A stitched together panorama showing the front of the Hell Fire Club, a little blurred by a misty rain and rain spots on the lens.
On our recent trip to Dublin, we ventured outside the city on our last day before going home, to a spot in County Dublin that I’ve long wanted to visit. On Montpelier Hill, a 383 metre high hill in the Wicklow/Dublin Mountains, stands the Hell Fire Club, a location shrouded in mystery and legend.
The hill is named after the building at the summit, a hunting lodge built by William Conolly around 1725. Conolly was said to be the richest man in Ireland, and I could fill a post on him alone. The hill was the site of a cairn and ancient passage grave, and many of the stones were taken from it for the construction. This led to the first of the legends attached to the site, and the first supernatural links – when the roof of the lodge was blown off in a storm soon after completion, it was said to be revenge by the Devil for disturbing the tomb. Why the Devil was annoyed at the disturbance of the tomb was not explained, and he was obviously having an off day if the best the lord of all evil could manage was vandalising a roof! The roof was replaced by the still existing stone version, which adds to the odd appearance of the building.
The lodge was let to a group known as the Hell Fire Club by the Conolly family shortly after, and the lodge, and sometimes the entire hill have since often been referred to by that name. The Hell Fire Club was formed in 1737 by several elites and members of the Anglo-Irish nobility. The lodge was used for riotous parties, and supposedly satanic rituals, animal and human sacrifice, cannibalism and murder! Members included Richard Chappell Whaley, Simon Luttrell, Henry 4th Baron Barry of Santry, Lord Irnham, Colonel Henry Ponsonby, Colonel Richard St George and Colonel Clements. Stories include the sacrifice of a dwarf, demonic manifestations, and the murder and eating of a local farmer’s daughter. Another young woman was placed in a barrel which was set on fire and rolled down the hill and heer ghost is still said to haunt the area. It was said that at meetings, one seat was left empty for the Devil. A stranger who turned up was invited in, and was revealed during a game of cards to have cloven hooves, before vanishing. A local farmer who crept up to the lodge at night to spy on the goings-on was discovered, dragged in and forced to watch the Satanic rituals. The legend is that he was found the next day wandering the hill having lost his mind and unable to speak, in which state he remained for the rest of his life.
The lodge was badly damaged in a fire later in the 1700’s, giving rise to another story – following a black mass, a footman spilled a drink on the cloak of one of the club’s members who promptly doused him in brandy and set him on fire. The fire spread killing the unfortunate footman, and several club members as well as damaging the building.
Today, the club retains an eerie atmosphere, and is rumoured to be haunted by several entities including a huge, demonic black cat. Speaking to friends in Dublin, I’ve been told that to this day, on some mornings, there will be the remains of sacrificed chickens and the like found around the club. Some visitors report strange sensations, and having clothers or jewellery, particularly crucifixes, violently tugged.
I would have no belief in the supernatural, but it does make for great stories, and who doesn’t love tales of haunted houses and cursed locations? I couldn’t resist a visit to this famous place.
We had been having unseasonably good weather all weekend, but perhaps suitably, it had taken a gloomier turn on the morning of our visit. A drive up scenic, winding roads had ended in a car park, with a good gravel road winding through a forest, up the the face of Montpelier Hill to the lodge at the summit. We were enveloped in fog, accompanied by a fine rain, which restricted the views, but added to the atmosphere. It would have seemed wrong to be in a place with such an evil reputation on a bright, sunny day!
The fog clearing briefly to give a glimpse through a break in the trees of the countryside below.
The mist closing in again.
Approaching the summit, we emerged from the trees, and got our first glimpse of the lodge ahead. In the murk, it did have a strange, even sinister, appearance, with its derelict air, that odd roof, and our own willingness to suspend disbelief and go along with the stories.
Our first look at the Hell Fire Club as we approached the summit.
The lodge is not closed up, and it is possible to get inside to see the interior and the site of the supposed black practices. We took a wander in to soak up the atmosphere.
Despite my disbelief, I have to admit, I would not spend a night alone up here, as some are rumoured to do as a dare.
Emerging into the light, we took a walk around the perimeter, and visited the trig pillar and faint remains of the passage grave at the back.
At the front.
A better view of that odd stone roof from the back.
The trig pillar at the summit of the hill.
A final view from the back. The undulating ground is the only trace left of the passage grave.
The rain took its toll, and after exploring inside and out, we left and took the short walk back down to the car park. A fascinating place, undeniably eerie especially in the gloom we had, and well worth a visit.