Castle Hopping Off the Beaten Path

In Skies and Coffee by porteengear

Ireland is my favorite spot to visit and I have been there several times. I have many stories to share about this beautiful country. Fascinated by history, the first thing planned was to explore the old castles and homesteads and imagine what life was like a few centuries ago. We take pride in history in the US, but we are hard pressed to find many structures or sites that are more than 300 years old.

Many of the Castles have been turned into tourist traps and there are long queues just to get inside. So I made the decision to explore the abandoned castles off the beaten path. Research was done online and I found an older book published by The Daily Telegraph called Castles & Ancient Monuments of Ireland. It was published in 2001, but I figured that some of these castles have been standing since the 1200’s so a 12 year old book would still be valid.

What’s great about this book is that it sections off parts of Ireland, has decent maps and takes the time to really tell the history of the entire area and each individual site. In some cases it will let you know that the castle is on private property and how to contact the property owner and their suggested hours for visiting the site.

Climbing over walls and dodging sheep were all part of the excitement of discovering some of these hidden gems. I always made sure to knock on the door of the owners house and humbly ask permission before wandering through the ruins. Always show respect for the property owner.

Tips:

Be cautious in these buildings, they are old and crumbling, Many of them have stairs that go to second floors or higher and there are no safety rails or even people to come to your aid at these remote locations if you get injured.

Leave them as you found them, don’t litter or try to take a piece of the building home with you, these should still be enjoyed by generations to come and it would be easy for the property owners to restrict access.

Photographers: Figure out which direction these are facing in the sun and try to capture them in the right light. Pick the best ones for sunset or sunrise by which direction the main structure is facing. I visited a few that I could not photograph well because the only exposed side for taking the photo had the sun behind it. There is nothing worse than being excited to see a beautiful, historical castle and not being able to get that perfect shot!

Keep your camera on the ready as you approach, crows will gather in these structures and when startled, they will fly out and circle above the castle or perch where you can photograph them.

Since I purchased this book, I did some research this week and found a few more that have good reviews published in the last five years. I still plan on taking my current book with me each time I visit this beautiful country, it is a proven guide for my explorations.

All photography by Robyn Porteen