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Irish graveyards hold the final resting places of rebels, spies, sea captains and soldiers, alongside casualties of the food shortages and disease that dogged the poorest members of the country’s population during the 18th and 19th centuries. Even older cemeteries tell the story of the ‘saints and scholars’ of early Christian Ireland, and the kings that sought their spiritual guidance. Read on to discover some of Ireland’s most intriguing burial sites.
The oldest gravestone at St Nahi’s 18th-century church in Dundrum dates back to 1734. In the intervening years, the graveyard served as both a mass famine grave and the final resting place for patients of the nearby Central Mental Hospital. It’s also home to a plot of graves of Irish Republicans killed during the 1798 uprising, and one of the fatalities in the Bloody Sunday incident that took place at Croke Park in 1920.
St Nahi’s, Churchtown Rd Upper, Churchtown Lower, Dublin, Ireland, +353 1 298 5491
The earliest known burial to have taken place at the mysterious graveyard at Temple Hill in Cork was a gruesome one. After the 1690 Siege of Cork, the intestines of Henry FitzRoy – 1st Duke of Grafton and an illegitimate son of King Charles II – were buried here, while his body went back to England.
This area in County Meath served as a workhouse, fever hospital and graveyard during the Great Famine of the mid-19th century in Ireland, which killed around one million people. During the winter of 1850 alone, the Dunshaughlin Workhouse had around 700 residents, many of whom died of cholera or typhoid. The graveyard holds approximately 1,000 graves. The Haunted Sites Team of the Sacred Sites website – who conducted a paranormal investigation at the site in 2012 – reported that they felt there were ‘at least three if not four strong spirits’ still trapped there.
The College Graveyard at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth – also known as the National Seminary for Ireland – dates back to 1817. You can find the graveyard through a shaded tunnel of interlocking yew trees, which is exceptionally creepy at night, and made even more so by the fact that the cemetery is apparently the burial site of the two students who died in the campus’ notorious ‘Room No. 2’. The setting of Maynooth’s best-known ghost story, Room No. 2 supposedly had a demonic force inhabiting it, and it led the students to commit suicide. This graveyard also houses the remains of several well-known Irish figures, including the priest Eoghan O’Growney, a co-founder of the Gaelic League.
St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland, +353 1 708 3964
Another Wicklow valley, Glendalough is famous for its Early Medieval monastic settlement, founded in the 6th century. Historians believe that one of its buildings, known as the Priests’ House, was possibly built to house relics of St Kevin, the founder of the monastery. Later, during the 18th and 19th centuries, it became a burial site for priests. At the Upper Lake, you will find Reefert Church, which dates from around 1100. Its original Irish name translates to ‘the burial place of the kings’, referring to the fact that it holds the graves of members of the prominent O’Toole family, Kings of Leinster and Princes of Imaile.