Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Ulster's creepy castles

Dunluce Castle

Northern Ireland is perhaps better known for its beautiful countryside but there is another side to the province that comes to the fore at Hallowe’en.



Visitors from home or away love to hear about ghostly goings-on and even take short breaks near haunted areas or stay in haunted accommodation to ensure they make the most of their Hallowe'en.

Streets, visitor attractions, landscapes, hotels and of course, castles have links with the other world — you won’t believe the many places across Northern Ireland which are said to be haunted. To help you get into the Hallowe'en holiday spirit, here are just a few well known places around Northern Ireland where the living and the non-living mix together on a regular basis.

One of the most famous haunted hotels has to be Ballygally Castle Hotel near Larne in Co Antrim. It’s haunted by Isabel Shaw, who wanders the corridors at night dressed in a silk dress and amuses herself by knocking on guests' doors.

If you are feeling particularly brave then you could request to stay in the ghost room.

The White Horse Hotel in Londonderry is said to be haunted by a complete mail stage coach plus portly driver who pulls up and enters the hotel only to mysteriously disappear.

When you think of hauntings you naturally think of old houses and the National Trust properties of Springhill and Mussenden Temple are no exception.

Springhill is an early plantation house situated a mile from Moneymore, Co Londonderry. It is haunted by the friendly ghost of Olivia Lenox Conyngham. Olivia is said to float around the gardens and house and loves to see visitors to her home.

Mussenden Temple, situated five miles from Coleraine on the Downhill estate, is said to have blood appear on the floor only to puzzlingly disappear within minutes.

Castles are another popular venue for our spectral friends, and in particular Dunluce Castle in Portrush. A few centuries ago the kitchens of the castle slipped into the sea below, taking the staff with them. On certain nights you can still hear the screams of the people falling to their watery graves.

Carrickfergus Castle is haunted by Button Cap, who carries his head under his arms as he walks the battlements and Dobbin's Inn, also in Carrickfergus, is supposedly haunted by Button Cap's girlfriend.

Hauntings do not only occur in buildings. There have been spooky encounters on streets around Northern Ireland, and we don’t mean the punters you see coming out of bars on a Friday night.

Ballymoney Main Street is said to be the haunting grounds for George ‘Bloody' Hutchinson. With his ball and chain, he clanks up and down the street between the hour of midnight and 1am.

In Dungannon's Scotch Street it is said that a large woman holding a spear stalks up and down the street. A few miles outside the town of Garrison in Co Fermanagh there is a field which is home to what locals call the Fairy Tree. Expect apparitions, to hear your named being called and to see suspicious objects whiz past your face.

Highways and thoroughfares are also pop- ular sites for ghosts. The Glenshane Pass is reputedly haunted by the shadowy figure of a man and his dog. Highwayman Cushie Glen is said to haunt the road that runs between Downhill and Limavady — Murder Hall Road. A place that no living soul would be seen ‘dead' in.

Apparently Cushie and his wife were responsible for many murders on this road and people say that they have heard horses’ hooves on the stretch of road. The old bridge over the Newtownards to Crawfordsburn road, near the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel, is apparently home to a mysterious figure in a black cloak.

Northern Ireland visitor attractions also prove popular with our misty friends. The Tower Museum, in Derry, houses the second oldest coach in Ireland and it is frequently visited by Mary Anne Knox who was shot by her lover MacNaughton.

A photograph taken of the coach shows a mist inside the vehicle, and you can see the photographs in the museum.

The Work House Museum in the Waterside, Derry, is haunted by a matron and two children. The matron is supposedly buried at the top of 13 steps which lead to a room where she accidentally left two children to suffocate. She apparently roams the workhouse switching on the lights.

The Ards Arts Centre in the middle of Newtownards used to be a courthouse and the front door was a favourite area for hangings. Staff have affectionately named their ghost Phyllis. Activity seems to peak around June time and the figure of a woman in white has been seen walking about the building.

Belfast's City Hall is haunted by various spectres that died working on the construction for the building. Unfortunately City Hall is not open to the public in the evening but if you are there after hours a chilling presence can be felt around the toilets.

You might expect graveyards and churches to be a place of rest for departed souls but alas, they don’t escape a place on our most haunted Northern Ireland round-up. Many years ago, Friars Bush on the Stranmillis Road in Belfast was reputedly haunted by a lady in white holding a lantern.

St Nicholas's Church, Carrickfergus, is haunted by a former clergyman and the grey lady. On the Belfast Road, Carrickfergus, on the site of the old Courtlands factory, the figure of a monk has been seen walking around the site — it used to be a priory.

The site known today as the Art College in the city once played its part in a battle around the 16th century and the battle appears to continue even to this day.

If you cannot bear the thought of spending a night in or near any of the above mentioned places, then perhaps a less terrifying way to spend your Hallowe’en would be at the longest running Hallowe'en Festival in Derry, which is a celebration without equal. Thousands of people come from all over the world to join in a carnival of live music, storytelling, fireworks, fancy dress and more.

Or why not discover the ghoulish goings on at Scrabo Tower or aboard the Ghost Ship on the Lagan?



For more information on Hallowe’en and short breaks in Northern Ireland go to discovernorthernireland.com .

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