Staying in an authentic Castle

You will find many an accommodation which is described as a “Castle”, or has the word “castle in its name, yet it may not be an “real” castle.  

For those of you who have never stayed in a genuinely authentic castle, you will well remember arriving at Ballyhannon Castle, a medieval castle unlike anything else that you will have ever experienced.

During your stay there you will be living as our Irish ancestors did from the late 1400’s onwards!

  Ballyhannon Castle self catering vacation rental castle County Clare Ireland

In the early 1400’s the internal room arrangements of castles built in that era indicate that the architects and builders of castles encouraged communal living, perhaps because the notion or need for one’s “private space” was not a medieval priority.  Even the livestock lived in the same building as the family! At Ballyhannon Castle the livestock were kept in what is now the dining room on the ground floor,     and the alcoves which in bygone times separated the horses or cattle now house suits of armour!  Apparently the body heat from the animals below percolated to the floors above – a medieval form of underfloor heating! Other normal castle features included shared bathrooms, and one bedroom accessed through another bedroom.

Ballyhannon Castle self catering vacation rental castle County Clare Ireland

 Ballyhannon Castle was, however, built at the end of the 1400’s, in what is known as the “Golden Age of Castle building in Ireland”.
 
This simply meant that the architects of the late 15th century learnt from the “mistakes” of their earlier colleagues, and while it has all the other common medieval features of that century, the bedrooms are all separate and self-contained behind their thick stone walls.

The great flagstone floors are supported by massive oak beams, visible as the ceilings for the rooms beneath. Each room is like its own separate stone vault, and shouting down the stairs probably won’t be heard below, such is the sound barrier of the stone. Stairs were actually designed and built to be uneven so that any intruder unfamiliar with them would stumble as they try to sneak up the spiral staircase which, by no act of architectural coincidence, was constructed to wind clockwise as one goes up. Why so, you ask yourself? Well, let’s keep a little mystery until you arrive, when the owners will be only too happy to tell you!

The ancient stone walls unavoidably create dust, and spiders hide and escape even the best spring-cleaners. Castle walls are often several metres thick and acted to both defend against attack and cocoon the rooms to maintain more even temperatures. When it is warm and humid outside, though, the cooler walls inside do act to condense that humidity and can be damp to the touch.

The aspect/orientation of medieval Castles was also well thought through by the architects of that era, particularly during the “Golden Age of Castle Building in Ireland” when Ballyhannon Castle was built, and Ballyhannon Castle is a perfect example. The living accommodation (bedrooms, Great Room, bathrooms etc.) face East and North, while the common areas such as the stairs and hallways face West and South.

Ballyhannon Castle self catering vacation rental castle County Clare Ireland

This is because castles are not waterproof, and in the West of Ireland (and especially near the coast) the sea winds can really drive the rain (parallel to the ground), and indeed such strong winds mainly prevail from the West. So, when the weather is particularly inclement, some of the common areas (e.g. near the front door, and the first portion of steps and hallway, and corridors) get wet where the driving rain slowly seeps through the otherwise battle-impenetrable walls. The walls are so thick that the wind and rain have to be continuous and prolonged, and really at their worst for this to be noticeable.  The original Architects of the castle knew this, and so they designed the internal accommodation to best effect, facing the living rooms away from the prevailing weather.  Quite ingenious for almost 600 years ago, don’t you think!

So, if you think you might be up to living just like our medieval ancestors did almost 600 hundred years ago (or even if you’re not, but are willing to try anyway!), your stay at Ballyhannon Castle will be one of those life experiences you’ll never forget. And after all, don’t you find that in this day and age such experiences are becoming quite rare.

We hope you enjoy your stay at Ballyhannon Castle and Coach House!

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