A ghost story is not complete without the wails of a long-lost spirit roaming the halls of a dark and eerie castle. Some of our barge cruises feature excursions to a few of Europe’s most magnificent and haunted castles with many possessing elements of the supernatural.
IRELAND – Leap Castle
Leap Castle is one of Ireland’s most famous sites for ghosts with its history of bloody family rivalries and is deeply embedded in the country’s extensive mythology. It is one of the excursions offered by the 10-passenger Shannon Princess, cruising along the River Shannon through Ireland’s spectacular countryside.
Leap Castle stands on an ancient rock near the town of Birr in County Offaly, guarding a strategic pass through the Slieve Bloom mountain range. According to legends, the castle’s ghoulish saga began centuries ago when two brothers, contesting the chieftainship of their family, challenged each other to leap from a rock where the castle was to be built. The survivor would get to govern the clan. This is a site of much violence, murder, and mayhem. Many people were imprisoned and executed in the castle, and it is supposedly haunted by several spectres, one of which was a murdered at “The Bloody Chapel,” where, some claim, his apparition can still be seen wandering.
While renovating the castle, workers discovered an oubliette, a dungeon where people are locked away and left to die. There are spikes at the bottom of this shaft, and when it was being cleaned out, it took three cartloads to carry out all the human bones at the bottom. But take heart! During the cruise, guests will also be treated to another kind of spirit – a private tasting at the Kilbeggan Whiskey Distillery. Not a bad day out!
FRANCE – Château d’Ancy-le-Franc
Offering centuries of dramatic history, the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc is classified as a Historic Monument. This flagship of Renaissance château was built in the 16th century by the same Italian architect of the Château de Fontainebleau, and sits upon 123 acres of parkland. It is renowned for its remarkable collection of mural paintings. This stately residence, located on the Canal de Bourgogne, has a haunting atmosphere. It was the final home of Diane de Poitiers, the famous mistress of the 16th century French King Henry II. Local legends claim that her ghost still roams the countless rooms in the chateau.
Visit Château d’Ancy-le-Franc while cruising aboard luxury hotel barge La Belle Epoque on the Canal de Bourgogne.
SCOTLAND – Cawdor Castle
On a barge cruise in the Scottish Highlands, one can visit the magnificent and moody Cawdor Castle with its deep dry moat, brooding square tower, portcullis and the only surviving drawbridge at a private castle in Scotland. This castle is the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, one of the bard’s most bloody plays, where witches and ghosts figure prominently. These cruises also visit the mystical battlefield of Culloden, site of the Highlands’ most horrific conflict, and Glencoe, known for the infamous massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692. Visitors say they can still hear the soldiers’ cries and the skirl of the pipes on the plaintive winds.