t. elizabeth renich

author of historical fiction

Of Castles & Causes

Sunday, 30-Jan-2011

The third time proved to be the charm.  Finding Clifden Castle now has a check mark next to it on my done list.  I had purchased a postcard with the castle on it on my first visit (2003), even though I hadn’t seen it for myself and it wasn’t on Willie’s trail ride.  In 2008, Bernadette and I went driving along the Westport Road, but didn’t venture beyond the Abbey Glen on Sky Road.  John D’Arcy founder of the town of Clifden, built Clifden Castle closer to Clifden Bay, and having seen the view, I can certainly understand why he did so.

Unfortunately, Clifden Castle passed out of the D’Arcy family in 1850 due to financial debt and crop failures during the famine.  D’Arcy’s son sold the castle and the town to Charles and Thomas Eyre, brothers from England.  Members of the Eyre family lived at Clifden Castle until the early 1920’s, when the government purchased the estate and divided the lands among the tenants.  The castle subsequently fell into disrepair, stripped of its usable timber and roofing slates.  Today, the walls of the ruins are ivy-covered, as are the outbuildings.  It was said that sheep and cattle used to graze all about the estate.

Seeing the castle from the hill above was enough for me.  The morning light did make it look a little different than it had the night before, and I was already imagining a way I could work this site into the manuscript I’m working on.  I very much want to include it…

After revisiting the castle site and snapping a few more pictures of the twin church spires and the colorful buildings that comprise Clifden, Bernadette and I went to Mannin Bay.  This is where, back in August of 2003, I actually cantered on the beach…  this time, I drove along the beach, on the “other” side of the road, from the “other side” of the car.  I did well enough to get into high gear and do 55 kilometers per hour…  but, I’m rusty with a manual shift and stalled it out as we were stopping in order to switch seats again.  Oh, well.  No damage done…

Back at the Station House Hotel, Bernadette took her change of clothes from the “portable tack room” in her trunk and went to get ready for the ride.  Leonard, Pakie, Colm, and Frances were going to meet us in Moycullen with the horses.  The cross-country ride, a fund-raiser for a charitable cause, would start sometime between half-twelve and 1:00 pm.  (Running a little ahead of schedule gave us enough time to take a detour at Oughterard, where we made a quick stop at Aughnanure Castle — another O’Flaherty property where Grace O’Malley had ties by marriage.)  At the meeting place in Moycullen, each rider paid an entry fee of €30, which was on this particular day, donated to breast cancer research.  When I asked Pakie how many riders had entered, he said he knew there were at least 105 horses, but probably more.

Frances, Leonard, and I went with Petie in his Jeep (any SUV is referred to as a “Jeep” – even if it’s manufactured by another car maker, sort of a generic term applied like “Kleenex” or “Xerox” machine…).  We left after all the riders rode out and met up with dozens of other spectators at the first stop for the jumping.  Most of the riders took the stone walls with what appeared as effortless ease, but every now and then a rider took a spill or a horse refused to go over the wall.  Everyone would wait until the riderless horse(s) were reunited with its rider, and the leaders would lead the pack forward to the next checkpoint on the route.  Then, the jumping would start again, and it was amazing to watch.  The horses, at times, rode right along and amid the cars.  They had no problem with the sounds or nearness of the automobiles.  The people in Moycullen, quite used to these cross-country gatherings, minded the horses in the roads and in the crosswalks. 

Inside a stone-fence enclosed pasture at one of our stops, I spoke with a man who was driving a real “Jeep” that looked like “Lizzie,” my old Liberty – but of course the steering wheel was on the right and the model name on the side of the door said “Cherokee.”  Interesting how things can be the same, but different.  Petie’s SUV was an Irish version of a Kia Sorento, but I didn’t see many similarities between it and mine aside from the glove compartment moulding and the console between the two front seats.  Go figure. 

This event was probably as close as I could imagine to going along with the “car-toppers” to follow a hunt.  Bernadette’s ride had everything but the fox.  After the ride concluded, the riders were welcome to go through an equestrian park with a steeple chase course, so we went and followed along with that, too.  By the time we got back to the car to go back to Ardrahan, my toes were pretty numb.  My borrowed Wellies didn’t have any insulation other than my socks.  It was nice to have the electric blanket on my bed to get warmed back up later.

About The Author

Author of the Shadowcreek Chronicles


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