Are you brave enough to spend the night in a haunted castle?
Ross Castle lies on the shores of Lough Sheelin, along the border of Co Meath and Co Cavan, not far from Oldcastle. It is said to be one of the most haunted castles in Ireland.
There are many reports of ghostly experiences at Ross Castle. It is said to be haunted by Sabina, daughter of the cruel Black Baron.
Sabina and her father were of English descent, and locked in battle with the Gaelic native Irish. However, Sabina fell in love with Orwin, son of an Irish Chieftain. When they tried to elope across Lough Sheelin to freedom, their little boat capsized, and Orwin was drowned. Although Sabina was saved, she was so grief-stricken at the death of her lover, that she refused to eat or drink. She fell into a coma and died, but it is said her spirit haunts the castle still, searching for her lost love, Orwin. (You can read her sad story in full here.)
The castle was built in 1553 by Richard Nugent, 12th Baron of Delvin, also known as the Black Baron, in defence against the native Irish of Cavan.
The Nugent family were descendants of Gilbert de Nogent, who left France to join William the Conqueror in his famous 1066 invasion of England. Gilbert was later awarded titles and lands, including the barony of Delvin, as thanks for his role in the conquest.
However, Ross Castle is most famous for its association with Myles ‘the Slasher’ O’Reilly.
The O’Reilly’s (in Irish Ó Raghaillagh, from raigh meaning ‘arm’ and aillagh meaning ‘strong/ powerful’) were descended from Conchobhar, King of Connacht. They ruled the ancient kingdom of Breifne (east), whilst their arch enemies the O’Rourkes were the ruling family of Breifne (west).
In 1584, Breifne O’Reilly became County Cavan, named after its primary town. Breifne in Irish means ‘hilly country’. The seat of the O’Reilly family was located on Tullymongan Hill, just outside of Cavan town.
The Slasher was the son of Brian O’Reilly and Mary Plunkett. He is famous for defending the Bridge of Finnea, which is near Ross Castle, from enemy English forces. The story goes that with just one hundred men, he held off a Cromwellian force of over a thousand soldiers.
It is said that the night before that battle, he and his men spent the night at Ross Castle.
Slasher’s story doesn’t end there, though. Some say he was killed at the Battle of Finnea Bridge. But it is also said that after the battle, he married Catherine O’Reilly, and went on to have three sons and two daughters. Yet another story claims that he escaped the battle altogether, and went to France, where he died some years later.
According to rumour, Myles was buried in the graveyard of St Mary’s Abbey in Cavan, which now lies in ruins. Interestingly, his oldest son, Colonel John O’Reilly, who fought in the Battle of the Boyne in 1691, was buried in 1717 in the graveyard of the now very ruinous Kill church.
It is known that John was seventy years of age when he died, putting the year of his birth as 1647, three years after the Battle of the Bridge of Finnea, thus proving that Myles must have lived beyond it.
But the most intriguing thing about John O’Reilly’s burial is that there are two tombstones with his name carved on them… which begs the questions, which one is he under, and who is lying under the other one?
You can find out more, and book your room at Ross Castle here.
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