Charleville Forest Castle is a fine, Gothic-style castle in Co Offaly. It is close to Tullamore and the River Shannon. The area where Charleville Forest Castle now stands has had a chequered past.
The Charleville estate is sited where Ireland’s ancient oak forests once grew – the home of Ireland’s druids. In the 6th century there was a monastic settlement of Lynally.
County Offaly is in the Midlands Region of Ireland, in the province of Leinster. When people began settling in Ireland, Dublin felt vulnerable by the western and midlands tribes. This resulted in much fighting for territory.
The hostility continued until the mid-1500s, when the O’Molloy lands were acquired and held by the Moore family. In 1622, Sir John Moore was granted 5000 acres of the Tullamore area, and the Moore dynasty continued until the late nineteenth century.
When Sir John Moore’s great, grand-daughter died, the estate passed to Charles William Bury, who created the 1st Earl of Charleville title in 1806.
Charles William Bury built the present castle. It was designed by Francis Johnston, who also designed the GPO in Dublin and building began in 1800 – it took 14 years to complete.
The magnificent “Tin Soldier Fortress” turrets were built to celebrate the British victory over the French revolutionary republican movement’s third invasion of Ireland.
William Morris designed the ceiling within the dining room. Morris’ work had a great influence upon the decoration of churches and grand houses into the early 20th century.
Lord Byron often stayed at the castle when he visited Ireland and held many parties there.
Upkeep of the castle and estate was high, and the owners ran into difficulty and in 1912, the castle was left empty, due in part to long years of economic severity that followed the war of independence.
It fell into disrepair; in 1968 the roof had to be removed before it collapsed. Restoration began in 1971 with help of a Charitable Trust.
Charleville Castle is supposedly haunted by a young girl called Harriet, the youngest daughter of the third Earl of Charleville. In April 1861, aged eight, she went up the main staircase – she tripped and fell and broke her neck.
Another story is that a photographer went to the top of the tower. He disappeared – only his camera was left. People who have stayed there have reported strange things happening in the castle.
Several psychics and paranormal investigators have visited the castle. It has featured on TV; Living TV’s – Most Haunted and Fox’s – Scariest Places On Earth. It has appeared on Ghost Hunters International.
It has been used as a location for filming Becoming Jane (2007) and Northanger Abbey (2007).
The castle’s haunted history has made its “fright nights” events very popular.
Charleville Castle hosts the Castlepalooza festival, the annual Irish independent music festival & Arts Festival. It’s usually held over the August Bank Holiday.
The festival was described by Hot Press as a “bite-sized Electric Picnic, held in the grounds of a 17th-century castle, with the added bonus of indoor toilets and showers”. The Sunday Business Post described the festival as “the best little music festival in Ireland”.