Carrigafoyle Castle Ireland
Top of the Morning at Teach de Broc Golf Club
We woke to a thick fog and hot coffee at Teach de Broc Hotel and Golf Club in Ballybunion, Ireland. My friend Angie and I had spent the morning at the Bromore Sea Cliffs, squinting into the mist and visiting the snack stealing horse Bart along the path. The man who oversees the cliffs had recommended we check out Carrigafoyle Castle so after breakfast at the hotel, that’s where we were headed.
Road to Carrigafoyle Castle
The 1490’s castle is about 20 minutes from Bromore. Some of the roads were one narrow lane and when an oncoming car approached, one of us would need to back down the road until we reached a driveway so the other car could pass. It was a bit unnerving coming around a bend or over a hill to find yourself face to face with an oncoming car.
Ballybunion Cow Crossing
On the way into Ballybunion the previous day…we encountered a different kind of traffic…traffic of the black and white spotty variety.
As we wove around the narrow road it looked as if water had been in the area and then receded. We caught glimpses of the sea on our left and a tall brick structure became visible ahead of us.
Carrigafoyle Castle Entryway
There was one other car in the parking area. We parked and headed into the massive entryway. Part of the dark mossy brick had been destroyed and we were able to look all the way up the towering 5 stories. The roof was mostly missing and birds were flying through the area, perching on areas of missing brick. A dry moat surrounded the 86 foot tower.
There were several ornate doors on the ground floor. Heavy stone was stacked into archways and a thick wooden door was hung within. There were a couple of locked doors and one that seemed to be the entrance to a dark spiral staircase.
We bent and peeked apprehensively into the doorway with seemingly nothing but darkness beyond.
“Ok…you ready to see what’s next on our list?” Angie inquired, heading back towards the main door.
“Aren’t we gonna look upstairs?” I made double rapid pointing motions with my fingers towards the doorway.
“Yeahhh… I don’t think we’re supposed to go up there.” Angie stood her ground.
“Well the door wouldn’t be open if we weren’t allowed right?” I reasoned.
“Alright…” Angie relented. “But you’re going first.”
The Spiral Castle Steps at Carrigafoyle
I headed towards the dark entrance, and peeked my head up the stairs.
“What can you see?” Angie appeared behind me.
“Nothing but the stone spiral staircase. It’s kind of dark.”
Angie’s arm extended out around me with the weak light of her phone’s flashlight casting a little glow around us. We crept forward…huddled together like characters from a Scooby Doo cartoon looking for monsters.
“You know…” I said in a hushed tone, “I read that most castle staircases are built in a clockwise spiral… in case intruders got in…it would be hard for them to sword fight right handed on the steps.”
“I’m having enough problems just getting up the stairs without a sword.” Angie remarked.
“I know…me too!” I huffed, pulling myself up by the railing. “These stone steps are so narrow and windey and some of stones are slippery. I’m pretty sure I would not win that battle.”
We made it to a landing that opened into a small room with narrow windows and stone walls. We took a few photos and continued puffing and pulling up to the next floor.
“I’m so glad we’re not sword fighting right now.” I breathed.
“Can you imagine the people who lived here every day, going up and down these stairs, carrying kids or toddlers?” Angie snapped off a couple photos of the steep steps.
On each of the 5 landings was a view of the main entrance below. We huffed through a doorway on one of the floors and saw what looked like a row of pit toilets covered in a metal screen.
“Is this the bathroom?” Angie asked as we peered down the side by side holes.
“I think so…but kind of weird sitting next to each other to do business.” I remarked laughing.
Top of the Irish Castle
On the top floor, the view across the valley was incredible. There were lush green fields and the fog covered sea in the distance. A quiet was in the air and our breaths puffed out in the cool humid morning. The sound of flapping birds was below us. There were the ruins of another stone building growing a roof of foliage nearby. As we gazed out in the late morning air, Carrig Island and Scattery Island could be seen across the estuary.
On the way down the curving stone steps a man and his young sons were coming up. We had to back up a few steps onto the previous landing. There was no room for passing or sword fighting. Fortunately they were not wielding weapons.
Carrigafoyle History Lesson
“Did you find the dovecots in the turret?” He asked.
“The what?” We chorused.
He told us how pigeons were kept for food in cages on the wall nearest the boat docks. He also gave us a brief description of the Desmond Wars that took place here in 1580, when the castle went into ruin. A cannon had blasted through the wall and roof, hence the giant hole.
“We live in the area and the boys love it…better than any playground.” He continued.
We watched for dovecots on the way down the 104 steps, thinking of the men, women and children living here during those times and what their lives must have been like.
When we made it down to the main entrance hall, I gazed up at the vast stone structure and felt like such a small part of the world, standing in a building so old. The people who had lived here were centuries gone.
Birds sailed from windows to walls, the stones were green with moss. We investigated the other doors, most of which were locked then headed out the cement path through the moat area.
We stopped at the information board to read more about the castle. After exploring the grounds, we set off towards Galway for another day of adventure.
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