corey says…Last night we stayed at Hope Castle. It gets its name not from the fact that you hope there will be heat or you hope the bed will soften through the night or you hope to get out alive…(just read on for that detail)…it is named after the same family who gave their name to the Hope Diamond.
We pulled into the village of Castleblayney and at the gates of the Hope Castle saw a sign advertising rooms for €48 ( $74 ). We knew the price and plastic sign tacked to the iron gate served as clues that this might not be a storybook experience, but we decided to check it out.
We squeezed the car through the mighty gates, and drove up the tree-lined drive to the manor house (it’s on the site of the original Castle Blayney) at the top of the hill. From the height, the view of Lough Muckno with the tree-covered hills in the background was quite impressive.
The house itself was looking a bit shabby, but it clearly had gone through some major renovations at some point in the recent past. The price was €48 ( $74 ) for a single and €98 ( $152 ) for a double. We decided to give it a go. The clerk, taking a break from relocating the giant stack of white linens from a chair and a table in the middle of the lobby to behind the desk, gave us our keys and directed us up the relatively grand staircase.
On the upper floor, we poked our heads into the various doorways in search of our room. Ah-ha, it was through a door and up another flight of stairs. Liam’s poor mother wobbled all the way up, still nursing a newly installed hip…she was a real trooper.
We opened the door of the first room and found it to be a family room with two beds. Well, there was no need for a second room, so I was sent downstairs to see if we could cancel the second room…and to find out how to get some heat in the room.
“No problem,” said the clerk. “I’m afraid I can’t say, I know how many beds are in each room.” She went to the till and pulled out 48 euros and handed them to me. I was expecting there to be at least a little bit of hassle because I originally paid with a credit card, but when she handed me the cash, it felt like getting free money (even though it wasn’t free at all).
I then inquired about the heat. She told me she’d give the caretaker a call.
Triumphant, I climbed back upstairs. Liam was inspecting the overly firm bed, “The sheets are spotless, but this is the hardest bed I’ve ever been in,” he said. In addition to being little more than a padded board, it also seemed to slant upwards at the foot of the bed. It was kind of like laying on an inclined plane. “This oughta’ be interesting,” Liam said as he exaggerated the slope of the bed.
Then I heard Liam’s mother call out from the bathroom, “The toilet doesn’t flush.” Fortunately, it was just another Irish toilet that requires you to hold the handle down a few seconds longer to take care of the “big” jobs. Overall, the room was average. It even had teacups, tea and sugar…but NO kettle for hot water. We all agreed that for €33 ( $51 ) each, we could live with it.
We were then off to explore the grounds. On our way out the clerk…being a bit too honest…told us that they were out of oil for the heating system an that it would be an hour and a half before the oil man would come. No worries, we’d be out and about for at least that long.
We took a walk out to White Island which jutted into the lake in front of the castle. The road was rough and the trees were overgrown, but the sites natural beauty still came through.
When we reached some large trees on the island, we noticed some fresh graves under them…they belonged to pets…or at least the arrangement of cat toys and dog collars attached to the little wooden crosses led me to believe that is what they were. I must say, it felt odd to be on the grounds of a slightly rundown, old house and to see a freshly dug grave nearby.
We began telling Liam’s mom that they were the graves of the last guests to the hotel. Pat made it back up the hill to the house, and we piled into the car to take a spin around town. We explored the town centre…a decent variety of shops and restaurants. Then it was off to a petrol station for some ice cream. I also picked up some fruit. After I paid, the woman behind the counter asked, “Would you like me to rinse your fruit under the tap for ye?” I thought her offer was quite kind and I took her up on it. I must say, the people I dealt with in Castleblayney were all very friendly.
We returned to Hope Castle where we watched “Britain’s Got Talent” on the tellie. Simon from American Idol is one of the judges, and let me tell you, he is a completely different person on this British show. His only snide comments tend to be directed at his fellow judges in jest. It was almost like watching the big teddy bear version of Simon.
GET ME OUTA HERE
In the morning I thought I’d go for a run. I got dressed and headed downstairs. When I reached the front door, it was deadbolted shut. I found another door…same story. A fire exit on the second floor…same story again. We were LOCKED IN!
I returned to the room to let Liam and Pat know. We all started laughing…for some reason, we weren’t surprised. Liam told his mom, this was exactly what happened to the people buried out on the island.
I decided to hunt the first floor for another door. On that round, I found a side door that I managed to open after pushing the crashbar full-force. I propped the door behind me and headed out on my run.
I crossed the wooden footbridge to nearby Black Island. It was a wonderful wooded walk on a gravel trail that was crowned with a new bit of trail that goes up to the top of the island and offers some fantastic views. There was a bit fog over the water and the layers of bumpy hills were stacked in the background.
When I returned to the castle, the front door was open and the staff were mulling around with mops and cleaning supplies. In a few moments, we were downstairs in the restaurant waiting for breakfast. A man in dirty jeans and blackened fingernails took our order…he was the same man who was mopping the entrance. Uh-oh.
The tablecloth at our table hadn’t been changed from the previous patrol…who we again laughed was buried on the island. He rushed around putting out the cereal, milk and orange juice and a different table that had an even more stained table cloth. It was almost as if they weren’t expecting us…or simply not expecting us at 9am.
We weren’t expecting much from breakfast, but when he brought it out, we were pleasantly surprised. It was perfect with lots of well-prepared food that was well plated…and it tasted good too.
We arrived at Hope Castle with the right attitude and enjoyed our stay, but that’s because we saw it as a budget accommodation rather than a luxury property. Anyone arriving with ideas of a romantic, luxury castle would be terribly disappointed.
The place had been remodeled in 1996, so the place was a bit worn around the edges, the beds weren’t all that comfortable and the stairs were a killer, but the sheets were clean, the room was large, the shower was hot, the breakfast was delicious and the whole experience was quite an adventure.