Top 10 castles in Ireland’s Ancient East

Ancient East
In Ireland’s Ancient East there’s a castle around every corner, some in ruins, some perfectly preserved and many others now offering luxury hotel accommodation. Here’s a guide to the top 10:

1. Trim Castle, County Meath

The largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, Trim Castle is over 800 years old and has an unusual three-storey keep with 20 corners. It was used as a location in the movie Braveheart.


2. Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle, another impressive Norman bastion, boasts majestic halls and extensive parklands. Over the centuries it has been extended and rebuilt resulting in a complex structure of various architectural styles.

3. Blarney Castle, County Cork

Most famous for being the home of the Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle has a lot more to explore. The gorgeous grounds, the enchanted rock close, the badger’s cave, the witch stone and the wishing steps are all part of the magic of this castle.

4. Lismore Castle, County Waterford

Dating from 1170, Lismore is a privately owned castle offering luxury accommodation on an exclusive hire basis. It is an exceptional Irish destination, somewhere where you can make your own magic.

5. Castle Leslie Estate, County Monaghan

Set in 1,000 acres of lush countryside dotted with ancient woodland, Castle Leslie hotel offers unusual and enchanting accommodation, authentic castle interiors and old world grandeur.

6. Huntington Castle, County Carlow

Still lived in by descendants of the original builders, a guided tour of this fascinating castle takes just half an hour and brings its history and stories of its occupants to life. The gardens are full of impressive formal plantings and layouts.

7. Birr Castle, County Offaly

The castle itself is not open to the public but it is worth a visit to see the Science Centre housed in the stables and the Great Telescope built in the 1840s, which was the largest telescope in the world at the time.

8. Killeen Castle, County Meath

The history of Killeen Castle dates back to 1181 when it was built by Hugh de Lacy. In the early 19th century it was modernised creating the design for the building which stands today at the heart of the magnificent estate famous for its Jack Nicklaus signature golf course.

9. Slane Castle, County Meath

With the backdrop of the River Boyne and the surrounding parkland, Slane is as famous as a venue for superb outdoor rock concerts as it is a castle. Set in the middle of a 1,500 acre estate in the heart of the Boyne Valley, it’s well worth a visit.

10. Castle Roche, County Louth

The remains of the 13th-century Castle Roche stand on a rocky outcrop from where impressive views of the countryside can be enjoyed. It is reported to be haunted.


Haunted Ireland: The four haunted castles of County Offaly

What do “Ghost Hunters,” “Scariest Places on Earth” and President Obama have in common? Why the spooky county of Offaly of course!


These four castles in The Faithful County have been visited by some of television’s most famous paranormal investigators

Kinnitty Castle

First built in 1209 and home to Druids and poets alike, this Gothic style castle hotel was burned to the ground by Irish Republicans in 1922 and rebuilt to its current state in 1928.

The High Cross and Abbey wall of the original structure remain and several ghosts are believed to haunt the grounds. Two of the bedrooms, the Geraldine and Elizabeth rooms, are haunted and several other areas of the hotel leave visitors uneasy and spooked.

The most famous ghost, however, is that of the Monk of Kinnitty, Hugh. Although spotted by visitors and staff alike, the mostly friendly spirit prefers to communicate with one employee, sometimes predicting future events. The castle was the subject of an investigation by UK television’s “Most Haunted.”


Clonony Castle

This 16th-century Tudor castle was built with all the usual features for the period, including a murder hole, mysterious passages and a three story tower.

It was given by King Henry VIII to Thomas Boleyn in exchange for the hand of his daughter, Anne. Anne’s two cousins (also cousins of Queen Elizabeth I) lived there and were buried on the grounds just a hundred feet from the castle, a fact only re-discovered in 1803.

There have been many reported sightings of the ghost of a skeletal being known as ‘The Thin Man’ atop of the tower, an eerie hazy glow surrounding him.

Clonony Castle

Charleville Castle

Visited by the “Ghost Hunters International” team and “Scariest Places on Earth,” this haunted castle was built in the early nineteenth century. The surrounding oak forest is hundreds of years old and was home to the Druids with a Druid’s Initiation Circle remaining.

The daughter of the 3rd Earl of Charleville, Harriet tragically died aged eight in 1861 after sliding down the main balustrade and losing her grip, crashing to the stone floor. Her ghost is still reportedly seen and felt on the stairs, and at night the screams, laughter and singing of a young girl can be heard. The 1st Earl of Charleville has also remained to protect his home, his spirit walking the tower. Visitors have also seen inexplicable balls of light darting throughout the castle.

Leap Castle

Investigated by “Most Haunted,” “Scariest Places on Earth” and the TAPS team from “Ghost Hunters,” this castle was built in the late thirteenth century by the O’Bannon clan and could well be the most haunted place in Ireland.

Two brothers were fighting for leadership of the O’Bannon clan. On the fateful day when everything changed, one brother, a priest, was saying High Mass in what is now known as The Bloody Chapel. His rival brother entered and plunged a sword through his torso, whereupon the priest fell across the altar and died in front of his horrified family.

Despite being a burned out shell, the chapel can still sometimes be seen illuminated from the road.

The Oubliette was a hole in the chapel traditionally used to store valuables or hide during attack. The O’Carroll clan, who later inhabited the castle, had other ideas and used it to dispose of “unwanted guests,” particularly mercenaries they would hire and then poison, dumping them in the Oubliette when they served no further purpose. Many skeletons were removed during renovations and this was believed to stir up paranormal activity within the castle.

Monks have been seen in the Priests House, including a burly man seen pushing a barrel up a flight of stairs only for it to fall, and in the Murder Hole Room a cold hand has grasped the wrist of a resident, only for the room to fall still, a groaning heard and the sound of a body falling to the floor.

A woman known as The Red Lady has been seen prowling the halls, dressed in scarlet and brandishing a knife with a look of pure hatred upon her face. An 11-year-old girl named Emily fell from the battlements in the 1600s and her fall can be witnessed time and again, although she disappears before impact. Charlotte, a mysterious young girl with a deformed leg, can be seen walking the floor and at the fireplace.

Leap Castle was in the hands of the Darby family from 1649 until the 20th century and many if not all of the hauntings were witnessed by Mildred Darby in the late 1800s. Indeed she was believed to experiment with the occult and may have been pivotal in the manifestation of the spirit known as The Elemental.

The Elemental may have been summoned by Mildred Darby, however it is more likely this ethereal being was on the sacred grounds before the castle was built. Mildred described the creature as grey, decomposing with claws and emitting a foul stench. Although The Elemental can be felt as a sinister presence, it will only manifest and attack if it is provoked, so my suggestion is that you don’t.

More info: Offaly Tourism