Built somewhere between the 13th and late 15th century, this Irish castle has seen more gruesome deaths than a Game of Thrones wedding. As legend has it, during a struggle for power within the O’Carroll clan (which had a fondness for poisoning dinner guests), one brother plunged a sword into another, a priest, as he was holding mass in the castle’s chapel. The room is now called “The Bloody Chapel,” and the priest is said to haunt the church at night. And the horror doesn’t end there. During castle renovations in the early 1900s, workmen found a secret dungeon in the Bloody Chapel with so many human skeletons, they filled three cartloads when hauled away. The dungeon was designed so that prisoners would fall through a trap door, have their lungs punctured by wooded spikes on the ground, and die a slow, horrific death within earshot of the sinister clan members above.
“Belvelly Castle sits prominently on the shore of Great Island in Cork Harbour. It is said that in the seventeenth century Margaret Hodnett lived there. Mirrors were a status symbol with the wealthy at that time and Margaret was known for her love of these to remind her of her renowned beauty. She had an on-off relationship with a local lord called Clon Rockenby who asked for her hand in marriage many times but was refused.
“Eventually, Rockenby decided that the humiliation was enough and raised a small army and went to the castle to take her by force. He thought the Hodnetts, used to a luxurious life, would not withstand a siege.
“However, they surprised him by holding out for a full year before surrendering. When he entered the castle Rockenby was shocked to see the state of Margaret, skeletal and starved, a shadow of her former self, her beauty gone. Out of rage, Rockenby smashed her favourite mirror to pieces, as he did so one of the Hodnetts killed him with a sword.
“After these events Margaret descended into insanity, she was said to have sought out mirrors constantly to check if her beauty had returned. It never did. She died in old age at the castle. Her troubled ghost appears as a lady in white, sometimes with a veiled face and sometimes with no face at all. Those who have seen her say that she looks at a spot on the wall, then rubs it as if looking at her reflection.
“Apparently, one stone on the castle’s wall has been rubbed smooth over the years, perhaps the spot where her mirror used to hang. Belvelly has largely been unoccupied since the nineteenth century but is currently being renovated.”