The Hell Fire Club, Dublin
As a native Dubliner, I grew up on tales of the infamous Hellfire Club in the Dublin Mountains. I'm also a lover of ghost tours, and was very pleasantly surprised to find that someone had started running haunted tours of the place. Hidden Dublin Walks also run ghost tours in the city centre, which I have been on and thoroughly enjoyed, so I thought I'd give this tour a try. At first I thought €22 sounded a little expensive, but it turned out to be well worth it! The meeting point was The Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin, and famously haunted by the ghost of Robert Emmet, so a perfect place to start. We were then taken by bus to the Dublin Mountains, and made our way up Montpelier Hill to the Hellfire Club itself. The building was originally a hunting lodge built in 1725, but it was taken over by a group of young aristocrats who held drunken orgies here, as well as, it is said, practicing the Occult. These men were Satanists and held black masses in the lodge, as well as sacrificing cats, and sometimes their own servants during rituals. We heard the terrible story of a young man who was murdered at The Hellfire Club back in the 18th Century, and buried under the kitchen of a nearby farmhouse - Killakee House. They actually found his body in the 1970's, buried with a statue of The Devil. It is said that The Devil himself has appeared at The Hellfire Club, as well as a huge demonic black cat! The tour was great - the place was unbelievably creepy and had a weird smell of sulphur about it, or as some might say, brimstone! A couple of ladies on the tour said they felt something touch them. Apparently something in there likes to pull at people's jewellery, especially crucifixes! The guide, Andrew, was great, and entertained us with some interesting stories on the journey to and from the mountains. I never knew Ireland had its own Headless Horseman! Great stuff. And the perfect end to the night - we all went back to The Brazen Head and got a discount on our first drink as part of the tour! I can't recommend it enough; a brilliant night out and possibly the best ghost tour I've ever been on, and I've been on a lot!
The Hell Fire Club is at the top of a hill (383m) in a forest park of the same name. Its a brooding derelict building with an interesting history. Originally this site was an old passage tomb similar to those found at Newgrange etc. Given its prominence on this hill with fantastic views of the area that is now Dublin one can only speculate as to how important a site this might have been..
The masses of people who stroll over this hill at the weekend don’t realise its history or intriguing past. If you go to the back of the building you will notice a circular shaped dip this was the centre of the passage tomb chamber. Passage tombs date from c 3000 BC or older !
William ‘Speaker’ Conolly the speaker of the Irish House of Commons built the house as a hunting lodge in 1725 with stone from the original passage tomb. The building is thus said to be cursed e.g. the slate roof was blew off in a storm shortly after it was built and replaced with the stone roof you now see.
The Hell Fire Club was founded by Richard Parsons, the 1st Earl of Rosse in 1735 and the 'club' acquired the lodge about that time. Hell Fire clubs were popular in England and some in Ireland. They met here and at Eagle Tavern (now gone) on Cork Hill (Dublin Castle). Club members know as “Bucks” were from wealthy families and they would meet to drink Scultheen, (special mixture of whiskey and butter), gamble, fight, duel and get up to all sorts of loutish behaviour (including murder). The reference to Hell Fire and links to satanic rituals were mainly symbolic and mostly their raucous behaviour was a parody of the church rather than satanic worship per se. Many myths and legends surround the lodge including the appearance of the devil etc.
If you are brave enough then go there. The view of Dublin is brilliant. At dusk it is an eerie place. On modern note of caution it is not a good idea to travel alone as there can be a few modern young “bucks” having the odd cider party at the lodge !
The Hellfire Club on the summit of Mount Pelier is a beautiful spot in the Dublin Mountains from where you have a great view over the city. There is a little carpark at the just off the Killakee road, around 200 m further up from Killakee House, and from there you can either walk straight up the mountain to the top, or take the less demanding but longer forest path that zig-zags its way up the mountain. On the top you will come to a clearing dominated by a ruined house where the Hellfire Club is supposed to have held their infamous meetings. The view from up there on a clear day is fantastic.