Saint Valentine, Heartbreak and Haunting in Ireland


In 1835 the Pope rewarded the work of an Irish Carmelite priest called John Spratt by way of a gift of the remains of St. Valentine.  So maybe you’re thinking a promotion or a bottle of wine would have been preferrable, however if you wish to visit the remaining bits of St. Valentine you need go no further than the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Dublin.

Meanwhile in honour of St. Valentine and his Irish connections, ANN MASSEY has taken a look at some of Ireland’s castles and stately buildings that are less romantic and more the location for heartbreak and death. She finds out why love hasn’t so much run smoothly as got dashed on the rocks (literally in some cases) for so many of the ghosts of these haunted hotspots.

Ross Castle, County Meath

Ross Castle was home to Richard Nugent and his daughter.  Now, if your father is an Englishman known asThe Black Baron in the sixteenth century there’s a reason – and he isn’t going to be too chuffed if you date a local Irish boy.  Typical of young lovers the Baron’s daughter and her lover  took the ‘run away’ option and only got as far as the Lough when their boat capsized, drowning Orwin although the Baron’s daughter Sabina was rescued. Sabina wasted away with grief and continues to haunt Ross Castle with her father, although not surprisingly the two are never seen together.

Charles Fort, County Cork

A young officer fell in love with the Commander’s daughter and the two were married. On the night of the wedding, instead of the usual nuptials, our newlyweds took a romantic evening walk along the battlements, where a soldier on duty offered to get a flower for the bride and never came back! 

The groom took the place of the absconded chap while his wife went to bed, but tired after a day of drinking he gradually dozed off.  Later that night the Commander took to his rounds and saw a sleeping guard. As protocol dictated, the Commander raised his gun, realising at the moment he fired that he was shooting his own son- in- law in the heart. 

Distraught, the Commander threw himself from the parapet.  The young wife awoke from a short sleep and went in search of her husband, only to find his bloody corpse. In despair she looked out over the ramparts and saw the broken body of her father below. This was all too much for the new bride and she leapt broken hearted to her death.  From that day her lonely spirit, dressed in her wedding gown wanders the battlements of the Fort.  The lesson? Forget romantic strolls and flowers if you want to avoid eternity in the same outfit.

Saint Katherine’s Abbey Ruins, Shanagolden, County Limerick

Saint Katherine’s Augustinian Abbey was one of the first nunneries in Ireland, founded in 1298 and the ruins themselves are haunted by the Countess of Desmond.  The Earl and Countess were fleeing an assault and during their escape the Countess was wounded by an arrow.  Believing her to be dead, her husband buried his wife in haste beneath the altar at St Katherine’s. 

The Countess regained consciousness only to find herself buried alive.  A shadowy figure is seen among the ruins and the Countess’s screams still ring out in the night as she cries for her husband to realise his mistake.  So the Earl was a typical husband, he checked nothing and no matter how much you shout he doesn’t listen.

Greencastle, Donegal

Greencastle, also known as Northburgh, was built in 1305 by the Red Earl, Richard de Burgh -not to be confused with Lady in Red and Chris de Burgh (it’s Valentine’s Day, you’re forgiven).  After years of battle and bloodshed the castle fell to William, grandson of the Red Earl.  He imprisoned his nemisis Walter Burke in the tower and left him to starve to death, however William’s sister had feelings for the prisoner and tried to help him by taking him food.  When discovered, she was thrown from the battlements and dashed on the rocks below and not long after Walter died of starvation.  The two are said to haunt the ruins together, free from the reach of an angry sibling and a cheesy song about a woman in red who likes to dance cheek to cheek.

Rathfarnham Castle, County Dublin

Dating back to the 16th century, Rathfranham hasn’t been the quietest of places over the years, however despite battles galore, there was still time for some of the residents to look for love, at least for two strapping if not too bright soldiers.  Both had fallen for the same lady of the house and came up with a plan to ensure one of them would marry her and the other suitor  would no longer be a threat.  Dressed in her wedding dress, the woman was locked in an air tight chamber within the castle and the key was hidden. 

The idea was that the two lovestruck men would duel and the victor would recover the key, free the fair maiden and elope to marital bliss. Except they killed each other…and didn’t tell anyone where the key was.  Centuries later the poor girl was discovered during renovations, still sat on a chair waiting.  She haunts the castle now, probably looking for her dress as it was taken from her and in an early form of upcycling was made into cushions for the ballroom.

Ardgillan Castle, County Dublin

More Manor House than a castle, Argillan in Ballbriggan has vast grounds and within them stands a public footbridge known as The Lady’s Stairs.  The demesne itself runs down to the cliffs and shoreline at Barnageera.  Lady Langford resided at the house with her husband, where they both enjoyed the pursuits afforded to them by their location.  Lord Langford liked to swim in the sea and Lady Langford would await his return. 

One night she waited at the location of the bridge, only he never came back,  drowned at sea.  The widow now haunts the stairs, looking out to sea, vainly waiting for her husband to come ashore and return to her.  It is said that if you approach the stairs on Halloween and block Lady Langford’s view, she will raise you up and throw you to the waves below.  A tad harsh, but a woman kept waiting by her man is one not to be messed with.

So love has not run true for these poor spirits and clearly love does not conquer all.  They didn’t of course have the opportunity to stand before the shrine to St.Valentine in Dublin,  so if you and your partner get the chance to do so yourselves, perhaps you should pay a visit – just to be on the safe side!



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