ANN MASSEY explores the chequered past and ghosts of Kinnitty Castle Hotel in Ireland’s most haunted county of Offaly
Kinnitty Castle Hotel, Kinnitty, Birr,
County Offaly, Ireland
Nestled in the hidden heartlands of Ireland, lies a magnificent neo-gothic castle hotel with a building history dating back to the 13th century and site events reaching back to the depths of medieval Ireland.
With a reputation for the supernatural, this upmarket hotel has featured on TV’s Most Haunted.
Druids and the haunted triangle of Offaly
Kinnitty Castle forms a part of the supernatural triangle of haunted castles in County Offaly, the other two being Charleville Forest Castle and the infamous Leap Castle.
Links between these ghostly dwellings date back long before a single foundation stone was laid.
The entire location was home to a druid community who carried out their rituals and ceremonies on the very lands upon which the castle was built.
Within the 650 acres of Kinnitty Castle Estate stands an ancient stone Druid circle.
There have been reports of mysterious lights, silhouetted shapes and peculiar noises in the night.
The Druids of the region were powerful and mystical, from the grounds of Leap Castle to Charleville and Kinnitty, so their presence within the triangle leaves an overwhelming sense of deep-rooted and at times, dark energy.
Here is a place where ley lines cross and supernatural forces prevail.
Foundations, Norman conquest and Holy influence
The first castle to be constructed on the Druid land dated back to the Middle Ages until 1209 when the invading Normans razed the fortress to the ground and built their own citadel, finished in 1213.
They also constructed an Augustinian Abbey adjacent to the castle dwelling which explains a lot when it comes to Kinnitty Castle Hotel’s most famous ghost!
A High Cross on site also reflects the history of the area and the connection to Saint Finnian.
The cross has depictions of Adam and Eve, intertwining birds and the Crucifixion.
Clansmen, confiscation and fire
The O’Carrolls were a powerful local clan and in 1630 or thereabouts built a castle on the Druid landscape on the site of the Norman construction which was no more.
Interestingly, the same family were a part of one of the bloodiest events to take place at infamous Leap Castle and their spirits remain in the Bloody Chapel.
The clan were forced to surrender Kinnitty to English forces a decade or so later.
In 1664 Colonel Winter was granted the estate for military service, which then passed to the Bernard family in the mid-18th century and it became known as Castle Bernard.
Lady Catherine Hutchinson married into the family and with her delusions of grandeur, she hired the Pain brothers (Architects of Dromoland Castle and Adare Manor) to construct the gothic masterpiece we see today.
Following the Irish War of Independence in 1921, as with many grand manors and castles across the Emerald Isle, the IRA saw fit to burn them out.
Undeterred, the Bernard family had Kinnitty Castle restored to its former glory, ghosts included!
The Bernard Pyramid of Kinnitty
For a reason that can only be assumed as due to a family member having completed a tour of duty in Egypt, the graveyard in Kinnitty village contains a pyramid that is an exact replica of the Pyramid of Giza.
This 30-foot mausoleum contains the corpses of six members of the Bernard family.
The first to be interred was tragic Margaret Bernard who died horribly at the age of only 24 after being bitten by a rabid dog.
Five more interments followed, the last being Ellen Georgina Bernard in 1907 who had the pyramid sealed behind her.
Hauntings of Kinnitty Castle
While Kinnitty is abundant with accounts of activity from the gymnasium to the grounds themselves, there are a few exceptional hotspots when it comes to hauntings.
Both the Elizabeth Room and Geraldine Room are renowned for visitors experiencing paranormal occurrences.
One is said to be haunted by the apparition of the ‘White Lady’, said to be the spectre of Lady Catherine Hutchinson herself. The other contains the spirit of a young girl said to have died tragically within the castle walls and who can be heard playing, full of laughter.
I myself have stayed in the State Room dedicated to Navy SEAL Michael Murphy, awarded the post humous Medal of Honor for his role in Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan, where he succumbed to a hail of gunfire after going out into the open to radio for help for his compromised squad.
A strange room, where one never feels truly alone.
The most famous spirit of Kinnitty Castle Hotel is the monk spectre known as Hugh. He has been both sensed and seen on numerous occasions, but he prefers to communicate with a particular member of staff.
The most troubling aspect of Hugh’s apparition however, is that he appears to forewarn of impending doom.
Having stayed in this majestic, haunting and historic location myself, I can only say from druids to pyramids, Kinnitty Castle Hotel is well worth the visit!
Read about Ireland’s 10 Most Haunted Hotels here
Druids didn’t build the stone circles, those are much older. I suppose they might have used them for worship but they’re supposed to have favored oak trees.
It’s a shame there hasn’t been more research into the origins of these as opposed to the ‘most haunted’ tales touted at tourists these days