Banshees and beer

Earlier this year, back in June, we stayed in the haunted Blackwater Castle in Castletownroche Ireland. Why? Well it’s a castle and I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

For the past few years Nikki has been hunting ghosts with the Texas Ghostly Gatherings group. She has visited some wonderfully spooky places while I enjoyed a night to myself at home (to be read as pizza on the couch watching Netflix). However when she mentioned that the group was putting together a trip to Ireland I was all in.

I approached packing for Ireland as a trial run for our world journey and I think I did pretty well. I had a camera, my laptop, electric adapters, and some clothes. I know the key is to pack lite for the world trip since you have to carry everything basically everywhere, and I feel I did a pretty good job. At the castle we had the luxury of laundry facilities so we could pack a little more than truly necessary. On our world trip we will be prepared to do laundry in hotel sinks every other day or so.  But none of that really mattered for Ireland, I mean I was staying in a castle! Growing up playing Dungeons & Dragons meant this was pretty much a life goal accomplishment.

Blackwater Castle and Castletownroche were amazing. The little town had everything I thought I would see in small country town Ireland, and it was great. Large green pastures? Check. Buildings older than the USA? Check. Old man always drinking at the pub no matter the time? Check.

We ate several meals at a pub on the main street called The Spinning Wheel. The owners were incredible and served up some great typical Irish faire. More importantly, they also introduced me to my favorite beer of Ireland, Franciscan Well Rebel Red Ale. This is a regional beer served almost exclusively in Cork County Ireland, which being know as the Rebel County is where the name is derived. In preparing for the trip we thought that we would be drinking Guinness endlessly, but actually where we were Murphy’s stout is more prevalent and Guinness was looked down on. I did enjoy the Murphy’s but probably couldn’t distinguish between the two if tested. Always looking to try new things we also enjoyed Bullmer’s cider, Smithwick’s, and Smithwick’s blonde. Nikki was rather fond of the Bullmer’s but after trying a variety of drinks I kept with the Rebel Red (mostly because it’s delicious).

When we weren’t drinking or taking in the town, the group split into various smaller groups and explored southern Ireland via rental cars. I now believe that the Church somehow manages road development in Ireland, because I haven’t seen so many people turn so quickly to prayer. To say the country roads of Ireland are small is to exaggerate how big they are. Most roads are only wide enough for one and a half cars. This wouldn’t be too bad if there were shoulders on the roads but there aren’t. There is instead maybe a foot of grass and then a two foot thick stone wall. We had a lot of ‘think small’ moments.

In the evenings the group did a little ghost hunting. If you have ever seen the various ghost hunting shows on tv it is pretty much like that. Everyone stands quietly in a room, there are some instruments running to record any possible ghostly presences, and every now and then someone in the group calls out questions to any spirits that might be hanging around. The castle did have a spooky uninhabited (if you don’t count the bats) tower that definitely provided the right ambience. However, unfortunately?, Nikki and I didn’t encounter anything though others in the group had some interesting bumps in the night.

But perhaps my favorite cultural experience in Ireland was when we watched a local hurling match. Hurling is kind of like field hockey but you can carry the ball in hand for a few steps or if you are really good you can balance it on your hurley stick all you want. Apparently hurling is crazy popular in Ireland and we commonly saw kids playing in parks in every city we went. Nikki and I even got to try our hand one evening in a tiny bar in Casteltownroche. The elderly barkeep chatted us up and we mentioned that we wanted to see some hurling and he just pulled out a bat from behind the bar and handed it to us along with a sliotar (hurling ball).

The trip was fantastic and I hope to go again some day and further explore all that Ireland has to offer.

Check out some of our favorite photos here: Ireland photos

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