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Castles and Historic Buildings of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland

 Castles of Ireland - Leap Castle

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near Roscrea, County Offaly, Ireland

Leap Castle is built on a rock about four miles north of Roscrea in County Offaly. It was originally built to guard a strategic pass through the Slieve Bloom mountains.

The castle was originally a tower house, and has been extended with the later addition of wings on either side. The main hall was in the tower, and above this was a chapel which became known as the 'Bloody Chapel' after one of the residents, Teige O'Carroll, murdered his brother, who was a priest, while he was at the chapel altar.

In a corner of the Bloody Chapel is the entrance to the secret dungeon or oubliette where prisoners were thrown down through a trap door and left to die. At the bottom were a series of spikes designed to impale the prisoners as they hurtled down. The spikes have now been covered over.

Leap Castle was built around 1250 by the O'Bannon family who were subjects of the ruling O'Carroll clan. The Earl of Kildare, Gerald FitzGerald, attacked the castle in 1526 partially demolished it. The O'Carrolls regained possession by 1557. The castle passed to the Darby family through marriage in 1659.

The castle was burned down during the Irish Civil War in 1922. After the fire, workers cleaning up the castle discovered the oubliette, and to their horror found many skeletons in the dungeon (some reports say three cart loads of human bones were recovered from the dungeon).

There is rumoured to be a network of tunnels and secret chambers hewn out of the rock below the keep where human remains have been discovered. The castle is now owned by Sean and Anne Ryan who bought the property in 1991 and have undertaken restoration work to turn the building into a family home.

The Arts
Leap Castle was featured on the cover of the novel "The Riders" by Australian author Tim Winton.

This castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted in Ireland. There are numerous stories of murders and massacres associated with the castle. The most startling ghost story is the terrifying creature known as the "It" or the "Elemental" - a small hunched creature that appears with the foul stench of a rotting corpse. Mildred Darby may have been the first to encounter the Elemental, which she wrote about in an occult publication in 1909.

Other Castles in the Area
  Ballycowan Castle, County Offaly
  Birr Castle, County Offaly
  Charleville Castle, County Offaly
  Clonony Castle, County Offaly
  Kinnitty Castle, County Offaly
  Nenagh Castle, County Tipperary
  Redwood Castle, County Tipperary
  Roscrea Castle, County Tipperary

Roscrea Castle
central tower, gutted wing on left.

Photograph by Ziegenheit. Some rights reserved.  (view image details)

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