Ireland is often stereotyped as a land full of rainbows and fairies, but for every delightful folktale there is an equally dark legend lurking. Here we take a look at some of the island’s darkest offerings with these five haunted locations.
Malahide Castle, the 12th century seat of the Talbot family in north county Dublin, boasts five ghosts. With over 800 years of bloody history to its name, it is a wonder there aren’t more. The estate was gifted to its first steward, Sir Richard Talbot, as a reward for his services to Henry II of England. The castle remained with the Talbot family until 1975, the only time they were not in ownership was during the brutal reign of Oliver Cromwell. Of all the medieval castle’s ghosts, the most popular with visitors is the poltergeist of a Dwarf named Puck. Puck was a jester at Malahide during the Tudor era, and when he wasn’t entertaining the family he also served as one of the castle’s watchmen. When a relative by the name of Lady Eleonora Fitzgerald came to stay with the Talbots, Puck found himself falling in love with her. The Talbots did not approve of the courtship, and one cold, snowy December morning the jester was found stabbed in the castle grounds. Still alive in a pool of his own crimson blood, Puck’s dying vow was to haunt the castle. These days he likes to show up in people’s photographs as a photobomber.
The White Lady of Kinsale walks the ramparts of Charles Fort in county Cork, wailing for her dead husband. In life she was Wilful Warrender, the daughter of the fort’s commanding officer, Colonel Warrender. They lived in the garrison in the early 17th century, the colonel in charge of defending the southern coast from naval threats. Wilful fell in love with and wed one of the soldiers stationed at Charles Fort, young Trevor Ashurst. On the night of their wedding, after the celebrations, the young couple were taking a stroll along the ramparts. Trevor noticed some flowers growing at the base of the fort’s wall and asked for the sentry to go down and fetch them for his bride. In return, he would take the sentry’s watch that night. Unfortunately, exhausted by the day’s celebrations, Trevor fell asleep while in the sentry box. Colonel Warrender came upon him during a routine inspection and shot him in a rage for deserting his post, thinking Trevor was the usual sentry. When his daughter discovered what he had done, she threw herself into the sea. To this day she haunts the fort, dressed in her wedding whites.
In 1536 Richard Nugent, the 12th Lord of Delvin, lived in his family seat at Ross Castle with his daughter Sabina. Known as The Black Baron, the Lord of Delvin was a cruel tyrant who kept the subjects on his land in a state of constant terror with his wild temper. Sabina Nugent was much gentler, and enjoyed walking alone along the banks of Lough Sheelin, by which the castle stood. One day she came across the handsome son of the local Gaelic clan, Orwin O’Reilly, and the pair fell into conversation despite their different backgrounds. The Nugent family were of old Anglo-Norman blood and Ross Castle was one of the last great houses on the outskirts of The Pale, beyond which the Irish Gaels lived, constantly plotting ways to get their land back. Orwin and Sabina fell in love, but they soon realised that there was no way to be together if they stayed with their warring families. The young couple plotted to escape by water across the lough, but on the night of their flight a storm blew up and sank their humble rowing boat. Sabina was rescued and pulled from the water, but Orwin was drowned. Such was the despair of the
Black Baron’s daughter that she locked herself in her room and starved herself to death. Her restless spirit has been spotted roaming the halls of Ross Castle ever since.
In the Hook Peninsula of county Wexford stands Loftus Hall, often claimed to be the most haunted house in Ireland. In 1775 it was in the possession of Charles Loftus, who lived there with his second wife and his six children. One stormy night a ship anchored in Hook Peninsula and a strange young man came to the hall seeking shelter. He was duly let in to sit by the fire and rest. He stayed with the Loftus family several nights, becoming close to Charles’ eldest daughter, Anne. One night when everyone in the house was gathered for games, Anne leaned down under the dining table to retrieve a playing card she had dropped. The family heard a gasp, and when Anne reappeared she was as white as a sheet and accused the guest of having cloven hooves for feet. At this, the young man leapt up from his seat and shot clean through the roof with a cackle, leaving a large hole. Poor Anne went mad soon after, and her family locked her in the hall’s tapestry room. The young woman refused all food and water and eventually succumbed to death. Anne’s ghost remains in the tapestry room to this day, with visitors claiming to feel sudden cold patches, as though she had walked through them.
St Catherine’s Abbey
This medieval nunnery hosts two terrifying spectres, the Black Hag and the Countess of Desmond. The Black Hag was a former chief nun of the abbey, who was rumoured to practice Black Magic and commit disturbing acts on local townsmen. The people of the surrounding Limerick countryside lived in terror of her until she was convicted as a witch and killed. Her face turned black in death, giving her her nickname, and she was buried in a sealed room. However, the locals had not gotten rid of her for good and despite the efforts of several priests her spirit is rumoured to wander the abbey to this day. St Katherine’s second spirit is the Countess of Desmond, who was shot with an arrow during a battle and presumed dead by her husband, the Earl of Desmond. The earl had her buried under the abbey’s main altar, but soon began to see visions of his dead wife’s tortured ghost. Deciding to investigate, he had her dug up and made the horrifying discovery that she had been buried alive. The lid of her coffin was covered in scratch marks. The countess’s wails still ring through the abbey hundreds of years later.