Hi! It’s your old buddy, S.J.V., writing again from the Emerald Isle, which contrary to what you may believe is not a gentleman’s club in Oz, but is a colorful name for Ireland, setting of the upcoming SpyCo novella, Assignment: Dublin. This is day number flrthiflr of my research trip. [Editor’s Note: “flrthiflr” is the sound Scott’s mouth makes when he rubs his hand over it while talking because he can’t actually remember how many days he’s been in Ireland, as he spent the first several touring the pubs of Dublin].
Let me start this installment by asking you a question: What can you find in a nation whose history stretches back a thousand years and whose people used to like to roam around taking over other people’s land, necessitating the building of something that might discourage this sort of behavior?
That’s right! Castles. I would have also accepted “Giant holes filled with hungry wolverines.”
But yeah, castles. Ireland’s got tons of them. Some stand more or less the same as they ever have, some have been painstakingly restored, and some, like my bedroom when I was in high school, are in ruins.
Just for fun, I thought I’d tell you about a couple of them.
This is what’s left of Ballyloughan Castle. It’s a ruined castle located near Bagenalstown and according to Wikipedia, it features one of the finest gatehouses in Ireland. I checked it out, and think meh, as gatehouses go. But that’s me. The architectural style suggests it was built by a Norman lord sometime around 1300 and was likely abandoned in the 14th century probably because it was drafty. Despite its obvious lack of insulation, it was occupied by various Irish clans up until the 19th Century. I’m guessing they were just wandering Bagenalstown and came upon it, telling one another “There’s no point in letting a perfectly fine, albeit drafty, castle go to waste. Why don’t we occupy it?”
Now we come to Drimnagh Castle, which is located, oddly enough, in the village of Drimnagh. Drimnagh is actually a suburb of Dublin and from all reports is made up of mostly farmland and what the Irish lovingly refer to as hovels. Sound’s homey, doesn’t it? The castle itself is pretty sweet and has had a ton of restoration completed, The photo to the right was taken around 1900 when the castle was a young and strapping 684 years old or so. I hope I look this good when I’m 684! This old place is doing so well that you can rent it now as a venue for weddings and “other events.” Anybody else thinking what I’m thinking: all-night kegger?
I’m going to conclude our brief tour with Doonagore Castle, to my way of thinking one of your more “castle-y” looking castles. Being not quite as old as some of the others we know that it was built around 1500 by a fellow with the altogether fantastic name MacTurlough O’Conner. [Note to self: Name next goldfish MacTurlough O’Conner.] The name Doonagore is possibly derived from Dún na Gabhair, which means either “the fort of the rounded hills,” or, and I am not making this up, “fort of the goats.” You know which it would have been if I’d been giving the job of naming the place. What stands today is essentially a tower house and a bawn, or walled enclosure, and it is privately owned by people who use it as a summer house and who don’t let you get any closer than this if you want to take its picture.
This is all very interesting on its own, but perhaps even more so because there is a good chance that a castle might figure into the storyline of Assignment: Dublin. Maybe even one of these, who knows?
My closing observation on all of the castles of Ireland, in general, is that none serve beer, so I’m heading back to Dublin to find someplace that does.