Ireland Halloween: 5 Spookiest Places To Visit

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Halloween started in the Emerald Isle, and ANN MASSEY McELROY guides us along the road through five spooky places to visit there for a true Ireland Halloween experience!

Ireland Halloween

Home to the ancient festival of Samhain, the traditions of dressing up on 31st October were actually disguises to hide from the demonic entities and ghouls who rose from the underworld.

The carved pumpkin face was a hollowed out turnip to hold a burning ember, used for Samhain fire and protect from the darkness.

There are so many more Halloween related activities that started right here in Ireland and we even have a Halloween ghost! With that in mind, where better to spend the Samhain festival and the eve of All Hallows?!

If you dare to visit us at a time where the Sidhe, spirits and the twisted creatures of the other realm can roam freely, these are the places you can visit!

The Halloween Ghost of Ardgillan Castle, County Dublin

Ireland Halloween: 5 Spookiest Places To Visit 1
Ardgillan Castle

Not many places have their own exclusive Halloween ghost, but Ardgillan Castle does!

The large country estate on the edge of the Irish Sea, was home to the Taylor family for more than two hundred years and dates back to at least 1658 and was formally called Prospect House. The Taylor family moved in High Society circles and were often visited by nobility.

Lady Langford was visiting the residence while her husband was on a hunting trip and liked to swim in the sea. Unfortunately the time of year was not suited to such a venture both for tides and freezing waters, however, the Lady Louise was undeterred. Her maid saw her struggling and when she reached the water’s edge, her mistress was simply floating, drowned.

There is a part of the large estate that Lady Langford would have crossed to get to the beach, known as The Lady’s Stairs. She appears as a Lady in White on these very steps and if you happen upon them at midnight on Halloween, she shoves you down them in a bitter rage!

There are two more tales of the same haunted stairs which cross the main Dublin to Belfast railway line. One is of a noblewoman whose husband drowned at sea and she waits for him there, or another of a lady who fell from the steps and broke her neck. The accounts may differ according to who you ask, however the Lady in White remains the same.

Gateway to Hell in the Cave of Cats, County Roscommon

Oweynagat in County Roscommon translates as the Cave of Cats and is said to be the gateway to Hell. In an ancient area known as Rathcroghan, it has been documented in the Ulster Cycle and it is here that Halloween began.

Queen Medb set a test before three Irish heroes including Cú Chulainn, which saw the release of three hell cats from the cave, leaving only Cú Chulainn standing. Other accounts tell of Nera, who dared enter the underworld through the cave. He discovered he had seen the future and warned Queen Medb of an impending doom, but his vision came at a cost – he took a bride of Hades.

Over the centuries there have been tales of unworldly beasts coming forth from the cave, including three headed animals, birds of pestilence and demonic pigs. At the centre of Rathcroghan was a Pagan temple and at Samhain there were ritual animal sacrifices, all offered to the spirits of the other realm.

When the veil thinned, the creatures would come forth from the cave and walk the Earth. Locals would disguise themselves in ghoulish attire in a bid to blend in with the foul creatures and they would climb the hills and light fires to keep out the darkness – an effort to prevent being dragged back to the Cave of Cats and into Hell itself.

Home of the Púca Festival, County Meath

Of course being Ireland, there is another contender for the first Halloween. The great Druid Mug Ruith had a flame haired daughter, Tlachtga. A druidess in her own right, she travelled the world with her father, learning all the secrets of his power and magic. While her father was away, she was taken against her will and subsequently gave birth to three sons on the Hill of Ward, before dying.

It became a place of worship and ancient Irish clans would travel from miles around bearing torches, used to light a bonfire of epic proportions on the Hill of Ward at Samhain, lighting up the Irish night and seen across counties. The nearest town is Athboy, which is home to the annual Púca festival, a celebration of Halloween and reuniting the past and the present.

Thinning of the Veil at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

Rock of Cashel, a great place for a Ireland Halloween
Rock of Cashel

The eve of All Hallows is the point in the year where the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. It just so happens that the ancient Rock of Cashel in Ireland is located where the veil between the earthly and other realm is at its thinnest, so imagine what it is like on Halloween!
It is the seat of the High Kings of Munster and where Irish hero Brian Boru was crowned.

Saint Patrick himself was said to have carried out one of the early coronations and it has been the site of both battle and prayer for centuries.

In the mid seventeenth century the town of Cashel was under siege and 800 locals sought sanctuary inside the Gothic cathedral on the Rock. Soldiers barricaded the misfortunes in, stacked turf around the base and ignited the house of worship, killing everyone inside. It is said the wretched souls from this and other bloodshed still roam the two hundred feet high majestic hill.

And how was it created? Well legend has it that the Devil was in Tipperary and took a bite out of a nearby mountain and when it broke his tooth, he spat it out and the Rock of Cashel was created. The mountain itself is now known as Devil’s Bit Mountain.

A Spooky Drunken Night on the Mound of Hostages, Hill of Tara

Mound of Hostages, Hill of Tara
Mound of Hostages, Hill of Tara

If you’re Halloween Ireland excursion hasn’t left you too spooked, this is the place to finish. The festival of Samhain begins on 31st October and carries on into 1st November. Samhain Sunrise illuminates the chamber of the Mound of Hostages on the Hill of Tara, one of only two times in the year this happens.

The five thousand year old Mound is so called as this is the location where hostages would be exchanged over the centuries. To date more than two hundred cremated remains have been excavated along with offertory gifts.

The Hill of Tara itself has been a sacred space for millennia. The demi-gods of Ireland, the Tuatha Dé Danann had Tara as their main citadel and the High Kings of Ireland were chosen and crowned here. The Stone of Destiny, known as Lia Fáil, would roar three times when the rightful heir to the throne was presented. The new king would take part in a ceremony where he would “wed” the goddess, Queen Medb and drink until very drunk indeed.

There are five ancient roads of Tara. One is called Slighe Assail which heads from the Hill of Tara into the west and finishes at Rathcroghan, home of Queen Medb and the entrance to Cave of Cats and into the Underworld…

Samhain Blessings and a Happy Halloween!

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