The Renvyle House Hotel occupies an enviable site, capturing both the beauty of Connemara and of Ireland’s dramatic western coast.
The O’Flaherty clan established a modest property on what would originally have been a 13,000-acre site. The land was later confiscated, sold, and leased back to them by new owners, the Blake Family, and the O’Flahertys continued to live there until their lease was terminated. Henry Blake moved in during 1823 and amendments were soon made to the property to add more space and to make it more befitting of a family with status and money.
The property was first opened as a hotel in 1883 by Henry’s widow Caroline, following a period of financial strain – a result of the Land War. The hotel was successful, and the sense of remote, natural tranquility made it attractive to scholars, artists, and poets. In 1917, Oliver St. John. Gogarty – himself a physician, poet, and author – bought the property and began hosting guests, including Winston Churchill, Augustus John, Lady Gregory, and his good friend William Butler Yeats.
Gogarty was unaware that some of his other guests would be from “the other side”.
He and his staff encountered several strange occurrences at Renvyle House with doors opening and closing by themselves, unexplained groans, and disembodied footsteps. Guests also reported having their bedsheets tugged by unseen hands during the night. One room in the staff quarters had such a fearsome reputation with its barred windows, that servants would refuse to sleep in it. One evening, they heard furniture being moved around in the empty room and discovered that a heavy wooden trunk had been dragged across the room and was blocking access to the room. Of course, there was nobody in the room to do this – nobody living anyhow. Access was only regained when a workman cut through the bars on the window.
On another occasion, Gogarty himself was awoken by loud footsteps walking along the hallway outside his room. When he investigated, his candle was extinguished by a sharp breeze and he began to feel “heavy”. But the feeling soon passed, and he returned to his slumber.
W B Yeats was an avid believer in the paranormal and a regular guest at Renvyle House. During one visit, the door to the library opened by itself and was then slammed shut by an unseen force. Yeats decided to hold a séance with the intention of identifying the spirit and finding out what it wanted. During the séance, he claimed that he had successfully contacted the entity who said that he did not like strangers visiting the house. Shortly after this, his wife Georgia reported seeing the sad ghost of a young male with pale skin and red hair standing by the fireplace. The distraught figure was reportedly the ghost of a member of the Blake family. A more “hands-on” encounter occurred at the old house when a new convert to the Catholic faith decided that he had the necessary skills and authority to perform an exorcism in the same room. He was quickly overcome by a dense fog and was thrown to the ground, requiring the assistance of his friends who brought him to safety. Once he had regained his composure, he recalled seeing the apparition of the same pale young man, who this time was clutching his own throat as if he were trying to strangle himself with his own bare hands.
The original Renvyle House – along with many other big houses across the country – was burnt to the ground in 1923 during the Irish civil war. Unperturbed and defiant, Gogarty quickly rebuilt his home and despite some modifications over subsequent decades, it is this incarnation that still stands today. The style of the hotel and its location continues to attract travellers seeking a break from the stresses of modern life. Given its exposed coastal location, it is not unheard of for the windows and doors to rattle when a fierce storm blows in across the sea, but this only adds to its authentic charm. And as for the ghosts? Yes – at least some of the ghostly guests have yet to check out. A female apparition (known as ‘Old Mrs. Gogarty’) has been seen in the hotel, and so has a man dressed in tweed. The renowned paranormal investigator, Hans Holzer, visited the hotel in 1965 and was accompanied by Sybil Leek – a British psychic. They stayed in room 27 – reputedly a favorite haunt (sorry) of the mysterious man in tweed. They concluded that the spirit was quite likely to be the ghost of Yeats himself and this belief has been widespread ever since.
More recent guests have also reported feeling “a presence” in their rooms, while the more alarming spectre of a man has been seen too, appearing as a reflection in bathroom mirrors as ladies put on their makeup.
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