ANN MASSEY hunts down some of the most spooky places to visit in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland.
Killarney in the County of Kerry has some of the most scenic landscapes and places of natural beauty in Ireland, however the centuries old deep and dark history surrounding this town are far more compelling than any vista could ever be.
Ross Castle, Killarney
On Ross Island, on the shores of Lough Leane (The Lake of Learning) stands the distinguished Ross Castle.
Built in the late 15th Century, it’s positioning and structure made the castle very effective for defence throughout its long and varied history.
Originally built by O’Donoghue Mor, during the Desmond wars it was handed to the MacCarty Mors who successfully defended against Oliver Cromwell’s army until 1652.
Although the army numbered thousands of soldiers and horses, Ross Castle was proving virtually impenetrable so they chose to take the fortress by boat.
There was believed to be an old Irish prophecy that Ross Castle would only succumb to invasion when a ship swam upon the lake.
Could this prophecy have been instrumental in the surrender of the MacCarty Mor Clan?
Foretold or by advanced military tactics, Ross Castle was taken by force and remained under English control.
It was handed to loyalist Sir Valentine Browne and remained home to the Browne family until the 18th century.
From here it was a military barracks, until decommissioning in 1825.
Now open to the public, for 150 years it was unused – but not abandoned.
There was one keeper lingering, the original owner O’Donoghue.
He is thought to have lain at the bottom of Lough Leane all this time, watching Ross Castle.
On the 1st of May every seven years he mounts his horse and rides the shores of the Lake.
If you seem him, you are said to be assured of good fortune for the rest of your life.
One of Killarney’s oldest and most archeologically valued townlands is that of Aghadoe, ‘The place of the two Yew Trees’.
Originally built on the foundations of a 7th century monastery, Aghadoe Cathedral was constructed some thousand years ago and has been in ruins since the 1800s.
Alongside the graveyard lie the remains of the 13th century Parkavonear Castle built by the Normans.
It is these ruins that have been the site of ghost stories and tales over the years.
One such record states that a man from Dunloe was travelling into Killarney town for supplies.
Part of his journey took him through the ruins of Aghadoe where bones and skulls had been unearthed.
As he was almost out onto the road ahead, a skull rolled out in front of him and having stopped, it then begin to move frenziedly from side to side, at which point he fled in terror.
The Lake Hotel, Killarney
Standing on Lough Leane, overlooking Ross Castle, The Lake Hotel was built in 1820 and still holds many of its original features.
Believed to have played host to Queen Victoria during her visit to these shores, it has always been family owned and this sense of homeliness has meant some guests are permanent.
The founder of Muckross Abbey, Donal McCarthy Mor apparently likes to keep watch on the Castle and Abbey from the comfort of the Hotel.
Known locally as ‘Dan the Feathers’, McCarthy was a ruthless warrior and was said to have made a bed from the feathers of the Queen’s troops that he killed in battle.
It was believed to have survived until the 19th century in the Lake Hotel itself and Dan has been seen in the hotel’s Devil’s Punchbowl Bar looking out over Lough Leane.
There is also supposed to be the spirit of a young girl from the 1800s who wanders the corridors, leaving a chill in the air and a sense of serenity with those who encounter her.
A psychic has apparently tried to make contact, however as the girl was speaking an old local dialect she could not be understood, so her identity and reasons for remaining are unknown.
Innisfallen Island, Killarney
Innisfallen Island lies within Lough Leane and can be reached by boat from Ross Castle.
In the 7th century Innisfallen Monastery was constructed under the eyes of St. Finian the Leper and became a place of major historical importance. Innisfallen became a seat of learning and the thousand year old hero and legend of Ireland, Brian Boru studied here.
The Annals of Innisfallen, a chronicle of Irish and World history were compiled on the island by a succession of monastic scribes until 1320, written in Irish and Latin and now kept in Oxford.
The imposing remains of a large 12th century Augustinian priory and a small Roman style church are very much in evidence and the evergreens that cover the island add to the air of foreboding and desolation on cold and bleak days.
Innisfallen is a place where you can feel the weight of history and spirituality in the ground under your feet and whispered in the air around you.
Muckross Abbey, Killarney
The ruins you see today, the church, cloister and courtyard with a Yew tree standing guard are stately and well preserved, but they do not begin to tell the story of this 15th century home to the Observatine Franciscan Monks of Irrelagh and their centuries long struggle.
Muckross Abbey was founded in around 1448 by Donal McCarthy Mor, after he allegedly had a vision telling him to found the Monastery on a rock of music.
On searching the area around his home, Donal found a place on the shores of Lough Leane where mysterious music was heard with no source.
This is where the foundation stone was laid.
In 1589, the troops of Elizabeth I lay siege to the Abbey, however Father Donagh O’Muirthile and his companions abandoned their residence and absconded.
Before they left, the men gathered all the sacred vessels and church valuables they could carry and hid them on an island within the lake. They were captured soon after and executed by the Queen’s soldiers.
On 1 May 1698 Penal Laws were passed completely outlawing the practice of Catholicism and all Bishops and supporters were ordered to leave Ireland under threat of execution or imprisonment.
Those that failed to comply or were captured were subjected to the most heinous of deaths. Hanged, ripped apart, mutilated, burned or beheaded and then weighted down and tossed into water or cremated in ovens.
Those that could, hid in the isolation of the Torc and Mangeton Mountains, not to return and minister openly until the late 1700s, however, Muckross Abbey lay abandoned.
The site also contains a graveyard and was the burial place of local chieftains.
Three of Ireland’s great poets of the 17th and 18th century are entombed here and the burial ground remains operational with several interments taking place each year.
Bram Stoker himself has been documented as visiting Muckross Abbey and graveyard and perhaps two of the stories of this location may have inspired him.
A religious hermit named John Drake lived in the deserted Friary for more than a decade in the 18th century.
He had no worldly goods and slept only in a coffin left in the grounds.
There is also the legend of the Brown Man, a newly wed whose bride came looking for him one night, to find her husband knelt over a recently dug up corpse, feasting on its flesh.
With this amount of history, horror and hauntings, it is no wonder Killarney has its own ghost hunters and ghost tour!
So if you find yourself in this picturesque town, make sure you take the time to wander the ruins and explore for yourself or indeed share a pint at the Devil’s Punchbowl with the ghost of Dan The Feathers!