Travel

Ireland: Ghost stories in Malahide Castle & wandering the fishing village of Howth

Usually, when I visit home, I catch up with friends and family, eat all my dads’ food and bring Lola (my brother’s dog) for long walks in the Phoenix Park.  She is too cute, look at her little face!

 

But on this particular visit, I brought Stephen with me and as it was his first time in Ireland we decided to do some sightseeing. We decided as neither of us drive that we would just book a trip with a tour operator. We ended up going with Darby O Gill day tours and choose two tours, Malahide Castle & Howth Summit Day Tour and Cliffs of Moher day tour. I know your probably thinking, that I’m from Ireland, how on earth have I never been to the Cliffs of Moher? I think it is just one of those times when you think you live there so you will do it eventually but instead I had to move away before I finally visited.

The Malahide Castle & Howth Summit Day Tour was our first of the two tours. The pickup point was on O Connell Street on the opposite side of the GPO where all of the tour operators are. Look out for someone wearing a bright yellow jacket, you can’t miss them.

Our tour bus was small but the entire roof was glass and the side windows were huge so you were treated to excellent views while driving through Dublin city. Our tour guide was a chatty man who greeted everyone before telling the group about the areas we went by and about the places we were about to visit.

When we got to the Castle grounds our Tour guide Alan took us to the information centre and picked up our tickets. The tickets included access to Malahide castle and its garden. The Secret Walled Garden showcases rare plants from around the world in seven greenhouses and a Victorian conservatory. Lord MiloTalbot (previous owner, more detail later)  was an enthusiastic plant collector who brought specimens from around the world to create the gardens. In all, there are more than 5000 different species and varieties of plants.

The greenhouses were covered with beautifully coloured flowers that hung from vines along the edges. It made me feel like I had left Ireland and was transported to somewhere tropical. The greenhouses were heated which was a bonus on a cold winter day.

After we had our fill of exploring the gardens we met back with Alan who brought us to the entrance of the castle.

The castle dates back to the 12th century and was the home to the Talbot family for 791 years, from 1185 until 1976. The only period it fell out of the hands of the Talbots was between 1649–60 when Oliver Cromwell granted it to Miles Corbet after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Corbet was hanged following the demise of Cromwell, and the castle was restored to the Talbots. In 1975, Rose Talbot sold the castle to the Irish State. It’s pretty amazing that the Talbot family managed to keep the castle in their family for such a long time.

Every castle has its ghost stories and Malahide is no exception. There are mentions of at least five ghosts at Malahide, including Lady Maud Plunkett who is buried in the graveyard near the castle.

The one I found the creepiest was The White Lady. The story goes that for many years, a painting of a beautiful mysterious lady, wearing a long flowing white dress, hung in the Great Hall of the Castle. Nobody knew who she was or the identity of the artist. It had been recorded that from time to time she would leave her painting and wander the castle in the dead of night. A number of people, over a period of many years, have reported seeing her. I do love a ghost story but if I saw a ghost walking about all casual I think I would probably freak out.

A tour is nothing without a knowledgeable guide to take you through the history of the place. Our castle guide was great. She spoke really clearly and told the stories surrounding the castle in a very playful way. She also told us about phrases that originated from the most unusual situations in history.  The phrase Lose face literally means to save face. Back when people would sit close to the fire their servants would put a cover barrier against them and the fire to prevent their face makeup from melting. I like the idea that is was its true origin and not what the internet says which is that it originated from the English traders dealing with the Chinese. Which do you think is true?

Interesting fact! The Talbot family were also known to be connected the famous author and diarist James Boswell, and a unique collection of his papers were discovered inside the castle in the 1920s.

The graveyard of Malahide Abbey is located beside Malahide Castle. The Talbot’s are not buried in this graveyard. You would think that they would have wanted to be buried there as it has been their home for generations.

The next stop wasn’t exactly on the tour itinerary but our tour guide stopped off anyway so we could view the award-winning tree sculptor Tommy Craggs piece made out of a sick Monterey cypress at St. Anne’s Park. The Dublin City Council enlisted Craggs to create a wood feature based on the nature reserve of Bull Island.

Last stop on the tour was Howth. The name “Howth” is thought to be of Norse origin.  Norse Vikings colonised the eastern shores of Ireland and built the settlement of Dublin as a strategic base between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. After Brian Ború, the High King of Ireland, defeated the Norse in 1014, many Norse fled to Howth to regroup and remained there until their final defeat in Fingal in the middle of the 11th century.  Ireland’s Eye (an island) is part of the Special Area of Conservation and lies about a kilometre north of Howth Harbour. It has a  Martello tower with another tower overlooking Howth harbour. These are part of a series of towers built around the coast of Ireland during the 19th century.

Seen this guy pop his out of the water – no idea what he is eating do you?

Looks like it has suction cups. Can it possibly be an octopus? Any guesses ???

The lighthouse below is called the “The Baily”. It lies on the southeastern part of Howth Head and is maintained by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.

Here endeth the tour. Overall it was a really interesting tour. Ireland has so much history it is hard to decide what to see and do while visiting. This tour was a great day tour if you want to see some of the coastline and see a historically significant Irish Castle. I didn’t know anything about the Talbots before I went so to walk through their lives but I am glad I now know the history surrounding their home.

 

Have you visited Ireland or would you like to one day?

 

Jes x

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