Fam­ily look­ing for ghosts in ‘haunted Ir­ish cas­tle’

The Korea Times - - TRAVEL - By Mary McNa­mara

KILMAINE, Ire­land — Ire­land is a proudly haunted is­land, its land­scape de­fined by an­cient cairns and stand­ing stones, by ru­ined abbeys, cas­tles and cot­tages.

The spec­tral comes in many fa­mous forms: the ladies — the White Lady of Kin­sale (who threw her­self off the walls of Charles Fort af­ter her hus­band was shot); the Wait­ing Lady of Ardg­illan Cas­tle (on vigil for her drowned hus­band); the Face­less Lady of Belvelly Cas­tle — the in­car­cer­ated (Cork Dis­trict Lu­natic Asy­lum, the Wick­low Jail); and the ca­su­al­ties of war (the Ja­co­bites of the Bat­tle of Aughrim and King James II who is said to haunt Ath­carne Cas­tle six miles from where he died in the Bat­tle of the Boyne).

So if you are look­ing, there are plenty of ghosts to be found in Ire­land.

Or you can do what we did and just bring them with you.

My fam­ily and I trav­eled to Ire­land in June 2017 to scat­ter my par­ents’ ashes at Down­patrick Head in County Mayo. We knew the ex­act spot be­cause Mom and Dad, who spent many of their post-re­tire­ment sum­mers in the land of our an­ces­tors, had brought us here al­most 20

years ago.

Down­patrick Head is one of the world’s more dra­matic edges, where the wild­flower-stud­ded grass runs in sweet green benev­o­lence un­til it hits the wild wind and a 140-foot drop onto black rocks and white foam.

We have pic­tures of my then-1-year-old son Danny sit­ting in the grass pick­ing daisies while my par­ents showed my brother, Jay, where they wanted their ashes to go: right in view of the tow­er­ing sea stack called Dun Briste (Bro­ken Fort) and a few yards from a blow hole where, my fa­ther in­formed us, Bri­tish sol­diers had thrown lo­cal vil­lagers dur­ing the 1798 Ir­ish Re­bel­lion.

So not, you know, Rose Hills ceme­tery back home.

For a year or two, Down­patrick Head was some­thing of a fam­ily joke. We would not make that crazy drive to that crazy cliff, but if we did, we would pitch the ashes down the blow­hole. Then far too soon, it wasn’t.

My dad died four years af­ter that trip; when we of­fered to take Mom and the ashes to Ire­land, she said she wanted to wait and be scat­tered along with him. When she died a few years later, nei­ther my brother nor I had the heart to make the jour­ney.

For years. Af­ter that once-upon-a-time 1-year-old went away to col- lege, my brother and I re­al­ized we had to get mov­ing, busy sched­ules and mixed feel­ings be damned.

My hus­band, Richard, Danny and his sis­ters Fiona and Darby, and I flew to Dublin a few days be­fore Jay and his hus­band, Franco. Af­ter what I can only hope was our very last ar­gu­ment to end with “Well, you’re the old­est,” Jay per­suaded me to carry the cre­mains.

It was a bit un­set­tling to travel with your par­ents’ ashes. My mom was al­ways fash­ion con­scious, so I had to find a stylish carry-on, but it was still dis­con­cert­ing to shove it in the over­head.

In Dublin, we stayed in a lovely flat near the Gen­eral

Post Of­fice, which now houses an ex­cel­lent mu­seum de­voted to the 1916 Easter Ris­ing. We put the bag in a nice al­cove where I could nod to them as we came and went.

It wasn’t un­til we got to the cas­tle that the haunt­ing be­gan.

Jay had de­cided that we needed to rent a cas­tle. He showed me a few from which to choose, and we both loved

Turin Cas­tle, a glo­ri­ous re­stored keep in County Mayo near the towns of Ballinrobe and Cong. It slept 12, with five bed­rooms and five bath­rooms. We were seven, so for once there were no ar­gu­ments about bed­rooms and no wait­ing for a free bath­room.

Turin Cas­tle rose square and solid from bright green fields at the end of a drive that was easy to miss, in part be­cause it was pre­ceded by at least two turns on un­named lanes. It has been gor­geously re­stored, which is not to say ren­o­vated. The ameni­ties were mod­ern, but the lay­out was true to his­tory.

All the rooms were ac­cessed by a stone spi­ral stair­case that be­gan on the ground floor, where the door­ways were small enough to make male in­vaders stoop so the cur­rent res­i­dents could cut off their heads.

Along a se­ries of land­ings were other bed­rooms, bath­rooms and the kitchen, which was con­nected to a breath­tak­ing great room with a fire­place you could stand in and a ta­ble that can only be de­scribed as “ba­ro­nial.”

Jay and Franco ar­rived at the cas­tle sev­eral hours af­ter we did, through the mist at dusk, and Franco im­me­di­ately in­formed the kids that he felt a def­i­nite “at­mos­phere.” “It bet­ter have at­mos­phere,” my jet-lagged brother grum­bled, “it’s an Ir­ish cas­tle.”

We have a few ghost sto­ries from our trav­els — Jay and Franco once stayed in a Parisian ho­tel with a sor­row­ing fe­male pres­ence that they felt but never saw — and Ire­land is full of places where a ghostly child or a cowled fig­ure would make per­fect sense. So when the “this cas­tle is haunted” sto­ries be­gan, I wasn’t sur­prised.

Franco felt a hand tug his shirt as he got ready for bed; in­vis­i­ble fin­gers tou­sled Jay’s hair. Danny, brush­ing his teeth one night, heard some­one hiss “psst” at him, but no one was there. Fiona heard rustling in the kitchen and, an­noyed when no one an­swered her, walked in from the great room to find the kitchen empty.

(Los An­ge­les Times/Tri­bune News) Los An­ge­les Times-Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Turin Cas­tle in Kilmaine County Mayo, Ire­land.

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