The Ghosts of Kinnity Castle! Birr, Kinnitty, Co. Offaly, Ireland
About Kinnitty Castle
Kinnitty Castle Hotel is one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. But before we get to the ghosts, let’s say something about where it is. Kinnitty Castle is in the tiny village of Kinnitty, which is in County Offaly. It is about two hours west of Dublin. The 2011 census shows that there are only 359 people living in Kinnitty village. The name of the village comes from an old legend that says the head of an ancient princess is buried beneath it.
Kinnitty Castle Hotel is one of three haunted hotels in this area. They form a triangle of haunted castles in County Offaly. The others are Charleville Castle and Leap Castle with its bloody chamber.
Nestled midst the Slieve Bloom mountains and in the heart of Ely O’Carroll country, Kinnity Castle was the stronghold of the O’Carroll family, of which one Charles Og O’Carroll was a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence. The O’Carrolls still maintain vast estates in Maryland.
The castle’s location makes it an excellent base for touring the Midlands. Birr Castle, Clonmacnoise, Slieve Bloom Mountains, River Shannon, and Ireland’s most haunted castle, Leap Castle, are all nearby. This magnificent country residence boasts thirty seven sumptuous ensuite bedrooms, each keeping the original dimensions in keeping with the period of the castle.
It was a castle, knocked down and rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 19th century, but Kinnitty is now a popular four-star hotel. Flickering candelabras guide guests up a stairwell to the castle’s blood-red lobby. There is a Dungeon Bar, reached through a vault with many snugs and passages.
The Kinnitty Castle estate itself includes 65 acres of parkland, formal gardens, and a walled-in garden.
The History of Kinnitty Castle
Local folklore tells that in ancient times, a group of druids lived within the entire region and conducted their rituals and ceremonies on the sacred grounds where the castle was built. They worshipped the wolf spirits of the land.
In 1209, we get the first recorded history of the castle. This original castle at Kinnitty was destroyed by the Normans, and, in 1213, the Normans rebuilt their own castle on the ruins the castle walls of the Irish fortress they had knocked down.
During the Norman period, an Augustinian Abbey was established near the castle, of which the famous High Cross and the Abbey walls of the original structure remain on the estate.
The O’Carrolls of Ely, a powerful Gaelic clan, drove the Normans out of the castle in the early middle ages.
William O’Carroll built a new castle near the old abbey in 1630. This was captured by the English in 1641 and given to Colonel Thomas Winter as a reward for his service against the Irish. This takeover was part of the plantation of Offaly, which was renamed “Kings County.”
The Winter family retained Kinnitty Castle for many years.
In 1922, the Castle was burned down by Republican forces, like many other grand homes in Ireland owned by Anglo-Irish and English gentry.
In 1928, the castle was rebuilt, and the Bernard family lived there until 1946, when they sold it to Lord Decies. In 1951, Lord Decies sold the castle to the State.
The State owned Kinnitty Castle until 1994, when the Ryan family bought it. Since then, the Ryans have transformed it significantly into a castle hotel.
Nearby is the Kinnitty Pyramid. Richard Wellesley-Bernard built Kinnitty Pyramid between 1830 and 1834. It is an exact copy of the Egyptian pyramid of Cheop.
The Kinnitty Pyramid is where six people from the wealthy Bernard family who owned Kinnitty Castle are buried (sometimes called Castle Bernard). People think that the master of the castle, Lt. Col. Richard Wesley Bernard, did a tour of duty in Egypt at the beginning of the 19th century, where he might have seen ancient architecture.
The Ghosts of Kinnitty Castle
Ghostly apparitions abound! The “Phantom Monk of Kinnitty” is the first and most often seen ghost inside the castle. He is usually found in the castle’s banquet hall. Even though people have only heard good things about the monk, and he usually shows up at joyful events in the castle, his appearance is scary. Hotel staff say he is tall, wears a black cloak, and has a shadowy “face” with no features.
The monk is called Hugh, and he speaks to certain members of staff. He can foretell the future and told the castle staff that the programme Most Haunted wanted to make an episode there before the programme makers ever got in contact. This was in 2004.
In the Geraldine Room, many people have felt the presence of a child’s ghost, which can often be heard whimpering.
More recently, guests have reported hearing someone breathe in the next room in the middle of the night or being woken up by an unidentified phone ringing or children laughing.
Staff members say that the women who work there say they hear a man’s voice calling their names.
In 2021, a woman guest called the front desk to say she felt a presence in her room.
In the Thomas Winter room, another guest said they saw a figure at the end of their bed.
Guests who have stayed in the attic room say they have seen a little girl and heard childish footsteps, laughter, and whimpering.
Other guests say they have seen shadows and the ghost of a woman dressed in white. “A woman who frequents the first and second floors.” This appears to be Lady Catherine Hutchinson ordered the castle’s repair and expansion in 1811.
People have also seen the ghost of a man walking through the castle. Other guests have said that they heard breathing, saw shadows moving through their rooms, and even saw a TV change channels on its own.
Outside the cottage of the current owner is a group of old standing stones. A number of orbs were caught on camera around these stones when paranormal groups looked into them.
There are up to six paranormal investigations a year at Kinnitty, where rooms are booked privately by Irish ghost hunters who have all the high-tech gear for the job. The owners say:
“Some of the video is pretty interesting!”
Many people say they hear noises in the night,
Reviews of Kinnitty Castle
A hotel website will always proclaim the place at its best. Journalists who have been hosted in order to write a piece about the hotel are again going to varnish the truth and bring out the best features, and bury the bad points.
When we look at less biased sites like Reddit, we see a comment from 2021 that “Kinnitty Castle is lovely with few rooms, so you might have the place to yourself”
Another former guest says:
“Been here, can upvote. Got upgraded for free to one of the fancier rooms, viking longboat bed, freestanding bath in a tower, ye olde looking furniture. The other half loved it. Not particularly expensive either, if that matters. Good grounds for some nature walks if you’re into that, and relatively close to the town.”
Someone complained that the TVs in the room were too small. A review from 2010 is pretty damning, but that was 22 years ago, and the hotel has recovered since.
Helen from Ireland on Booking.com says, “This property is so magical and holds so much beauty within the walls — beautiful, well kept and decorated to a very high standard.”
Jeannie from the USA says on Booking.com “We had a wonderful dinner and thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the staff and other guests. The grounds were stunning and the fairy forest is incredible!”
On the other hand, on Trip Advisor from October 2022, a man from Limerick said, “Stayed over the weekend with another couple.” “Rooms are what you’d expect, nice but nothing special, bathrooms are very dated with poor shower.”
Myself, I visited Kinnitty some years ago for a drink while we were staying at nearby Charleville Forest Castle. It was a very foggy day and that, and the neo-Gothic vibe of Kinnitty produced a really great atmosphere.
Kinnitty Castle Website