Cursed gates, a haunted basement and a ghost carriage are just some of the supposed supernatural goings-on at Shankill Castle, writes PAUL MOYNIHAN
County Kilkenny, with its medieval origins, is sprinkled with some of Ireland’s most imposing castles. One of the most infamous of these is Shankill Castle, situated on the road to Paulstown. At first, it was a Butler tower house, and was rebuilt in 1708 by Peter Aylward. He gave the location a complete overhaul, adding a vista to the front of the building and an ornamental canal to the back. By the time the 1800s arrived, Shankill was one of the country’s most breathtaking buildings. It was now much bigger, and took on the form of the present day castle. A graceful conservatory was also added, to soak up the rays of the sun.
But Shankill’s beauty is often overshadowed by its many tales of unexplained phenomena. The first of these legends concerns the castle’s cursed gates. The origin of this curse is believed to be linked with a priest who, as he lay dying in the field in front of the castle, vowed that the estate would be cursed forevermore, and the gates would never close. He cursed the land, swearing that the place would become overgrown. Scarily, this enchantment seems to have worked, for the gates would repeatedly open at night despite being closed and locked. Not even chains would keep the gates shut.
As for the grass, it became so inexplicably unruly that a new entrance had to be built. It is believed the priest was murdered, hence his vengeful wrath. He wished to use the pathway leading from his nearby church to the castle as a public amenity, but one of the staff of the estate saw things differently. The two entered into an embittered argument, which ended with the death of the holy man. His spirit has been heard walking up the stony driveway to the castle, perhaps in search of revenge.
This sound is often attributed to one of the castle’s other ethereal occurrences: a ghost carriage. Those who have heard it describe it as sounding like a vehicle crunching against the gravel, as though drawn by horses. Often, an occupant of the castle would hear the sound of someone at the door, only to discover nobody there. Some paranormal researchers visiting the castle have also reported seeing lights floating through the trees.
It’s not just the grounds of Shankill that seem to stir some ethereal energy: the castle itself is apparently home to numerous spectres. Oliver Cromwell’s troops, who took over the castle in its early days, have been seen by visitors in the basement area. Apparently many of these men were slaughtered, and still roam the bowels of the castle.
Paranormal teams who have spent time investigating the castle have recorded sudden drops in temperature throughout the place, accompanied by the sounds of a little girl crying. The phantom sound of a man urging the researchers to get out has also been heard in the servant’s quarters. Chillingly, bells have also been heard ringing in this area. The castle’s former owner Peter Aylward has also been seen in his bedroom, and one artist visiting the castle on retreat recently witnessed the ghost of an elderly lady in one of the bedrooms.
There seems to be no shortage of spectral beings at Shankill Castle. With a bloody history soaked in bloodshed, it’s no wonder the place is alive with sightings of the supernatural kind. A wonderful place to visit, it represents all that is charming (yet chilling) about Irish castles. If you’re looking for somewhere to give you the shakes, Shankill Castle just might be the place!