Haunted Ireland – Shankill Castle – County Kilkenny

First impressions for visitors to Shankill castle, near Paulstown on the Carlow/Kilkenny border, may be confusion, or a perhaps little annoyance, after having arrived at the gates to be told to use the other entrance, a short drive down the road, take the left turn, then turn back to the castle. Why then? It appears this arrangement is due to one of the many ghost stories and legends surrounding this beautiful Manor House.

According to legend years before a local priest proposed using the pathway leading from his church nearby, to the castle, as public amenity. This was met by opposition from a staff member, or some say the owner, of the castle. Their disagreement turned into a fierce argument, resulting in the death of the holy man. It is believed that as the priest  lay dying, he cursed the castle’s gate and grounds, vowing that the gates would never close and the grounds would become overgrown.

The gates it is said would repeatedly open at night, despite being locked and tied by chains. And the grass and vegetation became so unruly, that eventually a new entrance had to built. Perhaps the latter was because of the reluctance of the grounds keepers to tend the area, as the restless spirit of the priest is said to have been seen and heard walking up the stony path to the castle?

Another of the castle grounds’ ghost is the well known and much reported ghost carriage which have been heard crunching against the gravel. Occupants of the castle also mentioned hearing a visitor at the door, only to find no-one there when they answered the summons.

The castle itself is said to be home to several spirits.

Oliver Cromwell’s troops, who took over the castle in its early days, have been seen by visitors, roaming the basement of the castle.

Paranormal investigators have reported unexplainable temperature drops and hearing the sounds of a little girl crying.

Shankill Castle was built in the early 18th century by the Aylward family and their vault lies in the graveyard in the grounds. In the past, cemeteries were often a target for grave robbers and Shankill Castle was no exception. In the 1700’s Peter Aylward’s body was placed in the vault, but his remains were stolen and never found. His ghost has been seen in what used to be his bedroom and the upstairs corridor of the castle.

There have also been reports of hauntings, including sighting of the apparition of an elderly lady in the “blue room” of the castle.

The castle is accessible and open to the public for visits and events. More information at: https://shankillcastle.com

Are you brave enough to visit?



Grannagh Castle – County Kilkenny

The following is written on a stone slab in Grannagh Castle:

“The ruins of the once proud castle now stand on an eminence on the banks of the River Siur. The castle itself is supposed to have been erected about 500 years ago. It was formerly a Strong Fortress and the residence of the proud Earls and Dukes of Ormond who held there, their Baronial Courts and lived in all the pomp and splendour of Feudal Magnificence. This Venerable Fabric was in part demolished during the Civil Wars of unhappy Ireland and the spoliating hands of the thoughtless neighbouring peasantry had nearly completed its destruction when George Roche. Esq. being desirous of preserving from total ruin the feeble remains of this once proud monument of the architectural skill of the ancient Irish, caused the new wall on the other side to be built at a considerable expense and all the breaches in the old one to be filled up under the superintendence of Edward Rorke a mason of the city of Waterford 24th December 1827.”

The ruins of the former stronghold is now protected by crumbling walls, the corner towers still intact, and in the arch of the mullioned window in its north wall by two angels, one of which representing Michael the Archangel, weighing the souls on Judgement day.

The 13th Century castle is said to have been built by the le Poers, who had been granted the whole of Waterford and southern portion of Kilkenny after the Norman invasion in 1169.

In 1375 Eustace le Poer was executed for treason and Edward the III granted the castle to James Butler, the 2nd Earl of Ormond. Some time after that, in the 15th Century, the main tower house of the castle was built and in keeping with many others of its kind at that time, it was both a sign of wealth and for defence purposes. 

The Castle was taken by Cromwell’s forces in 1650 and was mostly destroyed after being fired on with two cannons.

The castle can be seen from the N24 (just off the the M9), heading into Waterford city. It is open to the public and easily accessible, though the main building is locked up and not open to the public.

Amazing Places In Ireland – Ferns Abbey and Cathedral – County Wexford

Ferns Abbey, also known as Fearna-nor-Maedhog, Ferna- Fernes, Fernis and St Mary’s Abbey, is an Augustinian abbey, situated just outside the village of Ferns, Co Wexford. It has been functioning as an ecclesiastical site associated with St Edan (Aidan or Máedóc) since the 7th century, the earliest cathedral having been built here at the beginning of the 13th century.

In 1577 the cathedral was attacked and burnt by Fiach MacHugh o’Byrne, who was later forced to rebuild it. Sadly most of the original building had been lost. However the refurbished late medieval cathedral that is now is a Church of Ireland place of worship, incorporates parts of it.

Part of St Mary’s Abbey and its round tower survived to this day and is located close to the structure of what is believed to be the thirteenth century cathedral.


Also see nearby Ferns Castle – County Wexford

Amazing Places in Ireland – Sheep’s Head Peninsula – County Cork

“Water and ground in their extremity”

The Sheep’s Head peninsula – a European Destination of Excellence – is situated between Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay in West Cork.

The peninsula is popular with walkers and the Sheep’s Head Way offers an 88 km long trail which follows old tracks and roads around the peninsula from Bantry to the headland and back. The trail is very accessible, well signposted and combines low and rugged hills with coastline and cliffs.

For those who prefer two wheels Sheep’s Head Way cycle trail begins in the nearby village of Ballylickey,  extends around the coastline of the Sheep’s Head peninsula, and ends in Ballydehob.

The peninsula has three villages, Durrus, Ahakista (home to the Air India Memorial Garden) and Kilcrohane.

Whether you prefer hiking, cycling, or driving, the peninsula offers a lot to visitors and is one of my favourite coastal areas in Ireland.

Irish Castles – Rock of Dunamase, County Laois

The Rock of Dunamase is an historic attraction found overlooking the valley of the O’Moores, just outside Portlaoise, County Laois. Dunamase was as an early christian dun known as Dun Masc (“the Fort of Masc”). The earliest historical reference to Dunamase is in the annals of the four masters which states that Dun Masc was pillaged by the vikings in 842AD.

Later in the 12th century, when the Normans arrived in Ireland, Dunamase became one of the most important Anglo-Norman strongholds in Co Laois. It was part of the dowry of Aoife, the daughter of Diarmuid Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, when she was given in marriage to the Norman conqueror Strongbow in 1170. When Isabel, the daughter of Strongbow and Aoife, wed William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, Dunamase was given as part of her marriage’s wedding gift. 

From 1325 until 1609, the castle belonged to the O’Moore family of Laois, after which ownership passed to the Earl of Thomond. It was fatally damaged during the Cromwellian invasion in 1650.

Today what remains of the castle and it’s walls is ruins, but its location on the rock, overlooking the surrounding countryside offers visitors breathtaking views. I really enjoyed visiting the castle and the views offered by its vantage point and highly recommend a visit to this amazing place.

Loads more pics:

Amazing Places in Ireland – Knockroe Passage Tomb

Sometimes called the Newgrange of the south east, Knockroe Passage tombs is not as well known, or spectacular as it’s northern counterpart, but is nonetheless special in its own right.

The Neolithic passage tomb at Knockroe (known locally as ‘The Caiseal’) in County Kilkenny has been excavated since 1990. This megalithic burial site dates back more than 5,000 years and is unique in that it aligns with both the rising and the setting sun, unlike other similar sites, such as Newgrange.

Another aspect of Knockroe that makes it worth investigating is that until its discovery, the previously known most southern site of its kind was at Baltinglass Hill in County Wicklow. And there are also two tombs on this site, which is unusual.

The two burial chambers are constructed of large, upright stones (orthostats) and positioned at the south-eastern and south-western side of the mound. It has about 30 decorated stones and, like Newgrange in the Boyne Valley, the face of the cairn flanking the eastern tomb was decorated with a frieze of quartz.

Dr Muiris O’Suillivan, Associate Professor of Archaelogy at University College Dublin, has led the excavation of the site over the past 25 years. The excavation revealed evidence of multiple burials of cremated human remains, along with remains of assorted “grave goods” such as pottery vessels, bone and antler pin fragments and beads.

Despite its historical significance, the site is easily accessible and open to the public year round and is a popular gathering spot on especially the winter solstice, which is normally on the 21st December of each year (but occasionally it can be on the 22nd). For many years now a large gathering of people  come to Knockroe to see either the sun rise or sun set alignment.

Irish Castles – Synone Castle – County Tipperary

Synone castle (Irish: Farrin-a-Urrigh) is a 16th century cylindrical towerhouse situated in Farranavarra, Boherlahan, Co Tipperary.

Little is known about the history of this lovely little castle, except that is is said that many of Strongbows’ forces, in retreat from Cashel, were attacked and buried here.  Human remains were dug up near the tower and years ago a large helmet was discovered. The castle and surrounds however appears to have no official architectural significance.

The castle was at some point the residence of the Butler family and it is said that it was attacked by Cromwell’s army. What remains today is a small, cylindrical ruined tower in fairly good shape, which can be viewed from the roadside. It’s locked up and accessible via the driveway of the adjacent private home. Please respect the privacy of it’s residents when visiting the castle.

Irish Castles – Kanturk Castle – County Cork

Kanturk Castle is an impressive fortified house, built in 1601 for MacDonagh McCarthy as a defence against English settlers. According to legend, the seven stone masons that worked on the castle were all named John, giving the castle the name of Carrig-na-Shane-Saor meaning The Rock of John the Mason.

Known locally as the Old Court, Kanturk castle is a limestone rubble Tudor mansion measuring four storeys high, 28 metres (±92 feet) in length and 11 metres (36 feet) wide, with four towers, each five storeys high, measuring to a height of 29 metres (95 feet).

According to legend, the castle was never completed as word of its construction reached the Privy Council in England. They ordered MacDonagh to stop building works, as they feared it would be used as a base to attack English settlers. Macdonogh was said to be so outraged at this news that he smashed all the blue ceramic tiles meant for the roof and threw them into a nearby stream. The stream became known as the Bluepool Stream, because of the reflection of the tiles in the water.

Over the years, the property changed ownership a number of times, and was eventually donated to the National Trust by Lucy, Countess of Egmont under the condition that it be kept as a ruin in the same condition as it was at time of hand over. The Trust have been managing the Castle and grounds since July 2000 and it is designated as a National Monument.

Kanturk Castle is located about 1.5km (just under a mile) from the market town of Kanturk in County Cork. Take the R579 from town and look for the castle on your right hand side.

Amazing Places In Ireland – Brow Head – County Cork

Brow Head (Irish: Ceann Bró) is the most southerly point of mainland Ireland. It is in the rural townland of Mallavogue, a short distance from the fishing village of Crookhaven in County Cork, Ireland and, in my opinion, offers some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery in West Cork.

At the top of Brow Head the ruined remains of the signal tower can be found. This signal tower is part of a chain of towers built in 1804, during British rule, to give warning of a French invasion. Originally the signalling was done with a system of flags and blackballs on masts.

In the 19th century Brow Head was a mining area and the remains of the mines and the ruined remains of the miners’ houses can still be seen in the area. The first copper ore was extracted here in 1852 and mining continued intermittently until at least 1906.

Fans of the Star Wars movies may recognise the area as some scenes were filmed here for “Star Wars Episode VIII”.

To fully appreciate the views Brow Head offers, I’d recommend wading through the brambles and other unkind vegetation (it’s well worth it, promise!) towards the cliffs and then look back towards the village of Crookhaven. On a clear day, the well known Fastnet Rock can also be seen from this view point.

3.8 km east Brow Head is the equally amazing Mizen Head Signal Station & Visitor Centre.

Amazing Places in Ireland – Victor’s Way (Indian Sculpture Park), Co Wicklow

Day trippers looking for a quiet spot to while an hour or two need looking no further than Victor’s Way, the sculpture park near Roundwood in Co Wicklow. The beautiful wooded garden covers some 20 acres and the contemplation path is 2kms long, with sculptures placed along the way.

Victor’s Way was designed as a contemplation (or meditation) space for adults. Though children can be brought to the park, it is generally discouraged, due to the efforts to maintain a peaceful, relaxing and quiet atmosphere for visitors for meditation (and also, in my opinion, because some of the sculptures may be a bit too “interesting” for young minds to appreciate!) Dog walking is discouraged at the park, for the reasons mentioned above.

The garden contains 7 major and 37 minor black granite sculptures and took 25 years to complete. The major sculptures represent 7 development stages of life and each is accompanied by a well written peace explaining it’s symbolism. All the sculptures were designed in Roundwood and were then hand cut in a dedicated workshop in Mahabalipuram in South India.

Victor’s Way also offers the opportunity for forest bathing.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the park, from arrival where I found the entrance fees are payable via an honor system, €5 per adult (no charge for children). The well stocked shop at end of the walk is run in the same honor system, so make sure you bring cash and plenty change! Items in the shop are priced very reasonably and the stock is beautiful, ranging from wall hangings to jewelry, a great place to buy a souvenir.

You’ll find Victor’s Way on the Old Enniskerry Road, L1036, about 2 km north of Roundwood in Co Wicklow. The park is open during the summer months, from from April 14th to September 30th, every day from 12.30 to 18.00.