Shankill Castle – ScareFest, Co. Kilkenny

Annual Shankill Castle ScareFest is the ideal place to visit during Halloween.

Shankill Castle is set in parkland near Paulstown on the Carlow/Kilkenny border. It is just 16km from Kilkenny and 19km from Carlow.

Moreover, Shankill Castle, one of the Irish house castles, is a unique family home often described as a living museum.

Firstly, it was first built as a Butler tower house near the ruins of a pre-reformation church. Then, in 1708 it was rebuilt and set in a formal landscape. Vista to the front and a canal to the rear, Peter Aylward. Then, in the 19th century, it was enlarged and castellated. Also, serpentine bays were added to the canal and an unusual polyhedral sundial is given pride of place on a sunken lawn. Moreover, the stable yard and castellated entrance to the demesne are attributed to Daniel Robertson.

Shankill Castle is now home and studio to the artist Elizabeth Cope whose paintings are on display.

What’s more, her exhibitions are frequently hosted in the castle and farmyard. Which are also used as artists’ studios. And attracting visitors not just locally, but from the whole of Ireland and internationally.

Nowadays visitors can take a guided tour of the castle and a walk around the gardens. Visit in Spring for snowdrops, daffodils, and tulips. In Summer the meadows, art exhibitions, and sunshine walks. In Autumn for the ScareFest, ghost tours, and wand and quill making. And Winter for drawing classes, and winter workshops.

So, visitors can take an ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’ guided tour of the castle, led by a member of the current residents, the Cope family. Visit the ‘upstairs’ rooms: the public rooms where the Aylward family (the family who built the house) entertained, such as the dining room, anteroom, and drawing room. Then take a look behind-the-scenes at the ‘downstairs’: the servants’ stairs and the basement. These rooms provide insight into how the house would have been run in the past. Hear tales and anecdotes from the history of the house, and see how the house is lived today. Also view the paintings of Elizabeth Cope, which are on display throughout the house.

I also had the pleasure of visiting and viewing the interior of Shankhill Castle. What`s more, my personal guide was Ms. Elizabeth Cope herself. But, one drawback, to protecting the items on display and structure, photography is not permitted inside the building. However, the tour and stories by Ms. Cope were fantastic.

Besides, visitors can also explore the extensive gardens at Shankill Castle, from the Victorian walled garden to the sweeping lawns, moated gardens, and woodland walks. There is plenty to discover and enjoy, including topiary, contemporary sculptures, ruins of an ancient church and graveyard, and secret fairy woods.

Visit the official website:

Shankhill Castle is the ideal location for Halloween and it hosts the annual Scarefest. 

This is a festival I highly recommend. But be warned, it’s not one for the faint-hearted.

Location of Shankhill Castle:

So as a visitor, I found it terrifying even during the day. Below you will find the photos of my visit to Shankhill Castle.


Blogger. Volunteer. Enthusiast of photography, nature, architecture, and cultural events. Since 2014 living in County Carlow in Ireland.

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