Splash out on spooky break

Looking to take the little monsters away for Halloween? Pól Ó Conghaile has some frighteningly good fun for those travelling with or without the family.

Splash out on spooky break

Creepy Cork

It’s made of Sellotape, but the articulated dragon that snakes through Shandon every Halloween is every bit as impressive as a Mardi Gras float… and a million times as scary. This unique partnership between artists and the local community is one of the iconic Halloween events in Ireland, and it’s accompanied by all manner of goblins and ghouls.

Where to stay? For a spooky splash-out, try Castlemartyr Resort, which is build around the ruins of an 800-year-old castle. There’s nothing frightening about the five-star resort itself (unless you count the prices), but it does have two nights’ B&B with one family dinner and a spooky treat for the kids from €220 per night during mid-term.

Meanwhile, an extreme walk-through haunted event can be had at The Nightmare Realm in Cork city, (€12-€14) over 13s only though.

Also, Ballymaloe will be bewitching guests with a screening of the UK National Theatre’s Frankenstein on cinema-size screens (October 31; €10). The play stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller… and it looks like there could be gruesomely good eating in the early plus Halloween dinner at Ballymaloe House. (6pm; €45).

Details: dragonofshandon.com; castlemartyrresort.ie; ballymaloe.ie; thenightmarerealm.ie

Kooky Kenmare

Kenmare is known for its warm welcome, but this Halloween it promises to transform itself into the scariest town in Ireland. Think headless horseman galloping through a haunted forest, spooky storytelling, horror movies at the Carnegie Arts Centre and lots of witches, wizards, ghosts and ghouls.

The Halloween Howl takes place Oct 26-31.

MkKidsTime.ie is a great resource for family-friendly events and special offers, and one of its picks for the area is the Kenmare Bay Resort’s 2B&B+1D package. It’s priced at €119 per adult, with kids under the age of 12 going free. That includes the full kids’ club.

Meanwhile, the five-star Sheen Falls Lodge has a similar package with bike rides, tennis, swimming, DVDs and board games — from €420 per stay.

Details: kenmare.ie; kenmarebayhotel.com; sheenfallslodge.ie.

Weird & Wonderful

Wicklow Gaol is one of the most haunted buildings in Ireland, so it’s little surprise that Halloween is a big deal. Horror Week runs from Oct 25 through Nov 1, with highlights including a Terrifying Touch Tour featuring slugs, spiders and disembodied eyeballs (€19 per family), and paranormal investigations (for adults only; 9pm-3am from €50pp).

Not far away, the petrifying Palladian pile that is Russborough House opens for its first Halloween festivities. Family-friendly activities range from cookie-making to ghost stories and terrifying treats in the spook room (€6). There’ll be spook hunts in the maze (€5), as well as a special spook torch trail to Lord Milltown’s tomb on Halloween itself (€6).

Where to stay? Nearby Druids Glen’s Resort has mid-term family packages from €380, including two nights’ B&B with dinner on one evening for two adults… along with pumpkin carving, fancy dress parties, movies, arts and crafts and kids’ golf.

Details: wicklowshistoricgaol.com; russborough.ie; druidsglenresort.com.

Dastardly Dublin

Did you know Bram Stoker was born in Dublin? In fact, the author of Dracula not only grew up in Clontarf and Artane, but studied in Trinity College and worked at Dublin Castle before going on to write his seminal horror novel. It’s only in recent years, however, that a fully-fledged Bram Stoker Festival has been staged – and this year sees its best incarnation yet.

Highlights of Dublin’s Bram Stoker Festival (Oct 24-26) include Dracula’s Fire Garden in Dublin Castle, complete with flame-lined paths and spooks brought to life by Spraoí, a screening of The Addams Family in Christ Church, ‘Vamportraits’ taken by a professional photographer on the city streets, and an exhibition on the book in the Little Museum of Dublin.

Further north, there are pumpkin-carving workshops in Glasnevin Cemetery (Oct 25 & 26, €12). Some 1.2 million souls are buried here, so the Children’s Ghastly Glasnevin tours could be worth a look too (Oct. 26-30; €10/€6). Your guide is The Ace of Spades… Bewley’s Hotels have a special offer bundling three nights’ accommodation in a family room with one dinner including passes to Dublin Zoo (hosting its annual Spooktacular Boo event) and Tayto Park from €369.

Details: bramstokerfestival.com; glasnevintrust.ie; bewleyshotels.com.

Cryptic Carlow

Rathwood’s choo-choo trains usually prompt squeals of delight rather than fear, but this month, the Co. Carlow destination centre (it’s got shops, restaurants, a garden centre and birds of prey centre) is running a Halloween train (€10/€5).

Get ready for an enchanted forest populated with spooky characters, a magical fairy playground and some pumpkin-carving with local witches… and a free hot chocolate thrown in. The trains run Oct 19 to 31.

Don’t miss Huntington Castle, either. Clonegal’s creepiest comes into its own at Halloween, drawing on a rich tradition of ghost stories to scare the pants off visitors. A glimmer of Grace O’Malley, mysterious monks in the yew tree walk and subterranean dungeons all feature on tours (€10.95/€8.95). They even recommend you bring your own torches… Family tours suited to the under 12s take place from 4-6pm. A good accommodation fit could be The Step House Hotel in Borris, which has three nights for the price of two on midweek special from €159pp, with kids going free in a family room.

Details: rathwood.com; huntingtoncastle.com; stephousehotel.ie

Mysterious Meath

Could Meath be the birthplace of Halloween? Samhain (literally, ‘summer’s end’) festivities date back more than 2,000 years, and appear to have originally been marked by druids lighting fires on the county’s Hill of Ward (formerly the Hill of Tlachtga).

You can follow in those footsteps during the Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival (Oct. 18 — Nov 3), where day and night events combine child-friendly and adult-only themes into a bumper two- week programme. Zombie paintball, a ‘Megalithic Man’ adventure race and the traditional torchlight procession (Oct 31) are just some of the highlights.

Another tip is Ireland’s most frightening Halloween farm experience. Causey Farm runs two interactive trails based on spine-tingling sojourns around the farm: Pooka Spooka (suitable for families; €13) and Farmaphobia (most definitely adult-only; €16).

Finally, there’s the option of a drive-in horror movie at Tattersalls Country House in Ratoath (Oct 24-Nov 2; €22 per car). Movies include Psycho, The Shining, Paranormal Activity and… erm, Shrek.

There’s also a freakish-sounding ‘Tourist Torture Barn.’

Details: spiritsofmeath.ie; causey.ie; tattersalls.ie/movies.

Four Frightful Holidays

1)Bran Castle, Transylvania: Bram Stoker never set foot in Romania, but that hasn’t stopped Bran Castle, pictured below, from sinking its teeth into the public imagination. Perched on a plinth overlooking Bran Pass, ‘Dracula’s Castle’ is a highlight of vampire vacations in Transylvania. “Our ways are not your ways,” as the count says. “And there shall be to you many strange things…” Bran-castle.com.

2) The Stanley, Colorado: Lismore Castle is opening up its banqueting hall for a special screening of The Shining (€10pp, including pizza and drinks) on Oct 31. But what about going the whole hog with an overnight at The Stanley, the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s book? The Colorado hotel has a history of “interesting occurrences”, including a haunted housekeeper and guests being “tucked in” by ghostly nannies. Lismorecastlearts.ie; stanleyhotel.com.

3) Universal Studios, Orlando: Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios are legendary, with the Orlando theme park transformed into a scare-fest. Live shows, a haunted house bringing zombie show The Walking Dead to life, run through Oct 31. American Holidays has packages from €€679pp. See www.americanholidays.com/special-offer/web-special?#.Ul-8PlCsiSo for the offer.

4) The Isle of Fright’s Apocalypse: Abandon hope, all ye who enter the Isle of Wight’s Park of the Dead. This live action experience twists real-life events and the macabre military stories from Puckpool Park, immersing visitors in a trouser-soiling horror experience. Expect loud noises, flashing lights, and moments of madness. Yikes. Parkofthedead.co.uk.

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