Travel Ireland Castle Diaries

After a raucous night in a Belfast pub, Alli and I had just finished our breakfast when we spotted our new friend Billy. We had recently met the charismatic American on a ferry crossing from Scotland to Northern Ireland, and had shared quite a few songs and drinks into the wee hours of the morning.Before leaving the hostel, Billy said " if you're near Corofin two weeks from now, you should stop by for my castle party.

" Our interest was peaked.He proceeded to tell us that his family owned a castle, and he had been passing the word to fellow travelers, hoping for a medieval style weekend gathering. We thanked him for the invite, not quite believing the story, and said we'd try to make it. Alli and I both thought this offer was too good to be true.

We didn't want to be skeptical, but how many people actually owned a castle? We wondered if 'King' Billy was a little off his throne.When two weeks had almost passed, we discussed trying to find the castle. We only had a general idea of where it was supposed to be, and really didn't know our host that well. In the end, thoughts of bunking in a five hundred year old Irish castle inspired our romantic sides and quashed any practical objections.Transport from the small town of Dingle wasn't convenient to our end destination, so we decided to hitchhike.

We walked a few miles before a tiny little car finally screeched to a halt. We approached the car with sweet smiles on our faces, which quickly disappeared when faced with the screeching elderly woman in the drivers seat.She yelled at us in a thick Irish accent, " get in, get in, I'm late fer a funeral. If yar not in this minute I'm off. I only picked ya up cause ya were a couple of garls".

We frantically stuffed our oversized backpacks through the tiny opening to the backseat and flung ourselves in on top of them. She berated us on the dangers of hitchhiking the entire drive, and stopped only long enough so we could throw ourselves out of the car in Lisdoonvarna. The little town is famous for its annual matchmaking festival.Finally it Corofin, we popped into the nearest pub to ask for directions. We asked the bartender, a little sheepishly, if there was a castle nearby and how we could find it.

Without a moment's hesitation, the man told us it was a little less than a mile down the road, and said we should be able to find it easily.Excited, we started off and after we turned the corner at the end of the first road, we saw a large stone tower looming in the distance. Speechless, we picked up speed and arrived at the gate. With the smell of peat wafting in the air and a stone tower rising out of the craggy ground we kept looking at each other in disbelief. At that moment Billy arrived with more guests.After a jovial welcome, we entered the castle through a huge wooden door that opened with a booming creak.

Billy's uncle, an architect from the States, had restored the castle, and from our perspective had done a wonderful job. The tower was almost 100 feet high, could sleep ten comfortably and had three stone bathrooms, with full showers. The bedrooms ranged from large suites to smaller more modest rooms. Our bedroom was basic, but filled with charming antiques. The windows were narrow slits that exploited the sun and moonlight in exquisite ways.

The great hall on the ground floor had a huge fireplace you could stand in, a long wooden dining table and modern kitchen that retained its historic feel.Throughout the day more guests arrived, and eventually there were ten of us representing six different countries. The energy of the impromptu gathering in such an exceptional setting was electric and our first night was truly surreal.Our host, besides having access to a 15th century Gaelic castle, was also a trained chef. Billy prepared a hearty Irish lamb stew and we all sat down to a table adorned with heaps of fruit, bread, cheese, and of course jugs of wine. With candles blazing we toasted our good fortune and our host 'King' Billy.

The energy never waned and everyone stayed up late, getting to know each other. More candles were lit to guide us back to our bedrooms, not necessary, but helped to keep the atmosphere intact.The next few days our motley fellowship fell into a routine. By day we would go fishing, hiking, or sit and read by the fire. By night more feasting and revelry.

The food always seemed better than the last meal and the chemistry between the guests continued to mix well. After about 4 days the decadent weekend came to a close, and we said good-bye to each other and the ancient Gaelic tower. Our short transformation from budget travelers to royal princesses was more than memorable.

The spontaneous generosity and camaraderie of human spirit, combined with such an impressive piece of history, was one of the most unexpected gifts I have ever received from travel.Highlights of County Clare.Ballyporty Castle: Is located in County Clare, Ireland. It is no longer a private residence and can be rented by groups or individuals.

You can follow this link for photographs and more information about booking a truly unique vacation.

Getting There: Once you arrive in Ireland, the train system isn't as convenient as in the rest of Europe. If possible, rent a car to allow ease of access to all the interesting nooks and crannies found all over the Emerald Isle. The bus system is reliable and easy to use, but doesn't give you the same freedom to explore.Cliffs of Moher and Doolin: These dramatic seaside cliffs offer a spectacular view of the Irish coastline.

If feeling particularly athletic, you can use the small town of Doolan as a base and hike to the cliffs. Doolan is famous for great traditional music and cozy pubs. It's the perfect place to unwind after touring the countryside.Best B & B: Dalys House: If a castle is just too costly, try this lovely B & B.

Perfectly situated to explore county Clare, only 5 minutes away from the Aran Islands ferry. There is a lovely breakfast room that overlooks the sea. The best part is the cost, at only 32 Euros or 41 US per person.

.Jane Arnold is a freelance writer and travel buff.

She has spent time in Europe and North America, and most recently traveled to South East Asia. You can read more of her travel stories at http://www.girlyside.

com/girlyside.html The website is a girl's guide to health, beauty, love and leisure. Sign up for the free newsletter at


By: Jane Arnold

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