Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Athcarne Castle Co Meath

                                          Above Image: The Hanging Tree?

                           Above Image: The Ghostly face? Enlarged in the top
                                                  right hand corner

Athcarne Castle is situated in an area of Co Meath known as Eastmeath.The Castle comprises of an Elizabethan Tower House, a three storied mansion and a corner Turret. The original Tower & Mansion were built by William Bathe in 1590 and the Bathe family resided there for many generations producing some notable personalities in the Legal and political arenas. The Castle lies just six miles from the site of the Battle of the Boyne and it is said that James II stayed here on the night before the event.
In 1830 a turret was the added  making the existing structure an even more formidable building. The last occupant was James Gernon who lived there until the 1950's when the building was partly demolished and has stayed in a state of dangerous ruin since.
I have to say that we have been to many Castles and Abbeys where we felt uneasy, but this place had a distinctly foreboding air about it. The Castle is very much hidden and wasn't easy to find, but eventually down a narrow grassy lane we saw a part of the turret peeking through the tree branches. We pulled up outside a padlocked gate and a sign saying Danger, keep out. The Castle is in a high state of disrepair and there is a lot of rubble around it's base which was put there by the OPW in the 1980's from an old church demolished elsewhere, so it's not surprising that the public are encouraged to stay away. The gate was locked, but you could climb over and take a quick look, There were a number of nearby Dogs barking so we did not want to draw undue attention. We found another gate at the top of the lane which had an open padlock on it and this led you around the back of the Castle where although it is fenced off from access, you can get amazing views. We noticed a stagnant pool of water at one point and this it seems is all that remains of a boating pool.
 Legends about the Castle include cries of dying soldiers heard at night and the spectre of a hanged soldier on the great Oak tree adjacent. The most disturbing tale is a recent one by a local worker who claimed to have seen the face of  "a demented girl with blood covered hands"  All very disturbing indeed. On looking at our photos later there is one image (shown above) where it seems there is there is someone odd looking at us through the left hand aperture of a ruined outer building. Enlarged it becomes more odd. Apparently this was a storehouse called the "Shell House" and these apertures may have carried roof timbers so they are not very large which makes it all the more strange.  Needless to say after a short while we began to feel it was time to move on as there was a definite feeling of not being wanted there. Nobody (Human) disturbed us on our visit. We would recommend a viewing but certainly not just before or after dark.
Athcarne is but a shadow of it's former self, a derelict insanity seems to haunt it and it stands jagged and unwelcoming.
To find the Castle on the N2 to Slane take the right hand turn at Balrath Cross for Duleek.  The 2nd right hand turn down this road will lead you down a Cul-De-Sac. About halfway down a small lane way veers to the left. Take this route and you will find the Castle at it's end.
This one is dedicated to you SRBO.
Many thanks to "Saoirse" for the amended local information. We are only sorry we didn't get to speak to you on the day!


                         Above Image: The entrance gate. Gap to the left hand side

                                    Above Image: Rubble blocks the entrance

                                 Above Image: What appears to be family crests

                             Above Image: The rope dangling from the bottom right
                                                   corner of window

                                    Above Image: Remains of the shell house

                                            Above Image: The Way Cross

  I have been meaning for a while to return to this interesting ruin and hopefully get a closer look than on my initial visit. So on a fine late Summer afternoon we found ourselves again at the rusted iron gate leading to Athcarne Castle. The old "Danger Keep Out" sign was still posted way above anyones line of sight so you wouldn't even notice it. Surprisingly we didn't have to clamber over the gate as the overgrowth to its left hand side had been cleared and there was a gap you can easily walk through. The site is used by the State as a storage facility for stone blocks hence the adjacent sheds in the courtyard. The site has been cleared somewhat so it is very easy to circumnavigate the ruins at close range although lots of large stone blocks and rubble have been placed around the possible entry points to make it difficult to try and get in. The subject of "getting in" can now be safely said to be next to impossible as all of the ground floor doorways and windows have been gated up, locked with humongous padlocks and on top of all this wonderful "keep out cake" a topping of good old barbed wire for good measure! The one and only possible entry point is a window on the North East face which is positioned about twelve feet off the ground and is festooned with overgrowth. Yet there is a blue coloured rope dangling down from the sill where no doubt some young enterprising and probably foolhardy persons have succeeded in entering to God knows what sort of landing on the other side. The temptation of finding and climbing the still existing stone spiral stairs that lies within it seems will drive some to any measures. On this occasion I thought discretion was the better part of valour and declined the ropey challenge. I will admit that the idea of bringing along an extendable ladder did flit though my mind.
Regardless of the non entry this visit was a much more satisfying one. The shell house where I last seemed to capture a face looking out is now overgrown and so Mr Face will have to look out elsewhere.
The one thing that I can say is that I didn't realize how imposing a ruin it is up close. It literally looms above you on elevated ground with its windows like eyeless sockets forcing you to stare through them always drawing your attention to some derelict detail within. As mentioned before this castle is supposedly very badly haunted. Some of its residents are said to be the ghost of James II who stayed here before carrying on to hjs death at the Battle of the Boyne and a demented girl with blood dripping from her hands. Add in cries in the night of those being slaughtered in the Boyne Battle, a Spectre hanging from a tree and even the Devil himself who is said to have made an appearance here. A lot to worry about then and believe me even on what was a fine sunny day there was still an underlying unease about the place, not tangible enough to notice immediately but after a while sets about a definite feeling of not being welcome. Go when you can and go soon as the days are getting ever shorter and  in my opinion this would not be a place to be when dusk blankets over Athcarne's eerie dereliction.

On the Road from Balrath crossroads to Duleek where you take the second right hand turn for the Castle ruins there is a large stone cross to see. This cross was erected as a way marker in 1675 by Sir Luke Bathe and his wife Dame Cecelia Dowdall who were then residents of Athcarne Castle.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I just found this, I know the original post was about a year ago but I have a question if anyone knows. Saoirse you seem to have very good local knowledge.
    I have a vague recollection of a story told to me by an old man in a pub :D (O'Neills I think it may have been)
    The story was about a man who planned to jump from the top of the castle as some kind of stunt. He had something set out to land on maybe hay or something, but on the day the wind was strong and he was advised to postpone the event but he refused and jumped anyway?
    as I said the story is vague and it was many years ago just wondering does anyone have any knowledge of this happening?

  3. yes, the story told to me by my grandfather who was born and lived on the same laneway was this.,,,,,,,,,,,, a very smart dressed man visited the castle and ended up playing cards with the others late into the night.
    he won every game and the people were getting bothered by this.they knew he was cheating

    a woman who worked there got suspicious and looked down to see he had no feet. she whispered to the others around that it was 'old nick' i.e.the devil
    the woman sprinkled holy water around the doorways and windows to trap him.
    then when the men then went to grab him to get their money back he jumped on to a table and tried to get out the top window
    but he couldnt pass the holy water and he went into the wall.and the plaster disappeared at that particular spot immediatelly.

    in 1970 my grandfather showed me the exact spot on the wall.
    the plaster was off the wall and the red brick could be seen

    its very unusual because the plaster is intact elsewhere.
    i visited the castle in march 2013 and its still the same at that spot

    this next bit im not so sure about but here goes.
    they tried to plaster up the spot but it would always fall off.
    due to believeng therefore that he was still trapped in the wall
    they bricked up the windows on that side of the castle.this can be observed from the inside.
    they also built a turret an the same corner with two perminent crucifix structured in on one side and also on the other side
    the plaster still wouldnt stay on at the window

    if you look at the red brick spot in the photograph (two photos above) you can see a perfect corpse like face just to the left of the lower turret crucifix.

    unfortunately i know a bit about the 'demented' girl but thats for another time

    1. Thanks Lorcan,

      Lots to think about there. I have to say it was a very stark place with an unwelcoming vibe.keep the information coming!

  4. I just went and had a look today..I really enjoyed seeing the Castle,It did have an eerie feel to it but was quite nice as well,I seen the sign Danger do not enter,but climbed the gate and went inside anyway,
    I met a very nice gentleman that lives in the first house beside the castle and the reason for the dogs barking is he keeps and breeds greyhounds,
    He said it wasn't a big deal to go and look at the Castle that it is owned by the Local Council and the reason its barricaded up is because of local youths climbing around and playing in the turrets etc,
    He had a good knowledge of the castle and all the trees that are planted around the castle are done by him around 1990 he planted 1000 trees,
    And the Hanging tree was already gone,
    He told of a couple that stayed in the car over night there and they had seen a woman looking out the window all night they thought that part of the castle was still habitable until he told them there was no floor there lol...!
    He said she is seen quiet regular looking out the window as if she is waiting for someone and she is supposed to be very beautiful with high cheekbones and a prominent face.
    I had to rush off but I would have loved to have stayed and chatted longer..I will definitely go back and spend some more time there,I wore shorts today which isn't a great idea right now as there is a lot of stinging nettles in the long grass around part of the castle,
    Its worth the drive down to see,I love the fact that there is so many Castle ruins around Meath Its a nice way to spend the day,check out the castles on the internet and and hour later be looking at magnificent history!!

    Enjoy your day out all,

    Derek :)

  5. By the way Castlehunter you have a great Blog thanks..thats the second Castle from your list I have been to this week and I have another off your list planned for tomorrow...happy hunting :)

    1. Thanks for posting Derek and especially thanks for all that information you gained from the resident. I think its one of the eeriest castles I've visited and will definitely go back and go further inside.Glad to be of help with the directions this was always my plan to help others find and enjoy these sites as much as I do.
      Happy hunting to you to.

  6. Hi

    I really want to visit this after finding out William bathe is a relative of mine. How I would love to restore this castle.

    Ashley bathe

  7. Hi Ashley
    Yes its really an amazing Castle which i suspect is not beyond restoring. it must have been a fine residence in its time

  8. My grandfather Owen Neary (1861-1934)of Cookstown,Ardee, lists Mary Gernon of Athcairn Castle Co Meath as one of his great-great grandmothers. She lived from 1746 till 1780. Would anyone have further information on this family please?
    Patrick Neary

  9. hi patrick
    i did a hitoric collection of the gernons of athcarn while i was researching my own affairs. i have over a hundred newspaper cuttings i can email you about births marriages deaths however i cannot find gernons in atcharn pre1833 let me know if you want the help youll have to jigsaw all the info together im afraid as i never got round to study it all >>>no mary mentioned but tom james graham henry and william gernon >>also a few court records

    1. Thanks for your offer Lorcan. I only saw your reply yesterday after another visit to the Castle. My grandfather records that Mary Gernon, daughter of Gernon of Athcairn Castle was born in 1746, married Owen Markey of Reynoldstown in 1764, died on 4th April 1780 and is buried in Mayne graveyard, Clogherhead. I don't think that the later material would be relevant to my ancestry but if anyone had information on the Gernons from the early 18th century I would be very interested to learn about it.........

  10. Hi Lorcan, Would be really interested in seeing your research on the Gernon's. The Gernons bought Athcarne sometime around 1820-1830's. That's when they did extensive remodelling of the place, knocking down the old elizabethan mansion that joined onto the tower house and rebuilding a more modern wing. Before them, the Garnett's lived there. Trying to get dates for when the Garnett's bought Athcarne and when they sold it but its very vague so far. There seem to be lots of overlapping dates.

    1. email me at lorcanmccloskey@gmail.com and ill send you some info

  11. I was there today. Have to say I didn't feel uneasy there but did feel an overwhelming sense of pity for the old castle as it has fallen into such ruin and disrepair. The O..P.W have been doing some clearing and sorting of the rubble around the castle. Maybe some day the right people will restore it to it's former glory

    1. Hi Rachel, Good to hear from you. I'm glad t hear some work is being done. I intend to return there in the spring and hopefully get a chance to climb the interior stairs. It really is a great looking castle.

  12. Hi.I have an old picture of the castle with windows and doors and roof ,from its former glorie in the days. I'm trying to post Picture here . How do I do this regards David

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi David,
      Due to blogger privacy you can't actually post picture on someone elses blog. What you could do is post it on Flickr and post the link on this site. I'm sure a lot of people including myself would like to see it.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Hi, I have set up a Facebook page on Athcarne Castle with a fairly extensive history of the castle going back to 1172. Finbar

    1. Great stuff Finbar I'm going to check that out right now.

  15. Thanks Finbar. I'm going to check that out right away.

  16. hi last year i had went up to this castle at midnight and i had a local come with me as i knew him he seemed to know his stuff about this castle and i live nearby aswell but anyway last year i had just climbed over the 6 bar rusty gate to an eerie feeling about the air as if i had been watched the whole time i had been there.After my inspection i was on the way out as i was passing the main door i almost swore i had seen a tall silhouette with a crown on head i took no heed as i thought it was my mind playing tricks so after the next few steps i could hear this deep whisper in my head saying"get out" i dont know if it was paranoia or not but i turned around to the local and he had said my face went from blushed red to completely pale white so i decided to get out of there.i also went up today as my friends wanted to see it i went up around 8:30 and even at that it still felt as if i had been watched and i also kept getting flashbacks from that day its safe to say i felt so bad that such a beautiful castle had fallen to ruin

  17. Hi Dj

    Thats a creepy tale. But it doesn't surprise me. There is a distinct atmosphere about the place and has drawn a lot of comment on this post. I will be going there again soon but your experience is a bit unnerving. Thanks for posting

  18. Do you have any knowledge of the Bathe family tree up to 1850? We are related to John Bathe born either 1805 or 1820 who married Ann. They had 3 children, Chritopher B 1834, John born1838 or 1840 and Ann born around 1849. They immigrated to the states around 1852. Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  19. Hi, i don't have any further information myself but you might try one of the posters in the comments section as they seem to have a great deal of backround on Athcarne

  20. I was here today. Just a few things odd from my experience. I walked around the site on my own looking to take some pictures. Its quite a large ruin and im sure at one stage a beautiful place. Not any more but amazing for other reasons. I too felt uneasy and I managed to stay there for about 10 mins before hurrying back to my car. I followed the tracks around to the back took some photos and video and returned back to the gate. Before I read the above, I thought it was just me but a few things which happened in the 10 mins I was there. My phone died it was about 90% charged when I got out of the car and was very hot. This had never happened before. Also when I got home I had a sore neck. I thought I got a bite or something but appears as a red line around my neck. It disappeared after about 30 mins. I would love to go back but whatever is there is obviously didnt want me there.

    Check out my photos here:


  21. Thanks for sharing your experience and photos Jonathan. Very eerie indeed. The red line around your neck is the most strange of all. Thee was instaces of hangings here in its past. Luck escape on your part I would say!