Red Heads and Ghosts at Malahide Castle, Ireland

How do you spend your 8th birthday when you were born on Leapday? In our red-headed son’s case, you celebrate with a visit to the haunted Malahide Castle in Ireland.

This post originally appeared on in the Travelfluential section.

Our business trip took us to Ireland and fell across our son’s birthday. It’s terrible to miss your kid’s birthday when you travel for work but way, way worse when your kid has a leap day birthday and you are missing an event that only truly happens once every four years. That would have been catastrophic.

So we did the reasonable thing and brought our 7, soon to be 8 year old Leap Baby along to Ireland. 

We allowed two extra days to explore Dublin. Not very long, considering all that is there to be seen. That’s ok. I don’t like to see it all in one trip. It’s best to have something to look forward to when we come back.

I looked up some of the things that might be fun to do there for an 8 year old boy and came up with 3 “musts.” the purportedly haunted Malahide Castle , the Viking Duck Boat tour, as well as the Viking museum “Dublinia” were all highly rated favorites. We saved the haunted castle for his birthday and chose to take the DART (public transportation) to Malahide and walk to the castle.

Malahide castle is up the coast from Dublin and a short 40 minute train ride. Once there it’s about a mile walk door to door from the train station to the castle. Maybe shorter but in a downpour in squidgy soggy shoes, it seems about as far as Rome from Wessex.

Malahide castle graveyard

Regardless, it’s not a particularly challenging walk and I imagine in summer it would be delightful.

There were  bikes for rent at the gates to the castle grounds. I’d love to go back to the haunted Malahide castle and explore the grounds and gardens in better weather.

Malahide Castle Exterior

I’m not exactly sure what I expected from the castle. I think large bricks and dungeons were what I was picturing, maybe some decayed stone staircases and broken turrets. The standard castle-y stuff. There was only a whiff of that vibe in the graveyard and church beside the castle and also in the view of the castle from the side. Inside it was a whole other story.

Malahide Castle Parlour

In fact the castle housed a very civilized and well appointed modern residence that was very Downton Abbey like. It was maintained by the Talbot family for over 800 years as their home, through the 1970s.

We were intrigued by the family portrait that included this little red headed boy,  Milo Talbot. Milo was about the same age as my son, when the portrait was made. He grew up to be quite a character. There is speculation about whether Milo might have been a spy. A quirk of this painting is that the children’s eyes appear to follow you, no matter where you stand.

Malahide Castle Talbot Family Portrait

The priest’s hole is directly behind the chair at the head of the table. It is a hidden chamber where priests could be hidden. The story is that the key was long ago lost and the priest’s hole was not unlocked for centuries. Who knows what’s in the priest’s hole now? Maybe some really well aged whiskey.

Dining room and priests hole at Malahide

Malahide castle, like all good castles, is reported to be haunted which was one of its attractions for us. Ghosts are rumored to be heard on the stairs and in the gallery (and by the small door “Puck’s door” pictured to the right below the gallery) in the dining room.

Puck was a traveling minstrel who allegedly committed suicide upon realizing his affections for one of the ladies of the house, could not be returned.

Puck's Door in the Dining Room at Malahide Castle

I thought I saw a ghost in the library, but that’s just me.

Library at Malahide Castle

There was so much history and such a compelling story to this castle that I am now curious to learn more about the Talbot family.

All in all, Malahide was a great outing and I’m only wistful we did not have more time and better weather to explore.

You can find more info about Malahide Castle on their website and this very informative video shot on a sunnier day makes us long to return.