Burt Castle, 2.5 km from Newtoncunningham has a commanding view of the surrounding countryside, standing as it does two hundred feet above Lough Swilly. It was built in the time of Henry VIII and documents exist granting the castle and its lands to Hugh Boy O’Doherty. With Sir Cahir O’Doherty’s rebellion in 1608 the castle was captured by the English and was held as a garrison point for several years. Its air of menace may have something to do with the several bloody battles fought during its history.
There is a story told of a young girl from the neighbouring area who became pregnant. The man responsible, a kinsman of the O’Doherty, refused to marry her. That night, while the full moon shone, she paced, distraught, along the water’s edge. Several swans swam towards her, calling to her in a plaintive way. When they swam away she waded into the cold waters of Loch Swilly and drowned.
Intent on avenging his daughter’s death, her father tricked his way into the castle and crept up the turnpike staircase in the southwest tower. The man lay asleep in the vaulted mural chamber on the first floor and while he slept the girl’s father stabbed him with his long knife and threw his body from the window.
On several occasions, when the moon is full, the swans congregate at the point closest to Burt Castle and set up a cacophony of wailing. The ghostly figure of a young girl is seen drifting into the water until she gradually fades beneath the waves.
At the base of the castle walls there is a certain patch of grass that withers when the swans weep. It is said that this is the exact spot where the body of the man who wronged the innocent girl fell.
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