When you’re anticipating a trip, you can plan everything out until you are sure you’ve got it all just right, but when it comes down to it, no matter how prepared you think you are, sometimes things will still go awry. And that’s what happened to us at Dunguaire Castle on our second morning in Ireland.
None of us had ever seen a real castle in person, much less been inside one, so we were really looking forward to checking out Dunguaire Castle, the most photographed castle in all of Ireland. Located in County Galway on the shores of Galway Bay, we had a good 45-minute drive to get to it from where we were staying in Doolin, but we’d already planned to make a day of it and check out Galway while we were in the area, so we didn’t mind the drive.
When we arrived, something didn’t look quite right to me. At first I thought it was because the castle looked so much smaller than I’d expected it to be. In fact, it didn’t look very castle-y at all. It looked more like a fort or a prison than a castle. But Dunguaire Castle’s size wasn’t the only thing that had me puzzled – something else was different, I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
We arrived about an hour after the castle was due to be open. Only a few other visitors were there, so we didn’t feel any pressure to hurry inside and get our tickets before it got crowded. We took a walk along the trail lining the perimeter of the castle, taking pictures and running our fingers over the cracks in the old stone walls. Built sometime in the 16th century, Dunguaire Castle has since been restored, but it still looks plenty old to me!
Finally we made our way into the castle courtyard where all the other tourists had gathered. At first I didn’t notice because I was too busy trying to get shots of the castle without people in them, but when I stopped for a moment I realized everyone was just standing around and peering in the windows. No one was actually going inside. Why? Because it was closed. No explanation, just closed. So we joined the people pressing their faces against the glass to get a glimpse of the inside and then left. What a disappointment.
It wasn’t until we were making our way to the front gates of the castle, looking at the grounds as we passed, that it finally hit me why I didn’t recognize the castle when I first saw it. Oh my gosh! The lake is missing! In all of the pictures I’d seen, Dunguaire Castle looked infinitely more beautiful because there was a body of water beside it, but when we visited, it was just gone! A few pools of water had formed from groundwater coming up by the castle, but that was it. How bizarre! As disappointed as I felt about our castle plans going down the drain, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself for not noticing such a drastic difference right away.
Legend has it that people who stand at the front gates of Dunguaire Castle and ask a question of King Guaire will have an answer by the end of the day. Well, I’ve got two for you, King Guaire – just when is your castle open, and what happened to your lake?!
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