What a thrill it was going to be to actually stay in a real castle! We were excited.
After spending a few days in Limerick and driving out to see the Cliffs of Moher, we were on our way to our first castle – Ballynahinch Castle.
We drove down quiet roads winding through the countryside towards Galway, passing by small towns, green fields with endless stone fences, driving right by impressive castles, and crossing bridges over creeks and rivers. The scenery was always engaging and quaint.
There was even a flooded road… where we had dutifully followed the instructions from Miss Molly GPS.
We took a break at Salthill, a suburb of Galway, on the well-known Galway Bay.
It was a bit chilly for laying on the beach or going for a swim, but the air was fresh and the views were pleasant.
We finally arrived at Ballynahinch Castle, and we were not disappointed. As we entered the grand drive up to the castle, the castle appeared at the end, larger than life. It was perched on a little hillock surrounded by acres of manicured lawns and huge trees.
After a warm but elegant welcome, we were shown to our fabulous room. Our bedroom was huge and the old windows opened onto a beautiful view of the river…
Everything was just as it should be in a castle, right down to the keys, the water, and a little box of chocolates.
The grounds were thick with lawn, shrubs and trees. Walking trails took guests to the river to fish, or to hunt woodcocks. A row of rubber boots or “Wellies” as they call them, line the wall at one of the castle doors.
Of course there was a parlour.
And a formal dining room.
Breakfast in the dining room overlooking the river was right out of a picture book.
The halls were graced with the pictures of famous people who had stayed in the castle, and with a wall carpet of the Seal of the President of the U. S., who had also stayed at Ballynahinch Castle.
Meals in the formal dining room however, were outrageously high-priced. We decided to eat in the pub, which was also fit for a Queen in terms of fittings, but the prices more reasonable.
The staircases were grand too.
The morning of the day we were to leave, I was exploring the upper staircases and peering out little windows on the sides of the stairs. I was excited about something I had seen out the window, and when I saw T coming up the staircase below me, I called out to him, and rushed to the bottom of the stairs. For some reason, I thought I was already on the bottom step, and stepped straight down expecting to set firmly on the landing. Unfortunately, I was up about five stairs. I pitched forward, flying through the air, and crashed, legs scrunching under me, landing on my stomach!
The scene of the accident is forever etched in my mind`s eye. I’m guessing it is much like the moment before any crash we experience.
The pain in my ankle was excruciating! I moaned and cried out. T came rushing up, trying to help me get up. With his help, I hobbled into the bedroom and up onto the bed.
The searing pain set me to trembling uncontrollably. I was going into shock. T fumbled to fetch the anti-inflammatory pills out of my medical pouch, and faithfully held my hand as I waited for the anti-inflammatory to take effect. It really was painful.
Clenching my teeth, and holding my breath, I could not stand the pain much longer. The Castle Manager rushed in to see what she could do. She brought ice as requested and was extremely concerned. (They likely did not want a law suit.) After a few minutes of wringing her hands and asking what else she could do, she astonished us when, in a very serious tone, she asked,
“Do you believe in the Cure?”
“Huh? The Cure?” asks T.
“Whhaa?” I groaned, barely able to speak.
“There’s a lady that can help you. She knows the Cure.”
T looked at me to see my reaction.
“Anything…” I moaned, “I’ll try anything…” We were miles from a hospital, way out in the countryside.
“Okay, I’ll call her,” she said.
“Call her?” T asked, “She can help on the phone?”
“Oh my, Yes”, the manager responded enthusiastically, a glint in her eyes, “She can do it over the phone!”
So she called. She explained the situation in a heavy Irish accent that I could barely understand. She listened. She nodded. She hung up.
She came over to the bed and put her hand on my leg gently.
“You’ll feel better soon, ” she said, and left the room. That was it. No magic words, no elixirs or potions, no wizardry or incantations.
I waited and waited, biting my lip, tears running down my face. After about an hour the extreme pain began to subside, leaving just a deep throbbing.
Maybe it was “the Cure”, or maybe and more likely, it was the anti-inflammatory pills that dulled the pain just enough.
I was able to go down the stairs on my bum, a highly undignified way to leave a castle, but when you are in pain, you really couldn’t care less. T helped me hop to the car on my left leg. We drove to our next accommodation, finding a B & B with a main floor room. Many B & B`s have stairs. That night my foot and ankle turned black and blue and was swollen to triple its normal size.
I also had another problem. My luggage had not arrived at the airport with me. At the time, we were assured that it would be sent to our hotel in Limerick, and I wasn’t all that worried about it. These things happen when travelling. Just a minor glitch. But now, with only one good leg, it was a big issue. I had no clean clothes – just the clothes I had travelled in. I had been hand-washing things every night, but this was not likely possible now. Leaving a trail of forwarding addresses with the airlines was likely not going to be successful way to retrieve my suitcase either.
The next day, we met up with T’s daughter, and I won’t soon forget her humorous tales of life at Oxford University that had me giggling for a few hours and temporarily distracted me from the constant pain and discomfort of my ankle.
The owner of the B & B recommended we see a doctor and she gave us the address of a private clinic nearby.
The experience at the clinic was one of the most positive medical experiences of my life. The nurse rushed out to the car to help me out of the car. She got me comfortably seated in the waiting room, and I settled in for the usual (in Canada) hour or two wait. In about two minutes, the doctor came out with a wheel chair and drove me into the examination room. He was warm and friendly and caring. Wow.
He very gently took X-rays and announced that my ankle was broken, a chip was broken off the ankle bone. Surgery was not necessary since the chip would eventually dissolve, but it would need a temporary cast in order to heal. With the help of his nurse, they layered on the plaster with only my toes sticking out, and instructed that I must see a bone specialist in a clinic along our planned itinerary route to have more X-rays and a permanent cast. He also said I must not get the cast wet (I think he forgot that we were in wet, constantly raining Ireland) and that I must not put any weight on that leg.
So there I was with no clean clothes, a cast on one leg with my toes sticking out in the wet chilling cold of Ireland, hopping on one leg!
The worst of the pain was gone, and now it just ached. Determined to enjoy my vacation and grateful that we had a car, we set off to continue our vacation.
T`s daughter ran around a department store picking out pants and tops for me, while I tried to find a big sock to put over my cold toes. We had to buy huge wide leg pants to fit over that big cast, but one just doesn’t care too much about fashion in these situations, right? I found the softest angora socks in a pale turquoise blue and what sweet comfort it was to put that soft warm sock over my frozen toes. I still have those socks, and I don`t think I could ever get rid of them.
After a few more days of travelling in the rental car, I spent most of the time sitting in the car instead of seeing the sites. It was just too hard to hop on one leg, plus it was always raining and I wasn’t supposed to get the cast wet.
Eventually we got to the town with the specialist where he put on a boot cast and gave me crutches. That made it little easier to move about.
All and all, we still had an amazing time in Ireland. It was not difficult to see the countryside by car, and it was not too hard to sit in a pub and “have a pint“ either. It was a bit of a challenge to find B&B`s without stairs.
We’ll never forget Ballynahinch Castle; the place where I fell down the castle stairs and broke my ankle. But it`s one helluva way to make a place memorable!