13 Spirited Irish Sites for St. Patrick's Day Mar 16, 2016 19:41:21 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Mar 16, 2016 19:41:21 GMT -5
13 Spirited Irish Sites for St. Patrick's Day
In celebrating the spirits of Ireland’s greenest day, it’s fitting to note some of the most fascinating places in the Emerald Isle. Given its tragic history and vibrant folklore, Ireland seems to have more than its share of creepy places. Have you ever gone for a late-night wander through the monastic ruins at Glendalough as a thick swell of fog rolled in over the headstones? Wedged yourself inside a passage tomb older than the Pyramids, using a flashlight to see the spiral carvings on the walls? Spent the night in a 16th-century Irish castle, where those long dead still walk? In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, following are 13 of Ireland’s notable haunted and otherwise intriguing locations:
Downhill Estate (County Derry). The 18th-century Downhill Castle (above), home of Bishop Frederick Augustus Hervey, is one of the most haunting ruins on the island. Looking at the sky through every window frame, it takes a bit of effort to imagine the naughty bishop sprinkling talcum powder down the bedroom corridor to see which of his guests were hooking up in the middle of the night. Perched atop a nearby cliff, Mussenden Temple was designed as a library hideaway for the bishop’s cousin (and rumored lover), Frideswide Mussenden, but she died young – worn out by scandal, so they say – and the Roman-style folly serves as her memorial.
Dark Hedges (County Antrim). Better known as the Kingsroad on Game of Thrones, this tunnel formed by gnarled old beech trees is shiveringly picturesque. The owner of nearby Gracehill House planted more than 150 of them in the late 18th century to create an avenue and 90 or so of the trees remain. The Dark Hedges has its own ghost, an unidentified “grey lady,” who vanishes as she passes the last tree on the avenue.
Grace Neill’s Pub (County Down). Vying for the title of Ireland’s oldest pub, the delightfully atmospheric King’s Arms in Donaghdee was later renamed Grace Neill’s for its much-beloved elderly bartender, who died in 1916. Locals insist Grace was so at home in the pub she never really left. People occasionally see her in their peripheral vision as she polishes glasses or sweeps the floor!
The Janus Stone (County Fermanagh). The Janus figure (above) on Boa Island on Lower Lough Erne is a striking Celtic idol, roughly 2,000 years old. The effigies on either side have heart-shaped heads and crossed arms; one is bearded and the other is believed to be female, although it’s difficult to tell. The hollow at the top of the stone may have been used for sacrificial blood, but these days, all you’ll find are a few coins in the rainwater.
Sligo Abbey (County Sligo). Sligo Abbey has several intriguing effigies and burial markers and also served as inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker’s mother, Charlotte Thornley, lived in Sligo Town during the 1832 cholera epidemic and years later, captured her son’s imagination with firsthand stories of still-living victims struggling to pull themselves from mass graves, bodies piled on the altar in the abbey’s church and heavy rains that dislodged the shallow burials in the churchyard. Thornley’s diary is on display in the abbey’s visitor center.
Harry Clarke’s Last Judgment (County Mayo). The brilliant work of stained-glass artist Harry Clarke can be seen all over Ireland, but the Last Judgment altar window at St. Patrick’s Church in Newport is arguably his most memorable. Clarke’s depiction of hell features a grotesque tableau of damned souls and other monsters – and, like Michelangelo, the artist sneaked in his own self-portrait among them.
Loughcrew Cairns (County Meath). Almost everyone knows about the megalithic burial complex at Newgrange, but the hilltop passage tombs at nearby Loughcrew are just as awe-inspiring and more beautifully situated. The Irish name is Sliabh na Caillighe, “hill of the witch,” and if you climb the hill on a gloomy day, you can almost believe the legend that these peaks were formed by a giant beldam dropping stones from her pocket as she leapt across County Meath.
St. Michan’s Church (Dublin). North of the Liffey, St. Michan’s Church offers some of the most macabre sightseeing in Europe. The crypt’s limestone walls draw the moisture from the air, leaving the bodies interred relatively well-preserved, and because coffins in the tiny family crypts are customarily stacked three or more high, over time, the boxes collapse and the mummies are exposed. Talk about a gruesome way to contemplate one’s own mortality!
Malahide Castle (County Dublin). In 1690, 14 men of the Talbot family took their breakfast in the banquet hall at Malahide Castle (above) before riding off to fight in the Battle of the Boyne, but only one of them returned. But the other 13 are still around ... in a manner of speaking. Another Malahide ghost is Puck, the sentry-jester who hanged himself from the musicians’ gallery in the dining room. The dwarf has frequently appeared to spook the staff, although he hasn’t been spotted lately. The castle is also haunted by Maud Plunkett and her husband, a lord chief justice. Also, an unknown woman, whose portrait hangs in the Great Hall, sometimes steps from the painting and wanders the dark corridors.
Leap Castle (County Offaly). The spirits at Leap Castle are colorful and include a man who murdered his brother, a priest, in what is known as the “bloody chapel” on the top floor of the tower in 1532; a bizarre entity with a human body and the head of a sheep who emits a foul odor; and two little girls who fell from the ramparts, on separate occasions, in the 19th century, among others. Musician Seán Ryan did a beautiful job of building a home from the ruins, so if you notice an elderly transparent gentleman in a rocking chair by the open fire, don’t be alarmed, it’s just the former owner.
The Aran Islands (County Galway). John Millington Synge, the Anglo-Irish playwright and folklorist, spent a great deal of time on the Aran Islands, circa 1900, soaking up traditional culture. He was struck by how calmly the islanders lived despite the likely prospect of an early death, as fishermen frequently drowned during storms. In his travelogue The Aran Islands, Synge wrote of the funeral of a young man whose body washed ashore three weeks after he was swept overboard. An older coffin in the family plot had to be broken up in order to make space for the new burial, allowing the mother of the drowned man to reach into the grave to pull out the skull of her own mother.
Rag Trees. These are devotional in nature and usually seen near holy wells. Catholics tie scraps of clothing to the branches or leave other belongings of loved ones in need of prayers. The resulting scene is often quite poignant, even eerie. One often finds baby shoes, pacifiers, stuffed animals, jewelry or teacups.
Kyteler’s Pub (Kilkenny). Dame Alice Kyteler, the victim of jealous stepchildren, was tried for witchcraft in 1324 after four husbands died in suspiciously quick succession. Today, she is Kilkenny’s most infamous resident. Dame Alice managed to escape, but Petronilla de Midia, her loyal maid, was burned at the stake as a heretic. Today you can have a pint or a complete meal in Dame Kyteler’s old sitting room on St. Kieran’s Street.
Authors: Graveyardbride and Joanna
Sources: Camille DeAngelis, PopSugar, March 16, 2016; Authentic Vacations - Haunted Places; History Ireland; Tripadvisor; Celtic Ireland; and ItMustBeIrish.