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History Ballyseede Castle

Built: 1721

Ballyseede Castle was built in 1721 as a garrison Fitzgerald’s family, Earls of Desmond. The family were known for not swearing their allegiance to the crown, which resulted in wars known as the Geraldine Wars. These wars were fought for over 3 centuries, but came to an end with the beheading of Gerald, the 16th Earl, in the Demesne of Ballyseede. His head was later showcased in a cage on London Bridge. The castle along with 3000 acres was then later given on lease to Robert Blennerhassett, the lease being a that red rose be presented every year on Midsummer’s Day. The Blennerhassets then occupied the castle until 1966.

The Story of Ballyseede Castle

Only a stone’s throw from the Irish coast – near the mediaeval town of Tralee – stands Ballyseede Castle, an elegant and inviting hotel with an astonishing history of rebellion, conflict, and paranormal activity. In fact, the castle’s turbulent history began in the 16th century, before the castle was even built. The 3000 acre-estate that Ballyseede is now built on was once owned by the notoriously rebellious Fitzgerald family, whose dissent against Elizabeth I resulted in, not only their dispossession, but also a beheading. And, as a spine-chilling warning to all impressionable citizens, Fitzgerald’s head was gruesomely displayed in a cage on London Bridge. 

Following the departure of the Fitzgerald family, the Crown passed the estate to Thomas Blennerhassett of Cumberland, whose descendants resided at the castle until 1965. As the principal seat of the Blennerhassett family for almost four centuries, the original, decaying castle was rebuilt in 1721 before being expanded and developed by successive generations. During the lengthy Blennerhassett residency, the town of Tralee witnessed much violence, particularly during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. There are many tales of bloody violence occurring around Ballyseede Castle, including the brutal execution of several IRA prisoners outside castle gates, where a commemorative monument now stands.  

The last Blennerhassett to inhabit the castle, Hilda Blennerhassett, was perhaps the most notable of all. As a trained nurse who served in the First World War, Hilda was awarded the Mons Star for her work in Belgium and France – a medal usually given to male officers. Rumour has it that the ghost of Hilda is the friendliest spirit that inhabits Ballyseede, as her ghost tends to mind her own business while roaming the corridors, often appearing in the window of her former bedroom. It has even been suggested that the presence of Hilda’s ghost is announced by the smell of roses, which is mysterious, as no roses have been grown in the gardens since her death… 

And Hilda isn’t the only spirit that has been identified in this eerie castle. The current proprietors and a number of hotel guests have witnessed ghostly activity while staying at Ballyseede, including being awoken by a door being slammed shut time and time again, and various sightings of child servants who are thought to have fallen victim to the Great Irish Famine. As such, only the bravest of guests should choose to join the restless souls who roam Ballyseede – an ancient Irish castle with a history like no other.