Emerald Isle

Carrigaholt Castle

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Irish Ghost Stories

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

If Dublin is the capital city of Ireland, County Clare is its dark reflection on the other side of the country, a place where many of the shadowy tales and unsolved mysteries of bygone years eventually seem to flow. Layer upon layer of centuries burden its rocky hills, left behind by the passage of numberless and nameless peoples, each hiding their own secrets which may surface in unexpected places from time to time. One such place is Carrigaholt Castle on the Loop Head peninsula!

Carrigaholt Castle was built towards the end of the fifteenth century by the McMahons, the last Gaelic chiefs of the Corcabascin Peninsula, who were descendants of Mathgamain mac Cennétig. It's one of Ireland’s best preserved tower houses, five storeys high and surrounded by a bawn or walled courtyard, overlooking the Shannon. The castle has murder holes and a metal grille gateway with a spiral staircase to the stone vaulted roof at the top of the building.

Some say it was built within sight of a sunken fortress of a much older sort, which time and tide have hidden away forever.

It was a place made for waging war and maintaining control of the local area, not for comfort, and its bloody history is an emblem of those turbulent times in Ireland!

While Tudor armies made war on Irish lands, ending in the final conquest of Gaelic Ireland, seven ships of the Spanish Armada weighed anchor outside the castle in 1588 and asked for help from the McMahons.

Not only was their plea refused, local legend tells that Teigue Caech “the short sighted” McMahon lured their crews into his castle where they came to a grisly end, and afterwards looted the ships for gold, sinking them in the deep waters of the Atlantic! They say that Teigue had a sow and a litter of piglets made of the gold, and he buried them in the strand when the tide was out.

Despite which the armies of the English descended on the place shortly afterwards and although they were turned back, another army arrived the next year, promising safe passage for surrender. When the McMahons opened their gates however, every last one of them was taken and hanged!

The castle held back Cromwell, and its master Lord Clare of Carrigaholt raised an army to fight against the Protestant William of Orange, but upon their defeat the estate was divided up and sold, last being held by the Burtons in the 19th century.

Whatever it was happened in the castle during that time, it was abandoned, and one single room was sealed up tight.

Local rumour and legend about this haunted castle spread far and wide so that by the 1920s, an exorcist had decided he was going to rid the place of the malevolent entity that was said to occupy its empty halls, and so he had the room unsealed and climbed down inside it.

But it was not to be, for the next morning he was found stone dead, hands outstretched towards the entryway with a rictus of horror on his face! After that the room was sealed up again and none have dared to enter, let alone stay the night, and maybe that's for the best.

Carrigaholt Castle can be found on the map below.

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