I’ve explored most of Ireland’s coastline, thus I thought it was time to move inland and see what was happening in the heartland of the Emerald Isle. I stayed in one of the few hotels near Roscrea in County Offaly, Racket Hall Country House Hotel, and was given, to my astonishment, and absolute delight, a suite! Why? I didn’t ask, I just basked in the luxury of a library-like sitting room and adjoining bedroom, with a bed the size of County Louth. Thank you to whoever decided to accommodate me in such style. It was very much appreciated and extremely good value for money.
Roscrea has a very historic heritage dating back over a thousand years and in its centre is a castle, which I did not visit on this occasion because I headed for a privately owned residence: Leap Castle, almost 10 km north of the town.
My interest was piqued having read on leapcastle.net, (and other websites documenting Ireland’s most haunted locations), that the castle is home to what the owner, Sean Ryan, describes as “spirits”. And, as I drove up to the front door, the imposing edifice seemed to be the sort of place where ghostly phantoms would dwell.
The castle is under renovation, a labour of love by Mr Ryan, who made me most welcome with a firm handshake and an enquiry as to where I was from. I joined a group of Floridians, who were also visiting we were allowed to explore the castle at our leisure.
The winding stair up to the Bloody Chapel is narrow and steep and I was a little disappointed not to feel any ghostly presence within the castle walls, but the views through the open windows are beautiful, proving Ireland is indeed forty shades of green. A breeze circulated about the bare room and I wondered if this was what it was like living in the castle years ago, or did the windows once hold panes of glass?
When asked about the “spirits”, we were told footsteps had been heard, not necessarily on the floors now present, but on ones long gone, and voices, speaking in low tones, the conversation undecipherable, probably because the conversants were speaking in old gaelic. (This reminded me of a chapter from my book, Opprobrious, and brought a smile to my lips. You might want to check it out when scrolling down my website.)
Some visitors have experienced paranormal activity, as documented in Leap Castle’s website, but sadly I did not and my photographs did not reveal any ghostly forms either, although the head of a deer seemed to have been keeping a wary eye on me.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. We sat by a log fire, although the temperature outside was a balmy 20 degrees centigrade, and Sean quietly spoke of the castle’s history, his love for his homeplace imbued in his words. A harp standing in the main room suggested a fondness for Irish music and he played a cheery tune on his tin whistle, whilst the young Floridian danced.
The main rooms downstairs and on the first floor are filled with interesting artefacts and on the wall of the room on the first floor is a beautiful drawing of an ancient Celtic warrior, plumes in his hair and a peregrin falcon resting on his left hand. The same artist painted a family portrait hanging on the wall opposite the fire.
We all left as one merry group, the oldest Floridian enquiring as to whether I travelled on my own a lot. “I do,” I replied.
“I wish I had the nerve,” she lamented and I wish I had a pound from every woman who’s told me the same thing. Get out there ladies and enjoy your own company, it’s not that difficult if I can do it! The golden haired woman went on to explain her hushand was sitting outside in the car. I didn’t bother asking why. He’d missed out on a good hour’s entertainment and a warm Irish welcome.
I took one last look at the building before driving away in the hope of seeing a spectre waving farewell, but nothing. Nothing at all. Nevertheless, thank you, Mr Sean Ryan for showing me your home and I bless you with good fortune in your renovations.