The Irish Doors from the Game of Thrones Seasons – when trees fell in The Dark Hedges – they were crafted into beautiful pub doors that are located around Northern Ireland. Here is Game of Thrones Door 9 – Ballygally Castle Hotel. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones – these doors are a must see! This stop on GOT tour is door 9 from the series of 10.
Ireland is no stranger to haunted houses and castles with a frightening number of ghost stories. Ballygally Castle Hotel in County Antrim is a prime example of such a haunted dwelling. Numerous reports of paranormal activity and sightings were reported by the castle’s residents and guests over the years. Here’s how it all began.
History of a Haunted House
Ballygally Castle overlooks the sea at the head of Ballygally Bay. It has been transformed into a hotel in the 1950s.
The castle was built in 1625 by James Shaw of Scotland in a French chateau style, after renting the land from the Earl of Antrim. Shaw first came to Ireland in 1613.
The castle unsuccessfully came under attack several times during the rebellion of 1641from the Irish garrison at Glenarm.
The story of the ghosts that roam Ballygally Castle originate with Lady Isobel Shaw, wife of James Shaw, who it is said had locked her in the castle tower and starved her due to her inability to give him a male heir. She is said to have fallen to her death from the window of her room. Lady Isobel has been spotted by several guests of the hotel who said that she appeared in their rooms and then suddenly disappeared once again. They also said that they heard knocking on their doors in the middle of the night on several occasions.
A different version of the legend says that Lady Isobel might have become involved with a seaman, which drove her husband into a rage, doubting his daughter’s legitimacy, and leading him to lock his wife away for good.
Another ghost that is said to inhabit the Ballygally Castle Hotel is Madame Nixon. She can be heard walking around the hotel in her silk dress. The small room in the corner turret of the castle is known as “The Ghost Room” and is not used as a room in the hotel.
Ghost Sighting Accounts from Guests and Workers
Olga Henry, a manager at the hotel, once said, “I’m sort of very skeptical about the whole supernatural thing and ghosts. But the more I stay here and work here, the more I think there’s definitely something in this hotel.”
She tells the story of a guest who once stayed in a room right below the “Ghost Room”: “In the middle of the night he awoke and thought he was at home and one of his children had laid a hand on his back. He woke up and said that he could hear a child running about the room and laughing but nothing could be seen so he ran into the lobby in his boxers shorts in fright.”
She also reported another incident where she had set up the “Dungeon Room” in the tower for the guests they were expecting and she organized the table neatly for the meal. Even though she had locked the room, later on she found the table an absolute mess.
She said, “We’d set up the room up the day before. I made sure the glasses were sparkling, and the candelabra’s right, and it all looks the part. After setting up, we had locked the room. The next day, these guys were checking in that morning and I thought I’d go and open the Dungeon in case they wanted to have a look as to where they’d be dining. I went down and opened the dungeo, and the table was an absolute mess. Nothing else in the room had been disturbed, but all the glasses on the table were laid in a circle around the table. We had a round mirror in the center of the table with the candelabra on it, and everything was covered—including the glasses—in a scum or dust. It wasn’t the dust that you just wipe off, it was like a scum. But nowhere else in the room—just purely over the table. It definitely sent the hairs on the back of my neck up, because I’m thinking I had the key to this room, is there another key somewhere? And even so, I just couldn’t explain how hat happened. None of it made sense at all. It was very unnerving.”
Several mediums have attempted to spend the night at Ballygally Castle and have reported that they’ve detected more ghost presence than there were guests at the hotel. They heard children laughing and running around, showers turning themselves on…etc.
Paranormal Encounters by BBC Reporter
According to the book The World s Most Haunted Places by Jeff Belanger, “The week before Halloween in 1998, Kim Lenaghan, a reporter for the BBC radio program Good Morning Ulster, was recording a series of fun Halloween segments for the morning radio show and decided to spend the night in Ballygally Castle’s Ghost Room as one of her segments.,,Lenaghan said, “We thought it would be a laugh. We thought: Let’s go do the usual ‘spend a night in the spooky house’ story.” She had arranged to meet a psychic medium there, who would only go by the name of Sally…Lenaghan and Sally made their way up to the cold and drafty Ghost Room, and Sally began to go through a meditation ritual to try to make contact with one of the spirits of Ballygally Castle…Lenaghan said Sally seemed to be making contact, and that’s when the environment started to change. She said, “She was not in a trance, but she was certainly very focused on what she was doing. And I’m standing there with a tape recorder hoping for the best. The next thing that happened is it started to get a lot warmer. I mean significantly warmer—the temperature in the room must’ve gone up by 10 degrees. Then she [Sally] started talking to someone, literally coinciding with the temperature going up, and a smell came. It didn’t waft in—I mean the smell came straight on almost instantly. It smelled like vanilla, but it wasn’t exactly vanilla. While it was a vanilla-like smell, it was an old, slightly musty smell. Musty vanilla—I know it sounds ridiculous. But that’s what it was.” At that point, the hairs on the back of Lenaghan’s neck were up. The medium was having a conversation with someone in the room who was obviously distressed. Lenaghan likened the experience to listening to one side of a phone conversation. Sally was trying to calm down what she later called a very upset female spirit.
The medium would later explain that the spirit was that of a young woman who was scared and looking for her young daughter. The medium told Lenaghan that “they were keeping her there against her will, and she said there was an older woman who wouldn’t let her out of the room.” During the conversation, this woman continually ran to the window looking for a man named Robert who was out at sea. The spirit didn’t understand why Robert didn’t come back to get her. The experience lasted 7 or 8 minutes before Sally’s face went blank and she announced “I’ve lost her.” Lenaghan said, “And I knew instantly because, as she said that, the smell disappeared. A normal smell cannot just come and go like that, it literally disappeared—there was no trace of it. Also, as it went, the temperature in the room started to drop dramatically.” Back downstairs, the medium told Lenaghan, who was to be spending the rest of the night alone in the Ghost Room, not to worry—that the spirit was not evil, just scared…After midnight, the medium left and Lenaghan went upstairs with a flask of coffee, her tape recorder, a magazine to read, and, she also admits, a little brandy for “medicinal purposes.” She settled into the cold, uncomfortable room and accepted the fact she was not going to close the door to the room, turn out the light, or get any sleep that night. But around 2:30 in the morning, she did start to calm down a bit. Around 3 a.m., the room started to get noticeably warmer. Lenaghan said, “I thought: It’s the coffee and the brandy. And then it got even warmer and I thought: No, this isn’t right. And the next thing, the smell came back instantly—that same smell. And it was even stronger than before. The smell was very intense toward my head. Yes, it was a smell, but the weirdest thing of all was it was a smell that almost covered you, like a sheet—it was allpervasive. It was almost like you could feel the smell on your clothes and in your hair and on the bed. “I sat there for about a minute, paralyzed with fear. And I thought: Right, I’m a journalist, I’ve got to record a piece here—that’s why I’m here. So I got my tape recorder—and apparently this was amusing when it was played back the next day, but not for me at the time. So I’m saying, ‘It’s 3:00 in the morning. It’s gotten warmer, and the smell’s 20 The World’s Most Haunted Places just come back,’ and I’m going through this and the next thing I just said, ‘And I don’t like it, and I’m going home!’” Lenaghan claims she broke several Olympic sprint records that night as she darted down the very steep stone steps and back to the lobby. She said the same musty vanilla smell followed her all the way down the stairs, but stopped as soon as she crossed over to the new part of the hotel. The night manager gave Lenaghan a drink from the bar and took a very shaken BBC reporter to a room as far from the castle side of the hotel as possible, where she reluctantly spent the rest of the night. The next morning at breakfast, the manager said the infamous door knocking went on that same evening as some of the guests in the old part of the castle complained of strange rappings. One guest even said a woman walked into her room in the middle of the night, and when the guest sat up to look closer, the woman was gone. After breakfast, the manager told Lenaghan to go back upstairs to the Ghost Room and at least take a look at the room in daylight. Lenaghan said, “The next part may or may not have been a practical joke, and I’ll never know and I don’t ever want to know. After breakfast, I walked fairly gingerly up to the room, and there was no smell and it was really cold—it had been like when I first went in the night before. And we were just leaving and the manager said, ‘Oh my God. Look at the mirror!’ So I looked over at the mirror, and there was my name written in the dust on the mirror—‘Kim.’ And she said, ‘I didn’t do it.’ I made her interrogate the staff, and they all swore that they didn’t do it. I’ll never know for sure, but it absolutely freaked me out.”
Game of Thrones at Ballygally Castle?
The award-winning HBO series seems to have left no stone unturned along the Irish coast and beyond in search of filming locations. They definitely did not miss Ballygally Castle along the way. There you can find Game of Thrones Door 9.
So, if you ever visit the area, you will also be treated to a glimpse of the background scenery used in popular show. The cast and crew of Game of Thrones also frequently relaxed at Ballygally Castle. The Irish glens surrounding Ballygally Castle have been used to film everything from Winterfell to the King’s Road, The Iron Islands to Stormlands. You can now experience the fantasy world of author George R.R. Martin for yourself. It is the perfect location through which you can explore the Antrim Coast.
As Jeff Balanger says in his aforementioned book, “Ballygally Castle Hotel offers a combination of old-world charm and some feisty Irish spirits. If you do happen to get a strange knock on your door in the middle of the night, do be kind to Lady Shaw— the poor girl has been through a lot.”
Have a great visit!