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 comfort, and by the 19th century, it had fallen into ruin, before a brief revival in 1939. In 2016, the derelict castle was sold, and it has since been transformed into a unique family home.
Prior to the commencement of works, the new owners requested that an exorcism be carried out at the property and the land be blessed for future occupation. But why was an exorcism necessary?
Lady Margaret Hodnett lived at the castle in the 17th century, and it said that she had several male followers who she used as playthings. She was also incredibly vain and maintained a large collection of mirrors dotted around the property. But one of her dalliances, Clon Rockenby, had fallen in love with her. Despite her constant rejection, Clon was not going to take no for an answer, and he took the somewhat drastic action of assembling an army, not to attack the castle, but to starve the Hodnett family into submission.
A year passed before the Hodnetts finally gave in and Clon finally went to claim his bride. But Margaret’s beauty had faded, and she was thin and dishevelled from hunger. In anger and disappointment, he smashed one of her beloved mirrors and left, only to be killed by one of Margaret’s brothers as he made his exit.
Lady Margaret began to lose her sanity. She would walk from mirror to mirror hoping that her youthful good looks would return, but of course, they never did and the mirrors were eventually removed by her concerned family. The forlorn ghost of Lady Margaret walked the castle for hundreds of years after death, still looking at patches of the walls where her mirrors would have been. Some witnesses claimed that her spirit had no facial features while others said she would manifest wearing a veil to cover her sad face.
Another ghostly tale associated with Belvelly Castle, speaks of the figure of a slim man dressed in black who was spotted on moonlit nights, looking up at the sky from the window beside the water gate. Sometimes, the mysterious figure would sing haunting melodies leaving witnesses intrigued and unnerved. It is said that this was the ghost of Luccero Moreno, a well-known Spanish/Italian poet, and singer who had been shipwrecked off the Irish coast and who was offered accommodation at the castle. Another guest at the time was an Irish bard called Dion The Thrush with whom the Hodnett family had a particular affinity.
Dion was jealous of how the new arrival was capturing the attention of the family and their guests and he and Moreno quickly fell out. It was decided that a contest would be held where they would pit their talents against one another. The winner would remain at the castle and the loser would have to leave. Moreno won the contest effortlessly but in a jealous rage, Dion attacked him with a knife, stabbing him in the shoulder. Moreno then overpowered and disarmed him, stabbing Dion in the neck with his own knife. Dion bled to death on the floor of the great hall. Although Moreno was simply defending himself and had not instigated the fatal fight, the family took pity on Dion as they recalled his good deeds towards them and their long-standing enjoyment of his talent and company. Moreno was locked away and died a few days later having been poisoned by one of his rival’s lovers.
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 will remain part of Ireland’s haunted heritage.
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Belvelly Castle is now a private home. It makes for a great photo but access to the building itself is not permitted.
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