Destination-Inspired Stories

What in the Samhain?

What in the Samhain?

Recently updated on May 23rd, 2024 at 12:07 pm

It's Spooky Season! Let's have an Irish Halloween!

There’s a chill in the air and a shift in the wind – spooky season is officially here! But- did you know that Halloween’s origins are in Ireland?

Originally known as Samhain (pronounced Sah-when) it marked the point in the year where the veil between two worlds – the living and the dead – would be at its thinnest. That’s spooky season at its finest.

Celebrated with bonfires, dancing, chilling tales and treats, you can still find Irish Halloween (ahem – and Samhain) traditions alive and well in the Celtic Isles today. If you love autumn travel, or should we say spooky season travel?

We know the best things to do to get closer to Halloween’s origins in Ireland and experience frighteningly good times with activities, haunted places to stay in Ireland and Irish Halloween time festivals to attend.

Plus – if you want to drift through the fog to our island yourself for a Halloween visit, Brendan Vacations takes the fright out of planning. Our Celtic Experts can help you build the best Ireland Halloween vacation of your spooky season dreams.

The inside of a hall with a staircase leading up to the second floor

Spooky Season: The most haunted place in Ireland

Thought to be the most haunted place in Ireland, the Kilmainham Gaol was where Irish rebels for independence were held. In crowded conditions with swift sentences being met out, this place has seen a number of souls pass through its heavy padlocked doors – and it’s thought that some never left. Now, you can tour it and learn the story of the Irish struggle for independence.

Owl in the fullmoon night

Spooky Season: Irish Legends - Banshees

If you’re ever in the countryside of Ireland and Scotland at night and you hear a high-pitched keening scream – it might be the Banshee (Bean Si in Gaelic). According to legends, she’s said to be a type of fairy (not one of the nice ones) and to hear her scream is an ill omen… or perhaps it’s the conversation of an owl, maybe a fox? Rest assured, our tours, stays and trips remain Banshee-free, all year round.

A very tall building sitting on the side of a road

Spooky Season: A Haunted Castle Hotel

Ballygally Castle is a stately and hauntingly beautiful castle hotel with a reputation that is just a tiny bit ghostly and grand bit well, just grand. This isn’t a spooky season scary story – it’s actually quite sweet. Beautiful and romantic on the water, this Northern Ireland hotel is thought, according to some folktales, to have a more permanent guest who is by all accounts friendly and happy. Perhaps they are so spirited because they get to welcome guests to such a lovely and lively place. While it’s all cheeky rumor and story, we love the idea of a place being so wonderful that you just can’t leave. So if you’re looking for an elegant, historic stay, look no further than the one on the Antrim coast, with a rumored friendly ghost.

A group of carved pumpkins sitting in front of a building

Spooky Season: Irish Legends – Jack O’Lantern Origins

Did you know that Irish Halloween Jack O’ Lanterns were not our beloved pumpkins … they were TURNIPS!

The tradition originated from an Irish tale about Stingy Jack who refused to pick up the bill, not knowing he was drinking with the devil. He was cursed to walk in darkness with only a candle in a partially eaten turnip to guide his way. Some say he’s still out there… wandering….

People in costumes that are standing in the street

Spooky Season: The best Irish Halloween Festivals

We love a good spooky story and Ireland’s most gothic writer Bram Stoker is treated to his own festival in Dublin at the end of every October to explore his writing and life. ️Feeling a little more like mischief and revelry? The Puca Festival in Trim and Meath are a celebration of art, performance, food and festival fires paying traditional tribute to Halloween’s Irish history. What, you want something big? Alright you asked for it: Derry Halloween. This is where Samhain is thought to have its earliest origins and no one does it bigger than Derry~Londonderry. Festivities take over the walled city for the largest Halloween celebration in Europe. Scheduling a stop along the way for any of these festivals is a perfect addition to an autumn road trip vacation in Ireland.

A stone castle with a walkway leading to it

Spooky Season: Haunted Ruins in Ireland

Jutting out over the water on a crag on the Antrim coast is the pile of ruins that is Dunluce Castle. It was once the seaside seat of Clan MacDonnell, looming large on the rocks. Over the centuries, wear and tear and weather took its toll and in the 18th century, a wall collapsed and slid off into the ocean, turning this historic haunt into something well, a little more haunting. It’s far back from the road, but you can still see this castle on your way to the Giant’s Causeway.

A black cat with yellow eyes sitting on a rock
Image by wirestock on Freepik

Spooky Season: Irish Legends – Black Cats

If a black cat crosses your path – you should pssst psst psst and try to pet it of course. A part of Halloween’s origin comes from its stories and there’s few more iconic characters in Halloween history than The Black Cat. In Celtic superstitions, the Cait Sidhe or Cat Si was an enormous black cat that could steal your soul. While we prefer them to steal our hearts, there’s a tradition in leaving out a saucer of milk for this particular fae creature on Halloween. We think that’s a puuurrrrrrfect note to end on or we’d be up all night with spooky season stories.

Curiouser than a cat about Celtic travel? Connect with the Celtic Experts and find out what travel style and trip is right for you. 

Brittany Hanson

Brittany Hanson

Brittany Hanson has been professionally writing for news, academia public relations and institutional outreach since 2007. Now, she's dedicated to bringing readers interesting, fun and helpful information to help them on their journeys. Loves: running, reading, California's central coast, London's mass transit systems and any moderate to very-good animal.

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