No one knows what to expect.
From a distance, the brash sounds of approaching footfalls can be heard. Each heavy step makes the stone floor seem to reverberate with a dark intent of…well…something.
The suddenness of clatter, in an otherwise reverent space, has every eye darting around the cavernous room. In vain, the crowd attempts to locate the sound’s origin.
The loud, galumphing sound halts for a moment, then resumes once more, this time accompanied by the scraping noise of a heavy object being dragged alongside whomever…or whatever…is making ready for a grand entrance.
The ghostly pair, dressed in all the finery of royalty, make their way through the crowd, eventually standing in the center of the castle’s chamber. They must be over 12 feet tall, dwarfing everyone around them.
In silence, the King and Queen, with smudged, pale skin and dark, dead eyes, wander around the room awkwardly, searching for someone they might draw into a phantom embrace. Reaching out, they point elaborately-decorated staffs towards a crowd that’s busy backing away.
It’s Halloween in Ireland, and Bunratty Castle in Clare—first built in 1425, then restored to its medieval splendor in 1954—is more than ready to celebrate the occasion.
The 15th- and 16th-century furnishings are crafted from dark, heavy wood, each piece representing the feel of long-ago centuries. Faded tapestries and emotive works of art hang from old stone walls that are cold to the touch. The appearance of this seemingly ethereal king and queen is like frosting on a cake.
I feel completely transported.
The attention to detail has taken me back in time, but travel writing is what has brought me all the way to Ireland.
For eight days, I can call the Emerald Isle my home, and my stay is completely for free, all because I uncovered a way to turn words on a page into a travel ticket that can take me anywhere.
My travel writing allows me to wander through castle ruins, explore Limerick over in the west of the country, the capital city of Dublin, and the expanse of breathtaking natural beauty along the famous Cliffs of Moher in Clare. I eat in local pubs and fancy restaurants, gain entrance to several museums, and get to discover Henrietta, the oldest street in Dublin. And the best thing about it all? Most of my escapades are on someone else’s dime.
When I mention to a shopkeeper in Adare—dubbed one of the country’s prettiest villages—how I’d love to walk the grounds of its nearby, ultra-private, Adare Manor, she grins and tells me about a secret entrance that only locals are aware of.
Gleefully, I spend an hour or so walking through peaceful gardens and admiring the landscaped grounds of this world-renowned hotel. I sit on a bright blue bench, tucked between flowering trees and think about where I am. It’s a dream come true.
Each day seems to be a new and exciting adventure. Travel writing allows me to see and do things that I wouldn’t be able to as a regular tourist. The experiences are incredible, and only make me want to see more of this big, bold, beautiful world we live in.
And lucky me, it’s something I get to do.
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