Thursday 26 September 2019

Charleville Castle Co Offaly

                                              Above Image: The entrance door

                                          Above Image: The fabulous main stairs

                                                Above Image: The great ballroom

                                           Above Image: The door of the red room

                                  Above Image: The octagonal ceiling in the red room

                                            Above Image: The haunted staircase

                                               Above Image: The library room

                                   Above Image & Below Image: The ruined church

                                      Above Image: Ruinous section of the castle

Chareleville is a wonderfully atmospheric and magnificent looking castle set deep in the forest of Charleville demesne. The castle has been partially restored through  public donations and work is ongoing on the ruinous sections and the church.
In 1641 Thomas Moore built a fine mansion here and the estate later changed hands to Charles William Bury. In 1798 the Earl of Chareleville decided to build a new edifice and so the castle we see today was created between 1800 and 1812 from a design by architect Francis Johnston who is noted for designing the General Post Office building (GPO) in Dublin.
While the castle was not always occupied it was continuously improved upon and was host to many guests including Lord Byron.
From 1912 onward the castle was unoccupied and had its roof removed in the late 1960's. In 1971 restoration work began and later a charitable trust was formed. The trust is now under the management of Dudley Stewart and a host of volunteers handle the daily functions including tours of sections of the castle.
We contacted Dudley to enquire about a visit and he told us that currently there was activity at the castle so a proper tour might not be possible but he didn't dissuade us from coming.
when we arrived at the gates of the demesne we had to take a lengthy drive up a forest road to reach the castle. Along the way the were nice little touches in this atmospheric forest such as little hobbit-like doors in the tree trunks. Eventually the castle came into sight and it was magnificent.
The "activity" at the castle mentioned by Dudley was in fact a film crew shooting scenes for an Irish comedy horror which turned out to be the 2019 movie "Extra Ordinary" which in fact premieres this week. The film crew seemed oblivious to us and on advising them that Dudley had approved our visit we were offered coffee and told we could look around but be silent during the actual filming. We stayed a while but were really not able to move about much as the crew were set up in various locations. We decided then to take a look at the castle from the exterior and phoned Dudley to arrange a tour on the following week when the crew had completed filming.
We returned and were given an excellent tour by a young French girl who was one of the volunteers. She advised us that certain upper sections were Dudley's private apartments and so were inaccessible. Apparently the second floor is still in bad need of restoration.
The ruinous parts of the castle can only be viewed externally but the mix of ruin and restoration makes for a nice visit.
The castle has been the focus of paranormal investigation over the years and some of the volunteers have witnessed some events.We were shown a very creepy photo one of them took showing a spectral figure Notably, one of the back staircases is haunted by the ghost of a young girl called Harriet who in the late 19th century while trying to slide down the long banister fell to her death in the hallway below. Several visitors have claimed to have seen her on the stairs. The renowned photographer Simon Marsden visited here and was struck by the eeriness of some of the halls and rooms. He recorded this in his excellent book "The Twilight Hour: Celtic Visions From The Past"
A most unusual room is the octagonal red room and our guide advised that strange things have happened there. As it is  a bedroom she had the opportunity to spend a night in there but she had not experienced anything strange. One occupant she told us heard something strange at the door and when he tried to open it he could not. He pounded on the door to no avail eventual damaging it and you can still see this today. His wife apparently had left the room and on hearing the commotion returned and had no trouble opening the door as it was unlocked.....
I must say I found the red room and indeed the library room both a bit creepy. I couldn't put my finger on it but they definitely had a vibe about them. In the library there is also a secret passage that leads to the old church. There are a few other secret closets and false doors along the way and I must say we really enjoyed the trip. The tour cost.8 Euro each which goes towards the running of and restoration of the castle. One tip though contact Dudley before you make a visit as there are times you may turn up and find it closed. The contact numbers are as follows:  Landline 00 353 57 9323040  or Mobile 00 353 87 7664110

To find Charleville take the N80 heading Northwards to Tullamore from Portlaoise.and continue on this road for approx 40KM passing through Mountmellick and Killeigh. Approx. 6KM out of Killeigh you will reach a roundabout named the Clonminch roundabout. Turn left at the roundabout onto the N52 for Nenagh and Birr. Pass straight through the next two roundabouts. On the third roundabout named appropriately the Charleville roundabout turn right through the gates into Charleville demesne.A drive up the narrow forest road brings you directly to the castle where you can park, Be aware that along the forest road there are several speed bumps which are not that obvious and even at slow speeds can be a bit jarring when not expected.