Lorna Hogg recommends ‘castle hotels’ where you can be haunted in luxury
Irish castles are internationally famed for their history and atmosphere, but of course, there is one other requirement. Every self- respecting castle needs a ghost which can provide memorable hauntings, and for many people, the more blood curdling, the better!
If you have stayed at home for the summer, and are now looking for a luxury break – why not check the superb autumn deals from Ireland’s many romantic castles? We’ve graded them in terms of the `spook factor’ – which ranges from civilised and friendly spirits, up to full-on haunting, attracting international ghost hunters!
Firstly, you need to work out what you are looking for. Do you want the full romantic castle vibe, with luxurious rooms, beautiful grounds and superb food – or prefer a more modern, style, perhaps with golf, or spa facilities? Are you looking for value, and happy in a modern extension? Is your ideal an onsite self- catering lodge, perhaps with friends or family? Are you happy to go off-season, off-peak, or up-grade to get a luxury room? Are you happy to book well in advance, or go last minute, due to cancellations? Finally, keep checking the website of your chosen hotel, and also hotel booking sites – the latter can be very good for last minute offers.
Clontarf Castle , on Dublin’s Northside, is a centuries old castle dating back to the Vikings. It current style is a mix of Baronial and modern – set against its ancient background. Within a short distance of Dublin city, it attracts wedding parties, but has plenty of choices for all guests, offering comfort, good food – and great value. At time of going to press, autumn deals started from €298, for a two night stay for two people. The Castle ghosts match its style – friendly and relaxed. Guests find that shower heads sometimes mysteriously twist, electronics can play up – and unusual scents can suddenly waft by. .
Tel: (01) 8332321
Markree Castle in Co. Sligo, is set near the Wild Atlantic Way, and Yeats Country and is a beautifully restored seventeenth century castle. On an estate of some 500 acres, and traditional in style, Markree Castle is all about luxury – in decor, food and rooms. Logs blazing in the large fireplace in the Grand Hall set the tone, and it is perfect for romantic, relaxed breaks. The castle’s resident spook is a playful little girl named Pippa – who apparently responds well to gifts! They have a wide range of deals – September midweek stays offer two nights for two guests, sharing in a castle double room, for €400. They also have good self-catering options, at The Pottery Shed.
Tel: 071 0116 7800
Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, Co Kildareis one of the oldest occupied castles in Ireland, dating from the 12th century, when the Earls of Kildare lived here. Its 180 acres surround a family owned luxury castle, offering comfort, and a modern classical style. You can go deluxe in a castle bedroom, chill in a self catering at a cottage, or try a lodge deal. There is a spa, golf is also available, plus tennis, archery and horse riding. Try sumptuous formal dining in The Restaurant, relax in The Bistro, `Grab and Go’ at The Clubhouse – or dine in style in your own suite. Kilkea Castle also offers ghost tours, and at certain times of the year, these include an evening tour. Ghosts have been noted in the old nursery,where a little girl has been heard laughing. One Earl of Kildare was a practising Wizard – and regularly re-appears! Autumn prices at Kilkea start from €160 B&B per night in October, in a Carriage Bedroom, and €265 B&B, for an October overnight stay in a Classic Castle bedroom – dinner not included. There is a wide range of deals available,
Tel: 059 9145600
Kinnity Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly. An unspoilt and romantic castle, well placed between Dublin and Galway, and near to the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Kinnitty dates from the 1200s. It is welcoming, luxurious – and relaxed. Prices for October breaks include €190 for a 1 night stay in a castle baronial double bedroom stay, with breakfast. There are two supposedly `haunted’ rooms and the (friendly) robed Monk of Kinnitty makes regular appearances! Guests also regularly note mysterious sounds, footsteps and sense of otherworldly presences.
Tel: 057 9137318
Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co, Monaghan. Looking for the complete package – an ancient castle, still inhabited by descendants of the original family, decades of famous visitors – plus a tinge of eccentricity? Castle Leslie is your choice. Dating from the seventeenth century, a chequered history led to its current revival. With a cookery school, equestrian centre, riding and fishing, all set in 1000 acres of glorious countryside, it has something for everyone. On certain days in November, two adults can stay at the luxurious main castle, from €750 for two nights, with dinner on one night. Oher choices include bedrooms in the beautifully restored Lodge, (€300-€310) for a 1 B&B break, two sharing. You could also try the self-catering Old Stables Mews and Cottages. There are several well established ghosts here – including a monk, Lady Constance Leslie, and Norman Leslie, a World War One hero, who died in France, but appeared at the Castle, just before and after his death.
Tel: 047 881000
Ballyseedy Castle, Tralee, Co. Kerry, is a beautiful and elegant traditional castle dating from the 1720s. It has been linked with one family – the Blennerhassetts, have lived on the estate since 1590, before building their home there The original ground rent was a rose, paid each year, and , unsurprisingly, the scent of roses, quite strong at times, regularly occurs, often out of season. The ghost of one of the residents – Hilda Blennerhassett can be seen often – she lived there until her death. She was last spotted at a window during the first Covid outbreak – in lockdown, of course! There is a variety of really excellent deals and packages this autumn – e.g. 1 night stays for two sharing, in the castle, with dinner, starting from €272. Also – check The Lodge, Ballyseede Castle.
Tel: 066 7125799
Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan has a beautifully styled and romantic atmosphere, and is understandably popular for weddings. It also has a wide range of accommodation choices, from Courtyard Rooms to sumptuous modern classic Castle Rooms. Cabra is also one of Ireland’s most haunted castles. In the 1780s, it was the setting for a real life upstairs –downstairs romance, between a family member and a beautiful servant. Tragically, murder was involved, and various ghostly presences have been noted. A man in military uniform has also been spotted in the hotel corridors. A ghostly carriage pulls into the courtyard in the dead of night, and a baby has been heard crying. There are good value off-peak deals on offer – in October, two adults can have a two nights stay in the castle, with dinner on one evening, from €311 per person.
Tel: 042 9667030
Ballygally Castle, Larne, Co. Antrim, is ideally placed for trips to the Glens of Antrim, The Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Distillery – for starters. The original 17th century castle tower now has some modern extensions – and a wide range of rooms and deals. They include gourmet mini breaks – the food is excellent here. Ballygally has also been dubbed Northern Ireland’s Most Haunted Hotel – and to make the point, an eerie green mist can sometimes be spotted hanging over it. Serious ghost hunters are frequent guests – and you can take a Ghost Tour. Hauntings often occur in the castle’s Tower Rooms, which are all small, cosy and highly atmospheric, and reached by a stone spiral staircase. Discover why and whether Lady Isabella Shaw was left to starve in one room, or jumped/was pushed, from a window – and learn about the mysterious night time voices and noises in the tower. There is a wide range of good value deals, some from under €200 for `Book Early and Save’ offers. Various ` Dine and Stay’ and ` Gourmet Mini Break’ deals, (some including the Castle Rooms), are available for under €300, for 2 adults sharing.
Tel: 0044 28581066
Prices have been checked at time of going to press but can change. Check websites or phone to confirm latest offers
Haunted Ireland Senior Times podcast
If you are interested in ghost spotting, why not get some background and further details about Ireland’s Haunted Castles, on the Senior Times Haunted Ireland podcast. Visit www.seniortimes.ie and click on ‘podcasts’