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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 - Haunted Illinois goes on a supernatural tour of Ireland

Day 5:

After checking out of the hotel, everyone boarded the bus. Richard Felix asked if anyone had anything strange to report. One lady in our group said that she saw something fly across the room, while she was reading her notes and another person said that a piece of plaster had popped off the wall and flew in his direction, after he snapped a picture in his room.

After a short discussion of the supernatural and ghost stories related to the castle, we got back on the road. Our next destination was the Rock of Cashel, but we wouldn’t get there for quite a while. Since we were going to be on the road for so long, we had to make a couple of quick stops at gas stations along the way, for snacks and bathroom breaks.

Cabra Castle

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On The Road In Ireland

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After a long drive, we arrived in the town of Cashel. Cashel is known as the “City of Kings” because it was the home of high kings, who ruled there for centuries. The Rock of Cashel is a rocky plateau, towering 300 feet above the surrounding land. Its name comes from the Gaelic “caiseal”, which means “stone fort”. The rock formation’s high elevation made it an ideal place for a lookout or stronghold. From the peak, most of County Tipperary can be seen, for miles in all directions.

The land on top of the Rock of Cashel has been occupied since the 4th Century; however, most of what you can see today was built at a much later date. Some of the most prominent features are the 12th Century round tower, the 13th Century gothic cathedral and the Vicar’s Hall.

Over the course of history, the two most famous men associated with this landmark are St. Patrick and Brian Boru. St. Patrick was famous for converting the pagan King of Munster to Christianity in 450 A.D. In 990, Brian Boru was crowned high king at the Rock of Cashel. He was known as the only king in history to unify all of Ireland under one ruler. For the six centuries that followed, “the rock” served as the seat of the Kings of Munster.

In the mid 1600’s, the Church of Ireland stopped using the cathedral and they removed the roof. They dismantled it because the roof was rich in lead, which could be used to make ammunition. Alchemists of the time also believed that the lead could be turned into gold, with the right catalyst. During those times, that belief made lead a very valuable commodity.

Getting up to the top of the Rock of Cashel was a bit of a chore. The long path and steep incline made getting there quite an effort, but it was worth it. There was no guided tour, so after getting our tickets, we were allowed to wander around the grounds for as long as we wanted. We started inside the cathedral, then we moved out into the Celtic cross graveyard. The panoramic view from the top of the Rock of Cashel was phenomenal (see panoramic picture below). Unfortunately, our visit ended up being a little shorter than I had anticipated. Not too long after we started exploring the graveyard, a storm hit. The strong winds nearly took me off my feet a couple of times and the rain made conditions less than ideal for picture-taking.

On our way back to the bus, we stopped at the shop at the bottom of the hill, to pick up a few souvenirs.

Rock of Cashel

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Rock of Cashel Panoramic Picture
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On The Road In Ireland

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Our next stop was Blarney Castle. What would a trip to Ireland be without stopping there?

What can be seen today isn’t the original castle. In fact, throughout history, there have been three different buildings erected on the property. The first was a wooden structure that was built in the tenth century. In 1210, it was replaced by a stone fortification, with an entrance that was 20 feet high. About two hundred years later, it was torn down and replaced with a third castle. Built in the mid 1400's by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster, it was much larger than the previous two structures. This castle is the same one that stands there today, drawing in tourists from all over the world.

When Blarney Castle is mentioned, many people think of the Blarney Stone. Originally called the Stone of Scone, it was the magical stone that the kings of Scotland sat on, to be crowned. King Edward I confiscated the stone and later took it to London.

Up until about ten years ago, it remained under the coronation chair at Westminster Abbey. All the kings that were crowned after King Edward’s time, sat above the Stone of Scone.

The other half of the stone, which would later be called the “Blarney Stone”, was given to the Irish by Robert the Bruce, who defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. It was given to the Lords of Blarney, in return for their help in defeating the English. Legend has it that if you kiss the stone, you will receive the gift of eloquence, more commonly known as the “gift of gab”.

On our way up to the castle, Richard Felix told us that Blarney Castle didn’t really have that much of a haunted history. There were some tales, however, that he shared about ghostly salmon swimming in a nearby river, catching ghostly flies. Afterward, he said that he didn't really believe those stories, explaining that small animals and insects can't appear as ghosts, but the concept was amusing nonetheless.

Making it from level to level inside the castle was a bit of a challenge. With all of the tight passages and small spiral staircases, it was a pretty precarious trip up to the top. At certain points, the stairs were hardly wide enough to put your feet on. Approaching the top level, the strong winds didn’t make the climb any easier, either.

Once we got up there, we were surprised that there weren't a lot of people waiting to kiss the Blarney Stone. We had heard horror stories about people having to wait at least an hour in line. I guess we must have gotten there at just the right time.

Unfortunately, my fear of heights got the better of me and I passed on kissing the blarney stone. They did have a wrought iron grate installed, so you wouldn’t fall to your demise, but the view from that high was still a bit scary. Also, I watched as the person in front of us kissed the stone and it didn’t look like fun. In order to even get near the stone, you had to lay down, then bend over backwards in a very awkward position. At that point, I decided that the gift of gab wasn't really that important after all.

Besides all of that, how many people’s lips have touched that thing, anyway??? Haha!

Blarney Castle

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Blarney Castle Panoramic Picture
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On The Road In Ireland

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Our final stop of the day was Kinnitty Castle, in County Offaly. The land where the castle now stands was previously occupied by the druids. It was originally a monastery during the 6th century. The high cross from the monastery and the abbey wall are still there today.

The first castle that was on the property was destroyed in 1209. It was then rebuilt by the Normans in 1213. During that period, an Augustinian Abbey was established near the castle.

Later in history, the Normans were driven out by the O’Carroll Clan. In 1630, William O’Carroll built a Neolithic style castle on the land (what is now Kinnitty Castle), but it was eventually confiscated by the English in 1641 and given to Thomas Winter, as a reward for his service in the military. In 1764, the estate was sold to the Bernard Family. At that point, the castle was known as Bernard Castle. It remained in the Bernard family for nearly 200 years, until it was burned down in 1922 by Republican forces. Later in 1928, it was rebuilt. After changing ownership a number of times after that, it was eventually sold to the Ryan family in 1994. They restored it and turned it into a luxury hotel called Kinnitty Castle.

As we pulled into the entrance, we were greeted by the American flag flying on the flagpole. Richard told us that they put the flag up there to welcome our group. That was a nice touch. After checking in, we walked across the courtyard and into the banquet hall, where we would have dinner. The hall was huge and had a medieval theme. The brick walls were adorned with shields & banners, and there were vintage round hoop chandeliers hanging from the barrel-vaulted ceiling. To add to the atmosphere, we dined by candlelight, with fancy candelabras set atop each of the tables. It was like going back in time.

After having a delicious dinner, we all gathered in the candle-lit library bar. Richard Felix had invited has friend Leslie, a paranormal expert, to join us for the evening. As we all listened attentively, Richard and Leslie had an in-depth discussion about all things paranormal.

Apparently, there have been numerous reports of paranormal activity at Kinnitty Castle. The ghost of a white lady has been seen in Geraldine’s room and people have also heard noises of a child whimpering. The banquet hall is another hot spot. There have been multiple sightings of a tall ghost munk, dressed in black. He has also been seen in the dungeon bar and his presence has been felt by many guests and staff members.

After the paranormal discussion winded down, we all moved back across the courtyard, to the large balcony area overlooking the banquet hall. By the light of a single candle, we tried to contact the spirit world with a session of table tipping. Table tipping is a technique where participants stand around a circular table, with the tips of their fingers touching the table top. The goal of the activity is to collectively harness the supernatural energy in the room, to get the table to tip or vibrate. After trying this for several minutes, the table did seem to tilt slightly a couple of times, but it was hard to tell if it was ghost energy or just someone in the circle shifting their weight. We also tried getting an inverted glass to move across the tabletop, but we didn’t have much luck.

Kinnitty Castle

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Kinnitty Castle Panoramic Picture
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