Tours from Dublin
Exploring the Dark History of the Hellfire Club
Just outside of the bustling streets of Dublin stretches miles of unscathed rolling mountains. These mountains are home to legends hundreds of years past, legends so tightly woven into the bogs of these hills that I needed a personal guide to share them with me. So, I enlisted in the help of my dear Irish friend to join me on a day trip near Dublin to explore the dark history of the Hellfire Club.
Meet Ed Hannon, writer of Visions of the Past, one of my favorite Irish blogs documenting Irish history and locale. Ed was kind enough to cart me about these breathtaking hills and to share with me legends from high above the city of Dublin from the summit of Montpelier Hill overlooking the serene Glenasmole valley.
We came together at the Hellfire Club
Originally named Mount Pelier, the Hellfire Club was built by William Conolly as a hunting lodge in 1725 where it is still perched high above Dublin at 1,257 feet, a seat with a perfect view. The very construction of this building entailed doom said to be built from the stones of a prehistoric passage grave. Its original roof was blown off just after completion, leading the locals to believe it was the work of dark forces.
And So the Legend of the Hellfire Club Begins
The road winding up the mountain to the Hellfire Club is narrow and wrapped in tunnels of the greenest trees I’ve ever seen. We passed over hills overlooking valleys with the loveliest country cottages. I encountered a red-breasted robin that seemingly was enjoying the view as much as I was, I am sure of it.
It’s amazing how just a short drive away from the living streets of the city can land you in a page torn right from a fairytale, the kind of fairytale where you are surrounded by the most beautiful sorts of nature and colors, that wrap around the darkest of structures, with the darkest and ugliest of legends.
Evil encounters, paranormal activities, debauchery, demonic manifestations and ritualistic cult practices within this building have become part of the local folklore. –Ed Hannon, Visions of the Past
Just before the entrance to the Hellfire Club Trail, there is a pink cottage. This is not just any old cottage, it is the Killakee House, and its legend is grim.
In the mid 1700s this home was known as the Dower home, and it became a frequent site of debauchery for the members of the Hellfire Club when their man cave atop the hill caught fire. Activities included devil worship, the ritualistic killing of animals (especially black cats), the brutal beating to death of a man, and the burning to death of a woman.
The home is known to be haunted with poltergeist activity and a spectral black feline the size of a large dog. Multiple exorcisms have yet to heal this dwelling. I’ve read that it is a restaurant now, but I sure didn’t seem like one. In fact, had it not been for the one car in the drive behind the chain bound iron gate, I would’ve thought this place to be barren.
Just across the street is Massey Woods, remains of the Killakee Estate inherited by the Massey family in 1880. If you have the time I recommend a walk through its trails. It is a lovely forest steeping with wonder, a portal to the imagination.
We Pressed On to the Hellfire Club
The hike to the summit of Montpelier Hill is steep. I passed a man picking magic mushrooms, unusual but funny. The woods were thin, just enough to enjoy the trees perched along the steep hillside with patterns of sunlight beaming through. Fall is certainly the perfect time of year to enjoy this hike and the changing colors of the forest.
We finally reached the end of the trail marked by blackberry bushes ripe for the picking. The clearing was so vast, and the sky was so clear that you could see all of the city below. There it was, rudely displaced on this perfect green hill with this perfect view from high above the city…the Hellfire Club.
Its stone walls were as dark as the legends that came from them. The energy of this building was cautious, and curious. Naturally I went inside to investigate.
Walking into the Hellfire Club was like walking into a dark alley in the middle of the night. Immediately all of your senses are on guard and you have that feeling that you should be getting through this as quickly as possible.
Your gut tells you that these walls are alive, with stories to tell…
And, that you don’t belong there…
We made our rounds through the corridors, speculating its structure, trying to understand its story. Outside and around the back of the building were these displaced mounds that no one seems to mention…ever, nonetheless curious.
We started to head back towards the trail, to make our descent to the car park. I left with more questions than I had before I arrived. Questions I will never have answers to. Perhaps this is why people make answers, answers that become legends, legends that lure people in, and build landscapes of something fantastic.
Our tour of legends continues into the Wicklow Mountains to the Monastic Settlement of Glendalough, the site of the first written Irish legends from their ancient oral passage.
In the meantime, if you’re thinking about going: