Lady Isabella Shaw, who is said to have been haunting Ballygally Castle for more than 400 years, is very much one of the main attractions for many of the visitors to the hotel.
Paranormal investigators and amateur ghostbusters alike have been fascinated by the story of the wife of Lord James Shaw who is believed to have been kept locked away and starved by her husband when she was unable to bear the son he so badly wanted. She is said to have leapt to her death from a window.
Visitors to the hotel’s ghost room can sense the castle’s chilling atmosphere for themselves, after climbing the twisting staircase to the sparsely furnished room where the troubled Lady Isabella is said to have jumped to her death. A portrait of her gazes down from one of the whitewashed walls.
Websites like www.hauntedrooms.co.uk, www.gothichorrorstories.com and www.haunted-britain.com report that Lady Isabella’s ghost is still as active as ever - as she continually prowls the corridors of the hotels, knocking on doors.
This year, a special ‘ghost package’ has been introduced to give guests the opportunity to perhaps get to know one of Ireland’s most famous ghosts a little better.
Stephen Perry, general manager at Ballygally Castle, explained that there is always a big interest in the hotel’s eerie activity.
“People are always keen to find out more about our ghost and so we have this special package throughout October and November where guests can really get a flavour of the hotel’s history.
“As part of our special ‘ghost package’ we are offering guided tours of the original castle, which was built in 1625, taking in the original kitchens - now the dungeon room - the original living room and the hidden WC. Of course there’s also a visit to the ghost room, named in memory of Lady Isabella Shaw,” he said.
The package offers two nights bed and breakfast, with one evening meal for £200 for two people and runs through to the end of November.
Despite the current economic downturn, visitors continue to arrive at Ballygally from across the globe, but the hotel’s manager had noticed a change in booking habits - and has spotted some new opportunities.
“People may not be having that second holiday abroad any more, but we are finding they still want to enjoy the treat of a holiday break. Here in Ballygally we can offer the ideal location, whether they want to simply chill out by the sea or try something more adventurous such as coasteering, for example,” he said.
A seasonal special that is perfect for this time of year has also been introduced at the hotel. A bowl of delicious spiced pumpkin soup, served with warm pumpkin seed bread, along with a glass of Carsons Crisp Armagh cider is available for £6 at any time of the day. It’s another way that Stephen Perry sees the hotel meeting the changing demands of the public.
“They can come here and chill out by the fire, enjoy a meal or afternoon tea and perhaps stop over as well. It really is the ideal place at any time of year, but when it’s cold outside and the fire is blazing in here, there really is no better place,” he said.