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Charleville Castle: Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland

Charleville Castle: Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland

Ireland’s Haunted Fortress

Even in a land steeped in mystery and superstition, Charleville Castle stands out as one of the most haunting places in all of Ireland. Paranormal teams from around the world, including television crews from Scariest Places on Earth and Most Haunted, have investigated the goings-on at the castle and come away with reports that the place is indeed visited by denizens of the spirit world. Perhaps they saw the ghost of Harriet Bury, the 8-year-old girl who fell to her death while sliding down the banister of the castle’s ornate stairwell. Or maybe it was the glowing orbs of light that many local residents claim to have seen in the castle and on the grounds. Whatever the circumstances, Charleville Castle remains an eerily beautiful place and a must-see for visitors interested in things that go bump in the night.

Built in 1798 by Charles William Bury, Earl of Charleville, the Gothic-style castle is located about 97km (60 miles) west of Dublin in one of the oldest forests left in the British Isles, filled with the immense oaks revered by ancient druid priests. The castle, in fact, is reportedly built on the site of a prehistoric druid ceremonial circle, which may explain some of the supernatural energy that surrounds the place. One of the oldest and most massive oak trees on the property, the King Oak, has an ominous legend attached to it: When one of its branches falls, a resident of the castle will die. Foolish superstition? In 1963, the tree was struck by lightning and a large branch broke off. Two weeks later, Colonel Charles Bury, the last of the Bury family to own the castle, suddenly died.

Even without its otherworldly reputation, Charleville Castle would be well worth a visit. Its exquisite limestone exterior is marked by lofty, crenellated towers and battlements. Hand-carved stairways, stunning plasterwork, and a dining room designed by William Morris, a founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, are among the highlights of the guided tour. And, of course, what haunted castle would be complete without a dungeon? Charleville Castle has that, too, along with all the flickering chandeliers and secret passageways your fluttering heart could desire.

Charleville Castle ( 0506/41581; www.charlevillecastle.com).
When to Go: Most travelers prefer to visit Ireland between Apr and Oct; expect more crowds and higher prices in July and Aug.
Dublin (97km/60 miles).
$$$ Bridge House Hotel and Leisure Club, Tullamore ( 57/325600; www.bridgehouse.com). $$ Days Hotel Tullamore, Main St., Tullamore ( 63/91136; www.dayshoteltullamore.com).

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