Leslie Castle, above, in Glaslough, County Monaghan.
The haunted bed at Leslie Castle.
I had a friend ask me recently where to send some relatives who were going to be visiting Ireland. He wanted recommendations for a family spanning three generations, some of whom had been over prior, but who were by no means frequent visitors.
It was a hard nut to crack mainly because I didn’t know them and hadn’t a clue on what they might like to experience. He gave me a generalized itinerary though, that they’d be spending a day in Dublin, then heading south before looping around to the western coast to leave via Shannon Airport.
His request was well timed, because as we head into spring, Ireland will be blooming, flight prices will be edging up, but they won’t be at the summer apex.
As far as hitting the Emerald Isle, it obviously depends on who will be going and what they’re looking for. I’m generally content either hunting for new food venues or finding a small pub somewhere to while away the hours.
If I’m visiting a country for the first time, I’ll likely still want to see sites that the area is renowned for, but that’s becoming less and less important to me, especially as those spots are crammed tighter and tighter with other tourists.
Any number of sources will point you to the popular spots in Ireland, so I won’t waste your time repeating them. Instead, I’m going to pen the occasional column with a theme. If you ever see one you like, maybe you can grab a few tidbits to help in your planning. I’ll start with some of the hotels that are likely to reacquaint you with the hair on the back of your neck…
Renvyle House —Renvyle House Hotel, on the coast of Connemara, reminds me of an old hunting lodge. None other than William Butler Yeats is reputed to haunt this place, along with a few other scarier apparitions. He held seances there with attendees such as Lady Gregory, James Joyce, Augustus John and Oliver St. John Gogarty. Nowadays there are separate lodges for the more timid, but the main hotel has the ghosts. (It’s been called the most haunted place in Ireland). The main building has been rebuilt and burned down and rebuilt again. Note that it’s a great base if you’re interested in hiking around the Connemara Mountains.
During a haunted tour I helped to host more than twenty years ago, two separate guests reported that someone sat on their bed in the middle of the night at the same time… in two separate rooms. One of them slept in the hallway too frightened to return to her bed.
A quick rundown: Room twenty-four reputedly has had constant reports of footsteps; Yeats’ wife apparently saw a ghostly face at the window of her room; a housekeeper once saw a man entering room four, which was supposed to be vacant. When she opened the door to inform him he had the wrong room, it was empty. The poor woman eventually suffered a nervous breakdown. Another housemaid witnessed a man disappear from the ground up in one of the corridors.
Suite eighteen is possibly the most haunted room. Guests often complain that there is a non-human “something” in it. While applying makeup, one woman reported seeing a man in the mirror staring over her shoulder. A dozen or so other women without prior knowledge of the hauntings, have claimed the same thing. A manager asked a priest to say a mass in the room to try to fix things, but word has it that a thunderstorm occurred and ended the mass abruptly. A couple once complained about a loud clinking sound coming from as close as their pillows. Rumor has it that this room was the site where a twelve-year-old boy hanged himself in the fireplace and a man strangled himself.
As a final note, I’ll add that one night at the hotel, I was sure I left my wallet on the top left corner of the television, but by the morning, it was in the middle of it.
Leslie Castle — As far as manor houses, an argument could be made that Leslie Castle in Glaslough, Monaghan is the most haunted in Ireland. Like Renvyle, it is also a hotel with servants’ quarters and a portion of the village converted into splendid rooms and rental homes. I received a tour of the castle by none other than Sir John Leslie (then in his late eighties) in the late 1990s and, while helping to host a succeeding tour, was treated to a haunted dinner by his niece in the castle’s grand dining room, where she recanted stories from around the grounds.
Sir John’s father, Sir Shane Leslie, was visited one night by his deceased Uncle Moreton; visitors have been known to levitate in what is known as the “haunted bed,” where a child was once reportedly murdered.
In 1995, a group of fifteen visitors all witnessed a ghostly coachman. He vanished, but they were each able to describe him in detail down to his shiny brass buttons.
Don’t be surprised if there’s a wedding on the grounds. It is, after all, where Paul McCartney was married in 2002.
Cashel Palace — If you’re visiting the Rock of Cashel, one of Ireland’s most popular sites, perhaps you’d like to try out the Cashel Palace Hotel in the center of town. When five-thousand of Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers sacked Cashel in 1647, they reputedly murdered a one-hundred-year old monk, who put a curse on Murrough O’Brien, the Earl of Inchiquin, the leader of the attack. The monk proclaimed, “You will come back as a hound of hell.”
Since then, a large black dog haunts the town. Indeed, the dog and a couple from the early twentieth-century are reputed to roam the halls of the hotel. In 1997, a Japanese businessman claimed that a young woman in Tudor dressing appeared before him. She touched his left arm and the spot it touched felt freezingly cold. The man shivered for some time after the woman had vanished.
The hotel is currently closed, but is slated to reopen in mid 2020 after renovations.
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