Looking for Leprechauns

It’s been a week since I returned home from Ireland, so maybe it’s time to wrap it up and write something about our trip.

I already wrote during the trip about the Roger Waters concert and how the audience really makes the show and our visit to Ross Castle, but let’s hear more.

TL;DR version: Ash cloud, Dublin, Roger Waters, ghosts in the castle, up north, high cliffs, wind, whiskey, more high cliffs, back home.

Day 1: Dublin

There was some uncertainty whether our flight would ever leave because of the ash cloud from Grímsvötn volcano in Iceland, but it wasn’t really a problem. Our flight just took a little bit longer than normally. We flew the southern route over Netherlands to avoid the ash cloud over Scotland and Northern Ireland. We arrived in Dublin about one hour late. Since my last visit in 2007, they had completed the Terminal 2, which was very spacious, modern and clean. We rented a car from Budget, but not without trouble getting a suitable car with automatic gearbox. We were supposed to get an SUV with automatic gearbox, but we got a Skoda Octavia instead. Good enough. We didn’t register an extra driver, so I didn’t have to drive. I wouldn’t have minded driving on left hand side traffic, but Tuukka was kind enough to take care of the driving alone for the whole week. Thanks.

We had reserved accommodation near Temple Bar for the first night, but a water leakage changed plans and we were directed to King Fisher, where Ana-Marie in the reception took really good care of us. Say hello if you go there.

After finding a pub, that seemed to be an unexpectedly difficult task, and a few pints of Guinness, we headed towards the O2 arena to see The Wall (read more about the gig).

Days 2-3: Ross Castle

On the second day we packed our stuff to car again, bought some food and beverages (read: beer and vodka), and drove towards Ross Castle. We chose to drive smaller roads to avoid road tolls on the motorway and to see the Irish countryside. The roads were narrow, curvy, and sometimes in a very bad shape with a ridiculous 80 km/h speed limit. 50 or 60 km/h would have been more appropriate. We took a wrong turn in many crossroads that didn’t have proper signs and our Nokia N8 navigator application was constantly trying to reroute back to the tolled motorway, despite the “no tolls, no motorways” setting. Otherwise it performed really well, guiding our way to different places.

After many U-turns and small villages, we finally arrived at Ross Castle, that lies between Mountnugent (insert a Ted Nugent joke here) and Finea in County Meath (read more about Ross Castle).

View to Lough Sheelin from Ross Castle tower

View to Lough Sheelin from Ross Castle tower

Ghosts

I said in earlier post that I didn’t hear or see anything weird in Ross Castle, but that’s not everything. I didn’t actually see any ghosts or hear weird noises, but there was an unpleasant feeling of a presence of someone or something, and some mysterious things happened.

Next to my bed was a chair. When I tried to sleep, I always felt that someone’s sitting on that chair. I didn’t see anything, but still I felt that. On the first night I thought I heard some heavy breathing when falling asleep, but it was probably my own. I also thought I heard whispering (similar to the whispering in the jungle in Lost TV series), but that could have been a dream. No surprise I really couldn’t get a good sleep until sunrise.

There was also a door leading to a small bedroom, opposite to our bedroom door, in the end of a corridor. I closed the door, because I didn’t feel comfortable when it was open. A moment later I heard a sound and when I went to investigate, I noticed that the door was open. No one else was near the room but me. I closed it again and thought that maybe the lock was faulty and air flow had pushed it open, but I was wrong. I had to turn the knob to open the door. It didn’t open by pushing. I closed the door and next morning it was again open. On the second day I checked the door every now and then and it stayed closed. Next morning when I woke up, it was again open.

The cleaning woman told us that she once heard a bucket fall down the stairs in the tower and when investigating, the bucket was standing behind a corner, where it couldn’t have rolled on its own.

Janne told that he saw some kind of an orb and had a powerful feeling of ghost’s presence, but we didn’t hear the noises that most of the other visitors (including Ulster Paranormal Society) had reported in the guestbook.

Spooky place, but worth visiting.

Day 4: To north

On fourth day we headed towards Northern Ireland. We didn’t have any idea how to cross the border, but soon we noticed that there really wasn’t a visible border anywhere. Traffic signs just changed a little bit to show miles instead of kilometers and there we were, in the UK.

Our first stop was in Armagh, that seemed to be strictly divided with nationalists and unionists, because there were their flags everywhere. Otherwise it looked just the same as every Irish town. Near Armagh we had a small walk in the Navan Fort with astonishing 360° open view over the green fields.

After Armagh, we drove via Coleraine to Bushmills, where we spent our fourth night. Me and Tuukka walked to Giant’s Causeway in the evening and barely got back to the main road until nightfall.

Day 5: Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills distillery, Carrick-a-Rede and back to south

In the morning we went again to Giant’s Causeway. We walked around the basaltic columns and climbed to the hills and enjoyed the fresh Atlantic air, although the wind was quite strong. There were signs of recent landslides, so it was quite dangerous to go there in twilight.

When heavy rain fell on us, we decided to leave and head to Carrick-a-Rede, which is a small rope bridge leading to a small Carrick Island near Giant’s Causeway. If there’s something special to see, it’s the view (surprise, surprise). You could even see a distant mountain top on Islay, that is located about 65 km north from the northern coast. I hope to get there some day to taste the smoky and peaty Scotch whiskys in authentic environment. Strong wind made the crossing of the bridge a little bit hard. The personnel measured the wind speed and it was 31 something. Typical, they said. Probably knots, because 31 m/s would have been impossible to cross or even be outside without a shelter.

View from Carrick Island

View from Carrick Island

Next stop was the Bushmills distillery store, where I bought two bottles of Irish whiskey and some other souvenirs.

Then we headed southwest to Donegal via Londonderry (or Derry, whatever). Right before Londonderry there was a brilliant view over Lough Foyle.

The roads on the UK side were in much better shape and I got a similar feeling when going from Finland to Sweden. Everything’s cleaner and just seems to be better. I don’t really want to pick a political side, because the conflict there isn’t my war to fight, but it seems that the UK economy with Pound sterling is much better for Northern Ireland than Euro is for The Republic. Irish people seemed to be worried about the economy and high unemployment. Small towns are dying, because there are no jobs and young, educated people are moving to major cities and abroad. Unemployed people get too much benefits without doing anything and it’s not profitable to get a low pay job. Sounds similar to situation in Finland, except the huge drug problem and high crime rate that trouble Ireland. These facts make it highly irrelevant to argue about unions and republics. There are more important things to worry about.

On the evening of day 5 we went out in Donegal to see the Champion’s league final in a pub. We found ourselves in a local Manchester United fan pub that was filled with local football fanatics. After a few pints of Smithwick’s (if you know where to get Smithwick’s in Finland, please tell me) we thought that it was best to leave, because the atmosphere was becoming more hostile and we were sitting in the lower section of the pub that was filled with Barcelona supporters.

Day 6: Slieve League

On the day 6 we drove past Killybegs and Kilcar to Slieve League, that is the highest sea cliff in Europe. The wind was very strong and it was sometimes difficult to stay on your feet. Even stronger than on Carrick-a-Rede. I climbed quite high on the mountain in wet, grassy terrain, but didn’t have enough courage to go on the other side of the top, because my shoes really weren’t good enough for walking there. Again, the scenery was breathtaking and even the Sun was shining. No rain at all. Splendid.

Slieve League

Slieve League

Day 7: Back to Dublin

The last day was spent driving back to Dublin via Drumcliff, Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon and Maynooth. I was planning to buy a bodhrán, but I couldn’t find one that wasn’t made in China. I’ll probably have to order one from Waltons. After dinner, I was really tired and slept a couple of hours in the car.

Our last night flowed really slowly in the Dublin Airport where we tried to get some sleep in couches. I managed to get two hours of sleep until we were told that we have to leave for cleaning. A little later the check-in desks opened and we dropped our baggage there and went through the security check. After a few hours of wandering in souvenir shops we were heading home, asleep on the plane.

Summary: Great trip. Fun, fun, fun. Can’t wait for the next one.

Post Scriptum

How long does it take to get used to right hand side traffic again?

Ross Castle hospitality

Ross Castle, in the village of Ross, co Meath, a couple hours of drive from Dublin, is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy Irish countryside and hospitality. We spent two nights in this cozy small castle and will certainly return someday.

The building consists of old tower that was originally built in 16th century and rebuilt after destruction in 19th century, and a side wing building that was built in 1960’s on the foundings of older building. One part of the buildings foundations used to be a chapel. The place is filled with antiques, stuffed animals and old books. Definitely worth driving through narrow roads and small villages.

Guestbook is filled with stories from very satisfied visitors and of course, ghost stories.

Many visitors have heard weird noises, knocking on the front door, heavy breathing, footsteps on tower staircase, toilets flushing without anyone being there, seen childrens cradle rocking, glowing orbs and a spirit of a young woman.

I didn’t see or hear anything but a Canadian couple that slept in the tower told us that they could hear lots of ghost noises during the night. This place itself can easily give the creeps to even the most sceptic people; not in a negative way but as an exciting experience in front of fireplace, telling ghost stories to each other.

Food is excellent and the coffee is probably the best in Ireland. The host couple is very nice and we truly enjoyed their hospitality.

I certainly recommend visiting Ross Castle. Spend a night or two and relax.