Neill was an Irish woman with a big personality and liked to keep a watchful eye on things at the inn.
But Grace hasn’t let her death interfere with her work at the pub.
A ghost of an old woman in Victorian clothing has been spotted in dark corners of the inn, and her spirit can be seen at the front bar, straightening glasses and furniture and switching lights on and off.
A strange shuffling can often be heard coming from the second floor, and some have even felt an invisible “presence” pass through them while standing near the building’s staircase.
But patrons visiting Grace Neill’s have nothing to worry about – the former caretaker of the inn is as friendly as ghosts come!
Grace ran a welcoming establishment while she was alive, and continues to do so in her afterlife.
Malahide Castle, Malahide, County Dublin
Many (if not all) castles in Ireland are said to have ghosts, but Malahide Castle in Dublin has an impressive five specters that roam its grounds.
The Talbot family built the castle in 1185 and owned it until 1975 – except for a 10-year period when Cromwell evicted the family and handed the property to a man named Miles Corbett, one of the five ghosts.
While occupying the castle, Corbett committed many atrocities, one of which was desecrating the chapel of the old abbey near the estate.
The Englishman was eventually hung, drawn and quartered for his crimes.
It’s said that Corbett’s ghost appears on the castle grounds every year. At first, the ghostly apparition appears to be a whole soldier in armor, but eventually, he is said to fall into four pieces in front of your eyes.
One of the other more interesting ghosts of Malahide is the Talbots' court jester during the 16th century, a man named Puck.
Nobody was laughing, however, when Puck fell in love with one of Lady Elenora Fitzgerald’s noblewomen who was staying at the castle.
Puck was found outside the castle walls one night stabbed through the heart. Before he died, the jester swore to come back and haunt the castle.
The most famous reports of Puck’s ghost was from 1976 when the contents of the castle were sold off.
The jester’s “dwarf-life” ghost can also be seen in many photographs taken at the castle.
Dobbins Inn Hotel, Carrickfergus, County Antrim
The Dobbins Inn Hotel is one of Northern Ireland’s spookiest sites.
The hotel was a tower house built by Reginald d’Aubin in the 13th century.
By the 15th century, the family name had been changed to Dobbins, and many family members had become important local public figures.
In the late 1500s/early 1600s, the beautiful Elizabeth Dobbins, wife of then-owner Hugh Dobbins, fell in love with a handsome soldier who was stationed at a nearby castle.
The two began an affair, which involved Elizabeth crawling through a secret tunnel behind the huge stone fireplace in what is now the reception area of the hotel and meeting her soldier called “Buttoncap” for a romantic rendezvous.
Unfortunately for the lovers, Elizabeth’s husband discovered their affair and murdered them both with his sword.
In 1946, the building was converted into what is now the Dobbins Inn Hotel, which is inhabited by Elizabeth’s ghost.
Guests have been woken from their sleep by the touch of an invisible hand caressing their faces.
Many others have seen a ghostly figure fly across the reception area and disappear into the chimney of the stone fireplace.
Once, a waiter who was working in the hotel’s restaurant was struck in the back of the leg by a coin, but when he turned around, the room was deserted.
It seems that Elizabeth is intent on continuing her affair, and won’t let anyone stand in her way!
* Originally published October 2010.