LivingTravelLeap Castle: The Complete Guide

Leap Castle: The Complete Guide

Leap Castle in Ireland’s County Offaly has a tantalizingly haunted history. From death traps to sad dungeons, the castle is known to be one of the most haunted houses in Ireland. Are you curious to learn the ghost stories and visit for yourself? Here’s the complete guide to Leap Castle.


There is some disagreement as to when the Leap Castle tower was first built, with some claiming it was erected in 1250 and others insisting that it was only built in the 16th century. While there is no single answer, it is well accepted that the fortified tower house was built on a much earlier settlement site dating back to the Iron Age.

The best known history of Castle Leap begins in the 16th century, when it was probably built by the O’Bannon clan. The castle was then known as Leim Ui Bhanain or “The Jump of the O’Bannons” because legend has it that two O’Bannon brothers who were competing to lead the clan agreed to a jump to decide who would hold power. The brothers jumped off the rocks where the castle was to be built and the brave survivor became the boss.

The O’Bannons, however, were what are known as secondary bosses, and the real power belonged to the terrifying O’Carroll clan. The O’Carrolls took control of Castle Leap and often used it to organize massacres of rivals and even to kill each other. The castle passed between O’Carroll’s heirs as they murdered their dinner guests and their own soldiers, and were later killed by power-hungry relatives. The ghosts of the victims are said to still haunt Leap Castle today.

In 1649, the castle was turned over to one of Cromwell’s soldiers, Jonathon Darby, as payment for his services in the ongoing battles in Ireland. Some sources even claim that Darby married one of O’Carroll’s daughters. The Darby family lived at Leap Castle for several generations,

In 1922, Leap Castle was burned down and destroyed during the Irish Civil War. The castle was abandoned until 1974 when it was bought by Peter Bartlett, an Australian descendant of the O’Bannon clan. He began restorations on the castle until his death in 1989. The castle was bought by Sean and Anne Ryan. It is still privately owned, and the Ryans continue restoration work at Leap Castle to this day.

What to see

Leap Castle is now a private home, so it is not possible to visit the entire structure. However, the ryan sometimes grant permission to explore some of the upper floors that are still in ruins.

The most interesting ‘attraction’ to try to see at Leap Castle are the ghosts. It is often called ‘Ireland’s most haunted castle’, thanks largely to the bloody history of the O’Carroll clan. To try, ask to see The Bloody Chapel, where one-eyed Teige O’Carroll murdered his brother while leading a family mass.

After the castle was destroyed in 1922, repair work uncovered a hidden dungeon full of corpses. The victims are believed to have been dumped here through a hidden hatch. The exact count of the bodies was never determined, but it took three carts to remove all the human bones.

Supernatural hunters should be on the lookout for the many ghosts believed to haunt the property, including spirits owner Sean Ryan claims to have known personally. There is a woman dressed in red who wanders through the castle with a dagger and mourns for her murdered son, and the ghostly spirits of two girls believed to have lived at Leap Castle in the 17th century.

How to visit Leap Castle

Leap Castle is located in County Offaly, Ireland, just outside Coolderry and is privately owned by musician Sean Ryan and his wife, Anne. The couple live in the castle while continuing to repair and restore the building. He claims that the spirits he and his wife see actually exist, and is generally happy to share his knowledge of history and open the grounds for self-guided tours.

To visit Leap Castle, it is best to contact Sean directly via email to confirm availability and the best time to stop by. Please note that a donation of 6 euros is requested to support the maintenance of the unique castle house.

What else to do nearby

To see the most famous castles, stop by the Château de Charleville. The gothic-style castle has a spooky past and is not far from Tullamore. Birr Castle is also in the same county. While it doesn’t have ghost stories, it does have science exhibits for kids.

The county town of Tullamore is famous for its local whiskey, Tullamore Dew, a favorite Irish drink.

For a more natural getaway, head to the nearby Slieve Bloom Mountains.

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