I came home twenty minutes ago after the most spectacular weekend of … many years. Probably as long as I care to remember.
I came home after a weekend away from everything, at a place called Blackwater Castle down in County Cork.
Let me say this to you all, -right- now. If you find yourself wondering where to take your family on holiday one year, and if you want an unusual but absolutely -indescribably- wonderful experience … go to Blackwater Castle. Go and see the place, drink in the fresh air, walk the castle grounds, experience County Cork and some of Ireland’s most beautiful countryside, and friendly people.
This sounds like a travel-agent’s sales pitch, I know … but it is not. I am not a travel-agent, obviously. I am simply one person who was completely taken with this amazing place, hidden away from the eyes of the world.
You can find Blackwater Castle online, at http://www.blackwatercastle.com/ and I ask you all to please … please go and see. Look at the pictures. They are NOT enhanced. This is how the place genuinely, really, honestly looks. That is the real deal.
Surrounded by remains of an old castle wall, and sitting on top of a prominent hill surrounded by the river Awbeg on three sides, it is a magnificent, perfectly defensible position. Across the river Awbeg from the castle, are three caves where people have lived since the stone age, the castle walls themselves include pieces of two thousand year old fortifications, and the castle itself has been built in many stages, from the ninth century onwards, with parts preserved from the 12th and 15th centuries in particular. This includes the prominent keep … the tall tower visible in all photos of the castle, which is from the 15th century. It was built in a day and age where keeps were still important, but where they were also due to be made obsolescent by gunpowder. But when you go into that tower, and you see one of Ireland’s oldest Sheela Na Gig’s (a fertility goddess stonecarving) at the base, and you go up to see one of the most breathtaking views over the Cork countryside imaginable from the top floor, and you can see where old windows and doorways were blinded over and filled in up the narrow stairwell, you feel history’s weight upon you.
Especially if you have met the owner, Mr. Patrick Nordström. Patrick is a gentleman of finlandian descent … mind you, this is a term used of Finnish people of Swedish ancestry, and is not common anymore, but Patrick is proud of his background and will gladly talk to the guests about both that, his castle and the surrounding area. History, philosophy, politics and economics are all areas of interest and expertise for this man, who without question is the most gracious host I have EVER had the experience of meeting in ANY kind of lodgings anywhere in the world. Ever present but never intrusive, Patrick turned what would have been a memorable weekend into what became an unforgettable one, by entertaining us with story after story of the landscape and his own life and background.
For a history geek like me, it was sheer heaven, I admit. On the first evening, he started talking about how Sir Walter Raleigh had come to Castletownroche, as the community is called, in 1585 to arrest the local nobleman, “Mad” Lord Roche, for supporting an Irish rebellion. It got my attention instantly … this rebellion and Sir Walter Raleigh’s handling of it was one of the buildup-points towards the gunpowder plot, about which I wrote my thesis, so suddenly I could take part in the conversation with Patrick on a completely new level … something which he did not seem to be used to. Later, during the Interregnum period in England, where Oliver Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector, his men arrived at the castle and, in Patrick’s exact words, “redecorated the whole place into a big pile of rubble”. This was the end of the medieval fortification of the place, but the English noble family Widenham were given the place as a reward and in 1666 began rebuilding the castle in its present form.
It is a stunning place. Truly a remarkable gem, hidden away from the main tourist traps and it is MORE than worth a visit … not to mention that the prices are -extremely- reasonable. We were 53 people in our group, and by far the majority of us work for the same company I do. We are not rich people by even the most extreme stretch of the imagination. Our incomes are poor to put it mildly, and we could afford doing this.
Think about it. This place is worth the trip and the effort, regardless of where you come from. I kid you not people … I really, really must stress this. I cannot recommend this place highly enough.
And Patrick, on the off-chance you’ll read this … thank you for making this weekend one for the ages. People were in tears when we let those paper-balloons fly off into the night sky on Saturday. You helped make this weekend what it was, for each and every one of us.
This entry was posted on Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at 7:06 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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