Belvelly Castle

Belvelly Castle
Cobh, Cork, Ireland.

Now a private home but still a great photo opportunity with a suitably haunted history, Belvelly Castle is a 13th-century tower house in County Cork.

Like most castles of its time, it was primarily built for defence purposes rather than for comfort, and by the 19th century, it had fallen into ruin. But unlike similar structures dotted all over the country, this one was sold in 2016, and has since been transformed into a stunning family home.

Prior to the commencement of restoration works, the new owners made an unusual request – they asked for an exorcism to be carried out at the property. But why was that necessary?

Lady Margaret Hodnett lived at Belvelly Castle in the 17th century. The story portrays Margaret as an incredibly vain young woman, who placed an inordinate number of mirrors around the property so that she could admire herself when going from room to room. It was also said that she loved male attention and kept the company of several eligible men.

Clon Rockenby was one of the men she associated with. He had fallen in love with her and wanted her to be his bride, but she just wasn’t into him at all and each time he asked, he was rebutted. He grew increasingly frustrated, but instead of just walking away as he should have done, he assembled an army! His intention was not to attack the castle, but rather deprive the inhabitants of supplies until such time as his lady acceded to his wishes and agreed to marry him.

Somehow, the resolve of the Hodnett’s was not diminished and more than a year had passed before they finally surrendered, and Margaret agreed to be his wife. Undeterred by the stench of the decomposing bodies of guards that had been claimed by hunger, Clon excitedly entered the castle, only to discover that his bride to be was now gaunt and disheveled. Clon was angered and smashed one of Margaret’s beloved mirrors in rage but was stopped in his tracks by her brother who dealt a fatal blow as he went to leave. As Clon lay dying, he reportedly cursed the woman, saying “may you seek your mirrors forever, and never find them”.

For a time, Lady Margaret banished all mirrors from her presence out of fear of seeing once more, the hunger ravaged face that had scared off her suitor, but in time the mirrors returned.
As the years past, she began to lose her sanity and would walk from mirror to mirror hoping that her youthful looks would return, but of course, they never did. She did once more attract male attention, but chose to live as a recluse, dying alone in her castle chamber.

Prior to the exorcism, visitors to the castle would sometimes report sudden changes in temperature, feeling a sense of melancholy and hearing footsteps or the distant sound of a woman sobbing. The forlorn ghost of Lady Margaret walked the castle & its grounds for hundreds of years after death. Some witnesses claimed that her spirit had no facial features, and that the spectre is looking at blank patches of wall where her mirrors might have been, while others said she would manifest wearing a veil to cover her face.

Sightings of a slim man dressed in black were also reported on moonlit nights, and sometimes these apparitions were accompanied by ethereal singing. An old tale tells of how a poet once got into an argument with another man at the castle many years and how he killed the man in self-defence. Despite witnessing what had happened, the family were outraged, and the poet was locked away and left to die having been poisoned by rival’s lover.

Little is now spoken of the ghostly residents once said to walk and sing at Belvelly Castle. Perhaps the exorcism carried out by the new owners has helped them to move on, but their stories remain part of Ireland’s haunted heritage.

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