I had long been enamored of the stories swirling around the eerie Leap Castle in County Offaly. Notorious for being the most haunted castle in Ireland, Leap looms out of the rolling countryside, a crooked finger gesticulating at a leaden sky, windows like the dark eyes of a fractured soul. Even Simon Marsden, that intrepid photographer of the macabre edifices dotting the northern european landscape, names Leap as "without a shadow of doubt the most sinister and frightening building I have ever photographed." With a violent and tragic history, Leap is home to a number of ghosts, including an 'elemental' - half human, half beast - that emits a foul odour as it haunts the curving stairwell leading down to the ancient hall. The current owners run private tours of the dismal interior. Call +353 057 913 1115.