Kilkea Castle dates to 1180, making it one of Ireland’s oldest habitable castles. The stunning castle was transformed into a hotel in the 1960s, and while the main building has eleven guest rooms, the resort now offers a total of 140 rooms, making it a popular choice for family gatherings, weddings, and many golf enthusiasts, keen to tackle the 18-hole parkland course.
But while taking care of its 21st Century guests is a priority, Kilkea Castle is also happy to embrace its ghostly residents.
One of the most noteworthy characters from the castle’s history was Gerald FitzGerald, the 11th Earl of Kildare. Some believed Gerald possessed true magical powers because of his fascination for alchemy and his dalliance in the black arts. This led to him being widely known as the Wizard Earl. The room in which the aspiring wizard was believed to have practiced his craft is preserved to this day, and his spirit is said to remain there, more than 400 years after his death. The “Haunted Room” is located in the castle’s main tower and guests are welcome to ascend the spiral staircase and look in if they are feeling brave enough.
Legend has it that the Wizard Earl makes a triumphant return to the castle on horseback once every seven years when he would arrive at midnight and keep vigil until dawn. The legend goes that his wife Mabel had begged him to demonstrate his magical prowess, but he was initially reluctant as he feared that she would not cope well if he transformed in front of her. But she persisted and after a few “tests” to ensure she would not “freak out”, he finally agreed. He proved his magical ability by transforming into a blackbird and perching on her shoulder. Unfortunately for both, a passing cat saw its opportunity and pounced at the bird. Having reached her limit, Mabel fainted and when she awoke, there was no sign of the cat, the bird, or indeed her husband. The story concludes that he was never seen again but that he returns on the seventh day, of the seventh month every seven years on the anniversary of that spell backfiring.
In reality – which is far less exciting – it is believed that Gerald actually died while being held at the Tower of London on charges of treason.
But there is some validation for the ghostly horse and rider. Hundreds of years later, one night in July 1984, a young couple walking by the graveyard on the grounds, caught the dark shape of a man on horseback, riding towards the castle in the moonlight before suddenly disappearing. Both shaken and remembering the legend, they checked the date – it was only the 5th day of the 7th month. But calendars change over time, so maybe the legend was running on another time.
If 1984 was the 7th year, maybe the Wizard Early will ride again in July 2026 – a date for the diary perhaps?
The Wizard Earl is certainly not the only spirit said to walk at Kilkea Castle. Past guests have encountered the ghost of a young girl playing in an upstairs hallway near the old nursery. While nobody knows who she is, she seems quite content and many have heard the sound of her laughter and light footsteps at all hours of the day and night. Some guests have also felt their blankets being gently tugged as they slept, while others reported teacups on a hospitality tray moving of their own accord. Other stories talk of the ghost of a little boy and his nanny who has been spotted on one of the staircases.
A woman in a flowing white dress has been seen many times in the castle courtyard. This apparition passes through stone walls undeterred on her path towards a nearby gate where she suddenly vanishes into thin air.
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