Leap Castle

Coordinates: 53°01′41″N 7°48′31″W / 53.0281°N 7.8085°W / 53.0281; -7.8085
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Leap Castle
Caisleán Léim Uí Bhánáin
Coolderry, Ireland in Ireland
Leap Castle in 2010
Leap Castle is located in Ireland
Leap Castle
Leap Castle
Location in Ireland
Site information
OwnerPrivately Owned
Open to
the public
Site history
Built1250 AD
Built byO'Bannon clan (possibly)
EventsIrish Civil War

Leap Castle (/ˈlɛp/; Irish: Caisleán Léim Uí Bhánáin) is a castle in Coolderry, County Offaly, Ireland, about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) north of the town of Roscrea and 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of Kinnitty on the R421.


There are varied accounts as to when exactly the main tower/keep was constructed, ranging anywhere from the 13th century to the late 15th century,[1] but most likely around 1250 AD. It was built by the O'Bannon clan and was originally called "Léim Uí Bhanáin" (as was the fertile land around the castle which was associated with the Bannon clan) or "Leap of the O'Bannons". The O'Bannons were the "secondary chieftains" of the territory and were subject to the ruling O'Carroll clan. There is evidence that it was constructed on the same site as another ancient stone structure, perhaps ceremonial in nature, and that that area has been occupied consistently since at least the Iron Age (500 BCE) and possibly since Neolithic times.

The Annals of the Four Masters record that the Earl of Kildare, Gerald FitzGerald, tried unsuccessfully to seize the castle in 1513. Three years later, he attacked the castle again and managed to partially demolish sections of it. However, by 1557, the O'Carrolls had regained possession.

Following the death of Mulrooney O'Carroll in 1532, family struggles plagued the O'Carroll clan. A fierce rivalry for leadership erupted within the family. The bitter fight for power turned brother against brother. One of the brothers was a priest. While he was holding mass for a group of his family (in what is now called the "Bloody Chapel"), his rival brother burst into the chapel, plunged his sword into him and fatally wounded him. The butchered priest fell across the altar and died in front of his family.[2]

In 1642, the castle passed by marriage into the ownership of the Darby family, notable members of whom included Vice-Admiral George Darby, Admiral Sir Henry D'Esterre Darby and John Nelson Darby. During the tenure of one Jonathan Charles Darby, séances were held in the castle by his wife Mildred Darby, who was a writer of Gothic novels: this led to publicity about the castle and its ghosts. The central keep was later expanded with significant extensions, but in order to pay for these, rents were raised, and much of the land accompanying the castle was sold. This is one theorised motivation for the burning of the castle during the Irish Civil War in 1922. After its destruction, Mr. Darby obtained a reinstatement estimate from Beckett & Medcalf, surveyors in Dublin, that was issued in September 1922. Confusingly, it gives the address as Leap Castle, Roscrea, County Tipperary. The net "Amount of Claim" was £22,684.19.1, equivalent to about €1m in 2018. The claim was settled for a lesser amount.[3]

In 1974 the now ruined castle was bought by Australian historian Peter Bartlett, whose mother had been a Banon. Bartlett, together with builder Joe Sullivan, carried out extensive restoration work on the castle up to the time of his death in 1989.[4] Since 1991, the castle has been privately owned by the musician Sean Ryan and his wife Anne, who continue the restoration work.

In popular culture[edit]

The castle has been visited by paranormal investigators from ABC Family's Scariest Places on Earth and Living TV's Most Haunted in its first season, as well as The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) from Syfy's Ghost Hunters. In August 2014, Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures filmed their tenth season Halloween special at the castle,[5][6] and most recently by paranormal investigation Youtube channel Sam and Colby.[7] The claims of paranormal activity include the putative existence of a Red Lady[8] ghost, the ghosts of two girls, and an "elemental spirit" associated with Mildred Darby.[9] [10] The castle describes itself as "the world's most haunted castle".[11]

This castle was featured on the cover of several editions of the novel The Riders by Tim Winton.

In 1996, Leap Castle's history and hauntings were examined in Castle Ghosts of Ireland by Robert Hardy.[12]

Leap Castle was the focus of episode 51 of the popular "How Haunted? podcast.

A chapter in "The World of Lore: Dreadful Places" by Aaron Mahnke is also dedicated to Leap Castle. It is titled The Tainted Well in reference to the castle's gruesome oubliette. The castle is also featured in his podcast Lore, Episode 68: The Tainted Well.[13][14]

The second episode in "The Horrornight" from the Dutch Youtube channel StukTV took place in the castle.


  1. ^ "Leap Castle : The world's most haunted Castle". Tipperary Tourism Company. Archived from the original on 8 December 2017. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Leap Castle". Castles.org. Archived from the original on 5 May 2012.
  3. ^ "Darby". Landed Estates Database. 1.2.7b2. Moore Institute, Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 18 May 2011. Archived from the original on 23 September 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  4. ^ Biographical cuttings on Peter Bartlett, writer, historian and owner of Leap Castle built around 1380, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals. National Library of Australia. Archived from the original on 13 July 2018. Bartlett's biographical materials, including Leap Castle restoration details.
  5. ^ "Lockdown Your October with Ghost Adventures". Travel Channel. Archived from the original on 4 October 2014.
  6. ^ Selby, Alan (5 August 2014). "Hit American show Ghost Adventures filming in Ireland". Irish Mirror. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019.
  7. ^ Sam and Colby (21 August 2022). "Demonic Encounter in Ireland's Most HAUNTED Castle". YouTube. Archived from the original on 17 December 2023.
  8. ^ "6 tales of terror: 1 Leap Castle". Ireland.com. Archived from the original on 3 August 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Leap in the dark". Irish Times. 29 October 2005. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  10. ^ "The Elemental". Leap Castle. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 16 March 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  11. ^ "Leap Castle". Leap Castle. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 27 July 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Robert Hardy (I) (1925–2017)". IMDb. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  13. ^ Mahnke, A. (2018). World of lore: Dreadful places. Random House Publishing Group.
  14. ^ "Episode 68: The Tainted Well". Archived from the original on 29 October 2021. Retrieved 29 October 2021.

External links[edit]

53°01′41″N 7°48′31″W / 53.0281°N 7.8085°W / 53.0281; -7.8085