IMG_0207Thursday, we went to Barryscourt Castle. This castle dates back to the 16th century when it was the seat of the Barry family. At one point David Barry wanted to join a rebellion on the side of the Irish and did not want to leave his castle available to the English so he lit it on fire. Later, when it became clear that the rebellion was not going to succeed, he switched sides, asking for forgiveness from the queen, and receiving it (way to be a fair-weather friend, David). He returned to his castle (now a burned out shell), married a woman with a large dowry, and rebuilt the castle.

This castle has now been reconstructed so that guests can go all through it and see the way it might have looked in the 16th century. As much as I enjoyed our tour and learned from our tour-guide, I must admit that a childhood dream of mine was dashed.

Once upon a time, there lived a young girl who always dreamed of being a princess, in a proper castle. 

My disappointment started at the front door. Rather than the large, majestic door (out of which spilled warm, golden light,) always open to a weary travel, that I had  pictured, we were told that the short, narrow wooden door had spikes coming out of it so that unwanted guests couldn’t get in. Because the spikes presented somewhat of a hazard toward tour guests, the door now just has little metal squares all across the front and leaves the rest up to the imagination. (You’ll really have to use your imagination because I thought I  had a picture of the door, but evidently I do not.)  If the intruder happened to make it past the door of death and get inside, they were likely to fall victim to the murder hole. That is actually the name, it was basically a grate in the ceiling and guards sat up there and dropped hot oil, tar, rocks and other “Welcome to our humble fortress” gifts on the people below.

My quest to learn about the lives of the rich and fabulous in the Elizabethan Era was already turning up some rather nasty bits of information and I was barely in the front door!  I learned shortly after that that things could only get worse as our next stop was the dungeon. I also don’t have a picture of the dungeon because it was really dark, instead I took a picture of this:
IMG_0168The hole that the prisoners were dropped in. It was also the only entrance to the dungeon, once you were dropped in there you were certainly not expected to come out. Gone were the ideas of the noble hero being thrown in the villain’s dungeon, only to valiantly escape later.

Next, we headed upstairs. (We had to go up a flight of stairs that had been added because the original stairs were super steep trick stairs, intended to keep invaders from making it  to the upper levels where the family lived.)

We went into the banquet hall where the family would eat and entertain and things looked a bit more promising for my idyllic castle life ideas. There were several long tables full of rustic dishes with one table at the head.

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However, I didn’t have time to revel in daydreams of grand dinners full of beautiful nobles and fine food before I found out the truth. Food poisoning was a frequent occurrence and on top of that the head table ate off of pewter dishes, which caused lead poisoning. (They also shared one big receptacle of alcohol which is kind of icky.)

We didn’t go up to the bedrooms but it turned out that David Barry and his wife shared the one small room with their eight children. Ten people in one room; my final fairytale picture of a spacious room with a huge canopy bed and  a carved bureau was completely destroyed.

And so it came to pass that the young girl turned into an (almost) grown woman and learned that she far preferred to be an iPhone owning, backpack toting, book reading student, than a stair climbing, lead poisoned, castle living princess. 

In all seriousness, I very much enjoyed the tour of Barryscourt. I loved our tour guide and because  the first castle we saw was reconstructed it makes it easier when we go to ruins to imagine what they would’ve looked like. I also took many more castle-related pictures:

IMG_0172One of the doors. The castle was full of narrow doorways, low ceilings, and steep steps. It was a treacherous place for someone with my level of clumsy.

IMG_0179The original fireplace in the great hall.

IMG_0234Me in front of my very first castle, it was momentous.

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