Although a small country, Ireland has a tumultuous and incredibly rich history attested by over 30,000 thousand castles. Besides their scenic locations amid gorgeous green landscapes, Irish castles have something special that differentiates them from other, more famous European castles, which is that many of them are haunted.
No better thing can incite the visitors’ imagination than the possibility of unraveling a centuries-old mystery. You can visit Ireland’s haunted castles and perhaps even spend the night in one. This is our list of the best haunted castles in Ireland to visit.
16 Haunted Castles to visit in Ireland
1. Leap Castle
Leap Castle is famously known as the most haunted castle in Ireland due to its violent history spanning centuries of tragic events and mysteries. One of the most sinister things about Leap Castle is the so-called “Bloody Chapel”, where numerous skeletal human remains were found in a dungeon at the beginning of the 20th-century. At that time, the castle belonged to Mildred Darby who was known for dabbling in the black arts. Many believe that she unleashed ghost spirits through her experiments, which are still haunting the castle today. Other believe that the ghosts are the victims of the brutal atrocities perpetrated by the O’Caroll clan, the castle’s original owners. In the past decades, locals talked frequently about windows lighting up at night or strange noises. Today the castle is a private residence.
Where: Coolderry, County Offaly
Open to visit: No, access restricted.
2. Loughmoe Castle
Now in ruins, Loughmoe Castle was once a beautiful medieval castle which was inhabited up until the middle of the 20th-century. Locals believe that the castle is haunted by one of the last residents who died in mysterious circumstances. The eerie atmosphere of the place has convinced the villages of Loughmoe to stay away from the castle.
Where: village of Loughmoe, Thurles
When: 15th- to 16th- centuries
Open to visit: Open access.
3. Clonony Castle
Located in Offaly, Clonony Castle is a 16th-century castle that King Henry VIII offered to Thomas Boleyn as a present in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Anne Boleyn became the second wife of Henry VIII and was later beheaded at the order of her husband. This tragic outcome of the story adds a sinister charm to the castle. Many reported seeing a ghost atop the castle’s main tower, and the ghost is known as the Thin Man. Additionally, the mysterious passages of the castle are believed to hide numerous dark secrets.
Where: County Offaly
Open to visit: From 12.00 am to 5.00 pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through the summer. Anytime by appointment.
Tickets: – No fee, but donations are appreciated.
4. Clifden Castle
Built in the 19th-century, Clifden Castle lost its greatness shortly after as a result of the Great Famine of 1845. The fast decline of the castle led many to believe that the place is haunted by the ghosts of the poor and starved people who sought shelter in the castle during the tragic period of scarcity. The castle is now in ruins but still attracts many visitors due to its spooky look.
Where: Clifden, County Galway
Style: Gothic Revival
Open to visit: Open access.
5. Tully Castle
Located on the picturesque shores of Lower Lough Erne, Tully Castle is a 17th-century construction with a tragic history. In 1641, right on Christmas Day, the entire castle was burned down by a group of Irish rebels, which led to the death of many innocent women and children. Associated with this historic massacre, Tully Castle was seen by locals as a damned place. The legend says that the castle is haunted by the spirits of all the victims who lost their lives in that tragic day and that the ghosts make their appearance each year on Christmas Day.
Where: village of Blaney, County Fermanagh
Open to visit: From 12.00 am to 4.00 pm on Sunday for the interior. Open access to the grounds.
6. Belvelly Castle
Belvelly Castle is a 15th-century beautiful castle that is now in ruins. The legend says that the ruined rooms and corridors of the castle are haunted by the ghost of Lady Margaret Hardnettt. In the 17th-century, she was captured during a battle and brought to the castle as a prisoner. Starved to death, she lost her spectacular beauty and she died after smashing with fury all the mirrors in the castle. Reports say that her ghost has no face and that other spirits roam the castle with her.
Where: village of Belvelly, County Cork
Open to visit: Open Access.
7. Leamaneh Castle
Located near the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most popular attractions, Leamaneh Castle is said to be haunted by the frightening spirit of Red Mary. According to the legend, Red Mary was an evil woman who had over 20 husbands, many of whom died in suspicious circumstances. To get rid of her, the locals sealed her alive into the bark of a tree. As revenge, Red Mary now haunts the castle, tormenting anyone who dares to get close with her evil laugh.
Where: Leamaneh North, County Clare
When: 15th-century to 17th- centuries
Style: Tower house
Open to visit: Open Access.
8. Castle Leslie
Built in the 19th-century, Castle Leslie has belonged to the Leslie family for many years. Now restored and transformed into a luxury hotel, Castle Leslie is haunted by one of its previous owners, Norman Leslie, who had a tragic death during the First World War. The first record of the ghost comes from Norman’s mother who claimed that he visited her briefly in the Red Room of the castle. Today the Red Room attracts many curious eyes looking to spot traces of Norman’s spirit. Reports of weird incidents such as bells ringing or mysterious shapes roaming the rooms are common.
Where: Monaghan, County Monaghan
Open to visit: Hotel or dinner reservation.
9. Ross Castle
The history of Ross Castle begins in the 15th-century when it was built as a residence for a nobleman known as the Black Baron, who had a dark reputation. Moreover, a tragic love story gives an air of mystique to Ross Castle. Black Baron had a daughter Sabina who fell in love with one of the Chieftans’s sons. Without their fathers’ permission, the couple decided to elope during one stormy night. However, the young man drowned in a lake and his lover Sabina has been haunting the castle ever since.
Where: Killarney National Park, County Kerry
Open to visit: Yes, daily from 9.30 am.
Tickets: Adults – 5 euros, Seniors – 4 euros, Children/Students – 3 euros.
10. Kilkea Castle
Built in 1180, Kilkea Castle is one of the oldest haunted castles in Ireland and has such a rich history that facts, legends, and rumors intertwine in a fascinating blend. Over the centuries, many believed that the castle is haunted by an Earl, famed for his interest in alchemy. The legend says that the Wizard Earl rides out from the grounds of the castle in the middle of the night, every seven years. He then traverses the plains of the village on a white stallion. Kilkea Castle is famed for other apparitions as well, including a child ghost who laughs in the hallways and the Woman in White who haunts the courtyard. Today, the castle is a luxury hotel.
Where: village of Kilke, County Kildare
Style: Early Medieval
Open to visit: Hotel booking and dinner reservation.
11. Malahide Castle
Although during the day, Malahide Castle is a popular place for relaxation and picnics, this is one of the most popular haunted Irish castles. Built eight centuries ago, the castle has many spirits trapped within its walls. Reports suggest that at least five ghosts are roaming around. The most frightening, however, is the ghost of Miles Corbett who was sentenced to death for desecrating a chapel. Visitors reported seeing his ghost appearing before them and them disintegrating into pieces. Another terrifying ghost is Lord Galtrim who lived in the 15th-century and was killed in a fight right on his wedding day. His groans of pain can be heard sometimes in the castle.
Where: village of Malahide, north of central Dublin
Open to visit: Yes, daily from 9.30 am to 5.3pm.
Tickets: Adult- 12 euros, Students – 8 euros, Child – 6 euros.
12. Dunguaire Castle
Built in 1520 in a picturesque location on the shores of Galway Bay, Dunguaire Castle is one of the best castles in Ireland to visit. However, the legends of the place are more intriguing rather than terrifying. A story says that Guaire, King of Connaught had once prepared a feast at the castle to honor his guards. Meanwhile, a hermit named Saint Colman who was living in the nearby mountains asked God to send him some food to end his fast. By miracle, all the food from the King’s feast flew from the plates to the saint’s shelter in the mountains. Today, the castle is regularly hosting feasts with medieval music and bards who share ancient stories with the visitors.
Where: village of Kinvara, County Galway
Open to visit: Yes, daily from April to October from 10.00 am.
Tickets: Adult- 6 euros, Students/Seniors-3.5 euros, Children- 3euros.
13. Dunluce Castle
Located on a rugged coastal cliff, Dunluce Castle is known for a tragic story. One day during a storm, the part of the castle that contained the kitchen and servants’area collapsed from the rest of the building. The servants were trapped and fell with the rubble. According to the legend, the screams of their ghosts can be heard sometimes when it’s foggy. Others believe that the castle is also haunted by an English captain who tried to raid the castle but was captured and sentenced to death. He was hung in the tower, and this is where his ghost often appears.
Where: County Antrim
Open to visit: Yes, daily from 10.00 am.
Tickets: Adults – 5 euros, Children/Seniors- 3 euros, Free for children under 5.
14. Charleville Castle Tullamore
Castle Tullamore was built at the end of the 18th-century by the Earl of Charleville to celebrate a victory against France, and it is now one of the well-known haunted Irish castles. According to the legend, the castle is haunted by the ghost of the Earl’s youngest daughter, Harriet. After falling down a staircase, she bled to death at the young age of 8. Visitors of the castle reported hearing weird sounds, including singing, laughter, or crying.
Where: Tullamore, Count Offaly
Open to visit: Yes, open all year by appointment. Daily tours during summer from 1.00 pm.
15. Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle was built at the end of 12th-century as a residence of the Lord of Ulster, John de Courcy. Due to its political importance, the castle was repeatedly sieged over the centuries by the English, Scots, and French. However, with each siege, the castle was further expanded and fortified. In the 18th-century, the castle was transformed into a prison. A story says that one of the soldiers working in the prison was sentenced to death for having an affair with the wife of one of his superiors. He now haunts the castle and it is known as Buttoncap.
Where: Carrickfergus, County Antrim
Open to visit: Yes, daily from 10 am.
Tickets: Adults – 5 euros, Children- 4 euros, Students/Seniors – 3 euros, Children under 4 – free.
16. Antrim Castle
Antrim Castle is a popular ghost-seeing spot with numerous reports of weird apparitions. The strangest story connected to the place is that of a stone wolfhound stone which is believed to have been real. The dog was transformed into stone by a witch, so he couldn’t protect the castle during a planned attack. The locals believe that the castle is also haunted now by a White Lady. She is the ghost of a young servant girl who died from smoke inhalation during a fire at the castle in 1922.
Where: Antrim, County Antrim
Open to visit: Yes, daily. From 9.30 from Monday to Friday, from 10.00 am on Saturday and 2 pm on Sunday.
Tickets: Free entrance.
Whether you prefer exploring the grounds of a ruined castle looking for traces of its supernatural inhabitants or spending the night in the company of a ghost in a luxury hotel, this is only possible in Ireland. Irish castles are not only picturesque and charming, but they hold within their walls incredible ancient stories and legends.