I’m writing this from my bed in a “haunted castle” in Kilkenny, Ireland.
Foulksrath Castle – a magical place like nowhere else we’ve ever stayed. Cold, damp, medieval and just a bit creepy, this is a true 16th century Norman Tower. Complete with a winding staircase and a secret passageway to the roof. A BBC television team of British Ghost hunters visited the hostel and sent back a report to say that ‘their machines recorded the best ghostly sounds of any place they visited in Ireland’.
Jack Macken, the caretaker, met us in his studio – where we were welcomed and then climbed the incredibly steep and tiny spiral staircase to our room. Dimly lit with candles, it was as if we had stepped back centuries in time. Ahh…we have the entire room to ourselves! It’s part of the castle tower and the views across the surrounding pastures are breathtaking. Petra the dog and a pretty, white kitty live here, too.
It was a little over a two hour bus ride to Kilkenny from Dublin – the public bus system is nice here. But when we arrived in Kilkenny (still 8Km from the hostel), it was pouring! In seconds we were soaked and had no idea where we were going. Splashing around with a 30 pound backpack, a 19 pound daypack and yesterday’s lunch leftovers for tonight’s dinner wasn’t much fun. Okay, it was a nightmare.
Then we realized (after asking around in the rain), that the “Orange Buggy” bus we were supposed to take to the hostel doesn’t run on Sundays (that was nowhere in the fine print on Hostel World!). Taxi fare was about 20 euro, so we decided to stow our bags – now wet and even heavier – in the tourism office so we could get some lunch and look around the town a little. No space there, but they directed us to the train station (at least 10 miles away – all uphill!). Well, maybe it was only about 1 mile, but it WAS all uphill. Once there, yep – closed on Sundays!
By this time we were pretty crabby, wet, and in dire need of a Guinness we kept seeing advertised everywhere. We turned around, walked back to the town (downhill this time) and found a great pub to spend the rest of the afternoon. We watched Gaelic football and Hurling, shouting with the home team as though we knew exactly what was going on. Hey, it was warm, dry, the food excellent, and they kept bringing the pints of Guinness!
- Kilkenny’s Own!
About four hours later, we asked the bartender if she would call us a taxi. “No problem,” she said and went over to one of her customers (who she’d just brought out 2 more pints to add to the already full table of empties in front of him) and said “These girls need to get to Foulksrath, take them there.” He emptied his pints in seconds and did just that. That’s how we ended up at the castle tonight.
Relaxing in the dining room with Jack and a few other travelers, we learned a bit about the history of the castle and the surrounding areas. Sitting in the medieval dining room, it would not have been out of place to see a knight in chain-mail come clomping in to grab a slab of bread and stew to warm himself from the damp cold of the Irish countryside.