The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - REAL LIFE - Anne.gildea@mailon­sun­

achieve. The rooms are beau­ti­ful, the grounds idyl­lic, the food, good, but I only ever book to go there if I’m ab­so­lutely des­per­ate to get work done be­cause — dra­matic pause — it’s haunted.

Half the peo­ple who stay there never sense that at all. And of the half that will ad­mit to find­ing the at­mos­phere a bit eerie, half won’t use the ‘h’ word. They’ll say things like: ‘It’s all the cre­ative en­ergy around that cre­ates the “un­usual” at­mos­phere.’

A writer friend told me re­cently that he hadn’t slept the whole month he was there. ‘Be­cause it’s haunted!’ I said. ‘No, I just couldn’t switch my If that was me, at that point I would have sim­ply had a heart at­tack. But on a tight sched­ule, with just a few pre­cious days to work, in­stead he tried to get some sleep. — Un­til he was wo­ken with it hap­pen­ing again.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing he re­quested a dif­fer­ent room, wor­ried that his story might sound un­be­liev­able. He needn’t have wor­ried. Miss Warby doesn’t like chaps, ap­par­ently. ( In un­der­pants es­pe­cially, I’d imag­ine.) She’s the ghost in that room — the of­fi­cially ‘haunted’ one.

But I know eerie sto­ries for most of the other ten rooms too… The first time I vis­ited I was writ­ing with Sue Collins — she came run­ning, shak­ing, into my room in the mid­dle of the night. There was a sound ‘like a man wear­ing metal boots’ scrap­ing over­head in her room. I ended up pok­ing her ceil­ing with a broom shout­ing ‘get out’, which worked, un­til the fol­low­ing night.

I’ve heard of peo­ple re­turn­ing to their rooms to find books in neat piles that they’d left scat­tered about; win­dows swung open that they’d locked shut. Sue told me her late fa­ther-in-law, Ron­nie Drew, once felt as though some­one had crept into bed be­side him, while he was stay­ing there.

Ev­ery time I stay, I bolt awake at 4am each day, as if some ex­tra-sen­sory per­cep­tion has been alerted. Ev­ery time I prom­ise my­self I won’t be dis­con­certed — but I am. Af­ter dark; af­ter ev­ery­one’s in bed, the weird­ness de­scends. I end up ly­ing frozen in bed, plead­ing with the dark­ness: ‘What­ever’s there, don’t ap­pear to me.’ I haven’t been for five years be­cause I was so un­set­tled last time…

So why go back? Be­cause, when you’ve work to get done there’s nowhere like it. The staff treat you like fam­ily and it’s such a priv­i­lege to stay in a grand house. I just don’t want to come home with a piece be­gin­ning: ‘It was 4am. The ghost’s cold hands tight­ened round my throat. “...About that thing you wrote in the pa­per,” she hissed…’

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