ipernity is being really horrid...I can't post comments and it keeps telling me my blogs are saved as a draft when they're not...can't answer the comments you've made either...so I'm not ignoring you...just a bit hog tied. I'll send the powers that be a message and see if they can sort it out...
It was John who said his son has a metal detector...and wouldn't we just love one...but you aren't allowed to either own or use a metal detector unless you have a special licence...and they are like hens teeth. Just think what we could possibly find with a bit of help!
They aren't allowed simply because the ground is heaving with artefacts and not everyone...especially not us...are honest enough to hand over their finds to the appropriate authorities...I'd be like the people who hoard famous paintings stolen donkeys years ago...Psst...want to see my Iron Age sword?
Now knocking down old castles is the pits actually and if the stupid council had thought they could probably have put scaffolding up or surrounded the entire site with stern signs...Keep Out...and that sort of thing. But it was in a dangerous condition and there wasn't a huge amount of it left anyway...that having been said, there is a bit of a outcry over the sheer speed with which the demolition was carried out .
Many of the old castles are not safe...you can look but not touch I suppose...though we still explore them and just don't walk too close to the walls. There is a particularly unpleasant castle near here...it's called Ballinatubber and it gives off the most...almost evil...if that isn't too strong a word...a sense of doom and despondency anyway. It's huge with a great inner courtyard and towers at each corner. People go in there even though there are dozens of Keep Out Dangerous Structure signs every few yards. I just glance over the wall and then go and look for tadpoles in what was once the moat...wouldn't catch me actually inside the place...might never get out!
Ireland has castles galore you see...and most people pay them no heed. They are simply part of the landscape...the tourists prefer the clean and tidy castles with gravelled walkways and notice boards to tell you where the dining room was...if there is a cafe attached and a shop selling postcards and replicas of the carved stones all the better...
But those neat and tidy castles are few and far between...the common castle has sheep grazing in what was once the grand hall...the moat has long since silted up and is now home to a glorious display of wild forget-me-nots and marsh marigolds...you can peer upwards in the remaining towers and see the remnants of the winding stone stairs and the tiny windows...imagine a knight at arms clattering up and down as he came off watch...some have the cellars or dungeons firmly shut away from prying eyes with hefty iron grilles...most have the remains of the great fireplaces and hearths where the food would have been cooked and the spit turned by a child or a little dog running endlessly around in a wooden wheel...
There are no entrance fees...no custodian watching your every move...no cafe serving tea and scones...just you and a half dozen curious sheep who bolt if you get too close. Some have a board outside which tells you of the history...raided by Red Hugh before he ate his horse often as not if you happen to be in the Ox mountains...
Many of those long abandoned castles overlook rivers or Loughs...they'd have had their own farmland and produced their milk and eggs and vegetables...hay for the horses and cereal crops to see them through the winter months...people from the nearby village would have brought the castle inhabitants fresh fish and they'd have traded woollen goods and linens...
The neatly written notice boards don't tell you that of course...even those in the castles which charge an entrance fee and leave you wandering about with a dazed expression because you're never quite certain that the table in the great hall is the original or not...
There are fortified houses as well...very many of those scattered about the fields. Not quite a castle, but strengthened to withstand attack from rival groups, they were also family homes before all else. Because that is what a castle was...it was a family home. Guarded by a garrison of soldiers or left in the charge of a few stalwart retainers...maybe with a few high born prisoners...not out of sight in the dungeons though...they'd have had their own suite of rooms and their servants and many ate with the family who were holding them prisoner or hostage...
There'd have been a small army of servants...to cook and clean and light the fires...to open the gates and tend to the horses and fetch endless buckets of water from the well...some would have slept in front of the hearth on straw...others went back to their tiny cabins in the village.
Stiff and formal castles with a proper car park and a ticket machine and notices telling you not to take photographs or sit on the chairs...those with custodians dressed in uniform who view all visitors with deep suspicion and paying twenty euro to see endless oil paintings of people you don't know and don't much care about...and miles of thick red rope to stop you from touching anything at all...
My idea of pure hell.
Give me those little castles on hill tops and down in deep valleys with views of the mountains to die for...give me a few bleating sheep and a stone wall to scramble over and a place where I can rest my hand on sun warmed stones and look up those strongly built towers and see jackdaws nesting and the winding stairway worn from countless feet...let me imagine Red Hugh and his weary band of men storming just one more castle on their way to the North...
I can't possibly do that in a highly sanitised cleaned up castle furnished with geniune reproduction furniture...and the option for a talking tour in six different languages...
It is what most visitors want though...so we'll go our way and they can go theirs.