Haunted Hotels & Other Themed Lodgings


If you like a good scare, then an overnight stay in a haunted hotel could be the perfect way to spend a holiday! While some hotels revel in their hauntings and promote them to guests, others prefer not to advertise the fact that their guests could be sharing their room with an apparition or two.

Thought to be one of Australia’s most haunted hotels,   in the Jenolan Caves of New South Wales is reportedly haunted by James Wilburd, Jenolan’s third caretaker. Wilburd took care of Jenolan from 1903, and it’s said he chose not to leave.

Ballygally Castle Hotel in Northern IrelandThe caves and the hotel are said to be haunted, with various visitors snapping photos of strange apparitions, lights turning on and off by themselves, and gates rattling mysteriously. If they’re feeling brave, visitors can also take the Legends, Mysteries & Ghosts tour to learn more about the ghosties in the area.

While Australia is lacking somewhat in famous haunted hotels, a trip round the United Kingdom could be a ghost-seeker’s dream.

In Scotland, in Tulloch Castle, Dingwall, a guest in room eight claimed to have woken up unable to breathe, with the room icy and two girls sitting on his chest trying to suffocate him.Other guests claim to have seen a maid in the Pink Room and the Great Hall.

Also in Scotland, the ghost of Lady Catherine supposedly haunts Dalhousie Castle, where she died from a broken heart. Hotel guests and staff say they have seen her wandering the hallways, scratching or tapping on doors, and have had the feeling of someone tapping their shoulder or pulling their hair.

Ballygally Castle Hotel in Northern Ireland is also said to be haunted by a former lady of the house. In  1635, Isobella Shaw was locked in her room by her husband after giving birth to their son. Unfortunately, she fell to her death trying to escape out a window, and now haunts the castle looking for her son.

Over in Wales, Skirrid Mountain Inn is said to be haunted by the ghosts of former convicts who were executed at the inn in 1110. Guests staying at the hotel have reported the feelingof ropes being tightened round their necks, with some even leaving with the scars to prove it!

Where Australian hotels lack in hauntings, they make up for it in strangely themed lodgings. A hotel in Tasmania will soon open its doors, allowing guests to stay in an honest-to-goodness morgue.

The former morgue in Willow Court will keep its original furnishings, meaning guests can sleep on the old autopsy table, or in the refrigerator storage trays. And if that’s not creepy enough, the hotel is on the site of an old mental asylum!


A Home Away From Home-The Case For Self Catering in Ireland

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

Typical Thatched Roof Cottage IrelandWhen traveling in Ireland for a longer period of time a self catering cottage is the best way to go. A home of your own can be a peaceful oasis with the chaos of traveling. It also gives you the chance to live like a local. You can learn more about a place from a grocery store than from a hundred historical sites. A trip through the grocery store not only tells you what people eat, or don’t as the case may be, but a lot more. In fact, one of the best things about shopping at a store in Ireland is the magazines. There are daily or weekly publications on everything from fashion to news, and celebrity to tabloids. Reading a daily newspaper is a great way to get a feeling for how different the place you are is from where you’re from.

Another plus of getting a cottage is that it gives you a freedom you don’t have when staying in a hotel. Life in a hotel gives you the illusion of freedom and privacy, but on some level you’re at the whim of others. Maids come in and clean on their schedules and if you’re like me, you feel like you can’t leave the room a mess for the maid to see so you spend a half hour running around picking stuff up and making beds before you leave for the day.  When you rent a self-catering property it is yours and while you shouldn't trash it obviously, you have a little more flexibility of how you leave things when you go out for only a short time.

B & B’s are a big part of the lodging business in Ireland as well. These have pluses and minuses. One big plus is the standard Irish Breakfast which is the second B. This may be one of the best ways to start a day of sightseeing. It is also a great way to have to start buying bigger clothes. Another positive of the B& B is that, if you have a good hostess you can learn a lot about the area and maybe even learn about their life running a B & B. They can give you a chance to talk to a local about what Ireland is like for a person who lives in it.

B&B Athenry IrelandGiven all the positives, it might sound as though a B & B is the way to go, but there are some negatives. B & B’s generally charge per person rather than per room. If you’re traveling with a large family that may end up being expensive. The final reason I personally prefer self-catering to B & B is that, no matter how nice, no matter how helpful and regardless of the fact that you’re paying, at times handsomely, for the privilege; you are still in someone else’s house.  As a guest, even a paying one, you need to make sure you keep your voice down and that you aren’t coming and going in the middle of the night and generally try to behave in the manner of a polite house guest.

Ireland isn’t large, but the roads are sometimes one lane and crowded which makes travel more time consuming. This landscape makes a combination of lodging something that I have found works best. A centrally located self-catering property to use as a home base, and then an overnight stay here and there at either a local hotel or B & B.  This gives you the chance to see the country without having to pack all of your belongings into the car every single day. Speaking as someone who tends to end up with too much stuff almost on arrival that sounds like the best reason of all.

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Discover New Destinations: County Kerry, Ireland

County Kerry offers some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland, including three renowned peninsulas that combine stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, rocky mountains, and open green spaces. County Kerry is the fifth largest of Ireland’s 32 counties by area, and it is the 13th largest county by population. It includes Killarney, Dingle, and Tralee, and boasts a thriving traditional Irish culture, including a high population of residents who speak Gaelic.

Sheep Hearding Ring of Kerry IrelandVisitors to Kerry must fly in to Shannon, which is about an hour north. Though there is an airport in Kerry, it is regional. However, visitors will be happy to rent a car, since it will enable them to really explore the rustic county and to take one of its three scenic drives: The Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, or the Beara Peninsula. Those without a car will find it harder to get around, as public transportation is not widely available.

Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular routes, winding 170 km (110 miles) and passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin. You can stop along the way and watch sheep herding demonstrations, buy a traditional Irish coffee, tour Iron Age forts, and visit old monasteries. Irish roads are notoriously narrow, often only wide enough for one car. When you find yourself fighting for road space with sheep or negotiating who will be on the road around a narrow mountain pass, the driving can be a bit stressful. Tour buses are available to pick you up from your hotel to drive the Ring, including stops and demonstrations along the way.

Driving the Ring can take only a few hours if you drive straight through, but you should plan to spend a day to really enjoy the sights. Hikers and cyclists can also enjoy the Ring through a pedestrian path known as “The Kerry Way.” Finishing the path can take a few days to a few weeks, depending on your pace.

The Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula IrelandThis is the second most popular scenic route in County Kerry, and it is a great route if you are short on time as it only stretches for 50 km (30 miles) from Tralee to Dunquin. The western end of the peninsula, Dunmore Head, is the western-most point in Ireland (as well as Europe). In addition to the beautiful scenic views, the Dingle Peninsula is also home to remains from the Mesolithic period and the Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages, as well as 8th century Gallarus Oratory and Beehive huts.

Other Notable Sights

Count Kerry is home to many other noteworthy destinations. The 25,000-acre Killarney National Park is Ireland’s first national park and includes the Gap of Dunloe, the breathtaking Lakes of Killarney, Ross Castle, and the Muckross House, a Victorian mansion known as one of Ireland’s most stately homes.

Two of Ireland’s three highest mountains can also be found in Kerry, including Carrauntoohil in the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range and Mount Brandon in the Slieve Mish range. Hiking, rock climbing, and cycling are all available.

Just off the coast of Kerry are the Skellig Islands, which include Skellig Michael, a World Heritage site. There is 5th century monastic settlement 700 feet up on the cliff.

Finally, Kerry hosts several notable festivals each year, including Writer’s Week, Tralee’s Rose Festival, and the Puck Fair, in which a goat is crowned King Puck.

Whether you enjoy beautiful scenery, fishing, quiet beaches, hiking, climbing or water sports, Kerry has something to offer.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she’s written on online science major programs along with online science administration programs. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, playing piano, and working with origami.

All pictures are authors personal work.


Clifden, County Galway Ireland,Sometimes A Journey is All About Which Road You Take

Clifden Bay, Clifden Ireland

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

They say that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. I’m not sure just how true that is when the journey is taken late at night, in pitch blackness through a driving rain storm. Still I think that the awe we felt when we arrived in Clifden County Galway, was due at least in part to the road that brought us there. The high drama of the drive had contributed to the awe we felt at the very site of the place. After driving for what had seemed like hours through wind and rain like we had never experienced, on muddy roads that likely only were thought of as roads when they were dry. The night was dark. If we had turned off the car and the lights, we likely wouldn’t have been able to see our hands in front of our faces. We didn’t turn the car and lights off though. I’ve see the horror movies, that would just be asking for trouble.

We were tired, hungry and none too happy with each other. Relations tend to become strained when one person is trying desperately to hold the car on the road, with a razor thin barrier keeping the car from the sea, and the other person feels it is their job to inform the driver what they’re doing wrong.  All things considered, our arrival in Clifden seemed like a gift from God.  We had planned to go to Clifden, so getting there wasn’t a surprise, just another example of how distances are farther in Ireland. We started out in the late afternoon sunshine with directions, a map and a full tank of petrol.  We arrived six hours later with frayed nerves muddy windows and fumes left in the tank. I can’t remember when I was happier to see a town rise up from nothing like Clifden did. A wise man once said, Even if any road you take will get you somewhere, many of them may cause you to question the wisdom of going there in the first place. Okay it wasn’t a wise man, it was me.

Clifden Catholic Church, IrelandLike many smaller Irish towns, Clifden was pretty well closed up at night and it was all of 8:45 when we arrived there. I was ecstatic to get a room at the hotel on the main street with a parking spot right in front and a restaurant pub across the street. The room we were given was four flights up under the eaves and was barely big enough for the two single beds and one night table that inhabited it. The requisite TV showing a rerun of Popular was attached on a metal arm that came out of the wall… The postage stamp window showed only blackness and I was happy as a clam to call it home for the next 12 hours or so. A word about the US TV show Popular; I think it was Sara Rue’s big break, and I saw all of one episode during its whole American run. Still for some reason, every place we stayed that trip got only two channels. One was RTE 1 or RTE 2 and the other was showing a Popular rerun. Come to think of it I may still have only seen one episode of the series; just over and over again. And foreign travel is supposed to broaden your horizons.

For info on Clifden you can visit http://www.clifdenchamber.ie/

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Driving in Ireland without Driving Yourself Crazy

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

A strong will and a certain amount of courage is needed to drive in Ireland, since they drive on the wrong side of the road there. They think it's the right side, but it's actually the left. I know confusing right?  Still, since driving your own car is hands down the best way to see Ireland, it's worth the trouble.  Just remember that while it’s good to have a plan, it's best to not have a real set schedule.

Schedules can kill a vacation, especially in a country where many of the roads are one lane in either direction with no separation between them. Some roads barely seem big enough for two cars to pass each other and as you settle into the monotony of driving you might find yourself drifting to the side of the road you're most comfortable with.  In addition to this there are also many obstacles that at times you feel like you're playing a video game.

There is a popular Irish postcard with the caption ‘Traffic Jam’ which shows a car in the middle of the road surrounded by either cattle or sheep. This postcard is only funny when you see it in the airport before you’ve driven on country roads. After a few days in the country it seems more like a cautionary tale. Just relax, take some pictures and file the story away to get you a free beer in the pub next St. Paddy’s day.

Another thing to remember is that your car, and everyone else’s, has side mirrors. Yes side mirrors are a given, unfortunately they are also an accident waiting to happen. Especially when you drive through a busy Irish town with cars parked in the street on both sides. I’m not saying I ever took off someone’s side mirror, but if I did, I swear I went back and offered to pay for the damage.

Another important thing to remember when driving in Ireland is that most of the drivers live there and are familiar with the roads. True driving 65 mph on a mostly unpaved road that’s barely big enough for a car going in one direction may not seem like a good idea, and it’s not, but familiarity breeds complacency. Just get the extra rental car insurance and don’t worry about all the scratches on your car from hugging the bushes on the side of the road.

I have driven in Ireland a few times, most recently when my dad had to go to visit various family members that only my aunt knew. That situation brings me to my last piece of driving advice. If you ever need to follow someone who is the only link between you and where you need to be, all bets are off. Do whatever you need to stay with that car. Also since all cars look the same in Ireland, you probably want to write down the license plate number. Otherwise you may realize that the car you were following was just some guy on his way home from work. And while the Irish are a hospitable bunch, they probably won’t invite you in for dinner and to stay the night.

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Ireland, By Lough Sheelin’s Side

Derry House, Ireland

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

Derry Sheridan sits on a slight rise above the shores of Lough Sheelin.  If you had first visited the property 10 years ago, like I did, you would have driven down an avenue with so much foliage that the trees on either side met above the road creating a tunnel like atmosphere.  This road is simply known as The Avenue, because in Ireland, no fancy names are needed.

That first drive was almost like traveling into a storybook land like Brigadoon. For me it was like traveling back in time, a trip into my father’s past.  See the house at the end of this fairy lane, Derry Sheridan, was where my daddy was born and where he grew up. This magical land was his backyard.  As a child he walked to school through these fields.  Like many kids my dad didn’t like to wear shoes in nice weather so each day he would kick them off and hide them in the bushes on the way to school and pick them up on the way home. One day as fate would have it, the shoes were gone when he came back.

The first time I visited Derry it was on a trip guided by my reluctant aunt who had herself grown up in the house but felt no sense of nostalgia for it. To her is was far from town and isolated. She was a girl with dreams and a manor house in the middle of nowhere didn’t figure into those dreams. It’s kind of ironic really since my dreams as a child were always of Derry.

Derry Corner, IrelandI had grown up on stories of Derry. There were the mysterious lights on the Avenue that would appear out of nowhere to guide my dad and his brothers home when they were late, or on a particularly dark night. The first time they saw the lights they thought it was their father out looking for them, only to find him fast asleep when they reached the house.  Like so many things in Ireland the lights were never explained but they fit somehow; ghosts of the past looking out for the living.

The land Derry sits on fronts up to Lough Sheelin which is a well known Irish fishing spot in county Meath. In the middle of the lake sits Church Island, rumored to have once held a monastery at some time in the distant past. Church Island is a place to take a boat or even, for the particularly brave or hardy, a swim over to. A great spot for a picnic on one of Ireland’s rare sunny days.

Stone Wall On Derry PropertyOn my first visit to Derry the house was falling down but the wallpaper that my dad had seen on the walls of his childhood, while tattered, was still there. I took some of those pieces and brought them home to show my dad. He remembered the room where each piece had hung. Now Derry has been renovated and someday may be a self catering cottage. It’s owned by the people who own Ross House B&B next door which has fishing and horseback riding. So if you go there for a visit, while you walk through the fields keep an eye out for my dad’s shoes.


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Ireland, Newgrange at Sunrise, Sort Of

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

As I walked through the rain to the bus stop, after a quick check-in at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, I found myself wondering if the sight at the end of this trek was going to be worth it. As I hiked across the wooden bridge and down the path, water seeping into my shoes, I was tempted to turn back. This feeling deepened when I reached the bus stop and found I was the only person there.

Newgrange IrelandThis visit to Newgrange was an anomaly on my mostly unplanned trip around Ireland.  Everyone I talked to had raved about Newgrange, so I had made special plans to visit the sight. Still, as I stood there in the rain waiting for the bus that would (hopefully) take me to the actual tomb, I wondered if like so many ‘must sees’ Newgrange would be a disappointment.

There is something magical about Ireland that makes you feel as though its years of history connect seamlessly to its present. I had seen a lot of that history as I followed rambling country roads through small towns. I had walked by stone walls that themselves dated back hundreds of years. The stones used to build the wall may well have come from ancient ruins that went back even farther.

That may sound farfetched, but a building project is how Newgrange was rediscovered in 1699. Charles Campbell had instructed his laborers to dig into what appeared to be a large mound of earth. He was hoping that they would unearth stones he could us for building materials. Instead, their digging they uncovered the entrance to the main passage tomb at Newgrange.

Newgrange was originally built around 3200BC and at some point the tomb was sealed and the location forgotten. Like many of Ireland’s historical sites, Newgrange was not closed up and carefully monitored until more recent times. This ease of access led to one of the more interesting aspects of Newgrange; the graffiti.

I find myself fascinated by what one Newgrange website referred to as an act of "evilly-disposed visitors”.  It's hard to believe that people would actually write the 17th century equivalent of Kilroy Was Here on the stones of an ancient temple, but they did.  We think of this as a modern problem, but the dates by some of the names and comments on the walls of Newgrange show that people in the 1700’s and 1800’s apparently felt a similar need to make themselves known.

Newgrange Tomb EntranceStill, perhaps the most intriguing fact about Newgrange is one that would have first become apparent to archeologists on the Winter Solstice. On that day each year, the sun’s light shines in through a hole above the entrance and lights up the interior for about 17 minutes. Obviously this makes the Winter Solstice a very popular day, so the 100 spots are given out by lottery.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t make it to Newgrange that day.  Towards the end of each tour, the entrance is closed and a light shined in to give visitors an approximation of what the tomb is like on Winter Solstice. As I stood there in the dark and watched the light that mimicked the sunrise slowly seeping in, I smelled the years-old earth and felt a sense of peace and wonder. I also thought to myself that yes, it was totally worth it.

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Beachcomber Pete Travel Adventures has more information on Newgrange as well as other places throughout Ireland

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Finding Your Place in Dublins Fair City

Trinity College Dublin Ireland

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

Dublin Ireland is an amazing city. Some people will laugh at those bus tours that take you around a city with a hop on hop off format. I swear by them. It’s one of the best ways to see all of the tourist type parts of a city. One reason this is so great is because sometimes tourist sites are not always easy to get to or in a great area of town. Plus tours like this give you an idea of the layout of an area while letting you see what you want to see the most.  Dublin is no exception, their bus tour lets you visit both the Guinness Museum and visitors’ center whose tour appropriately ends in a bar or if you’re interested in something harder you could go with the Smithfield Whisky tour.

If you aren’t a drinker at all, you could visit a Museum or two or stop at Trinity College to view the book of Kells or slip over to Temple Bar from there to lift a pint in one of the many pubs and restaurants. Or if you’re like me, you can slip into an audition for Ireland’s next pop music divas and lie your way through the first round only to realize that at nearly 27 years of age you’ll never be able to pass as 18.  Who knows, maybe you’ll be more successful than I was. After all, Dublin is a city of magic.

Except for the more far flung sites that were the reason I recommended taking the bus tour first since it gives you an overview. The city is really a very walkable city.  This is because, at its heart, Dublin is a people’s city and the best way to see it is to be right in the middle of those people. As cosmopolitan as London or New York, you’ll hear many languages spoken with many voices. Just being out in the throngs make you feel alive.General Post Office Dublin IrelandMaybe you’ll stop in at the O’Connell Street Post Office and wonder for a moment what the holes are in the façade? These small holes are actually bullet holes form the Easter Rebellion in 1916. To an American whose own country’s war for freedom from the Brits was so long ago it is almost like revisiting your own past.  It will touch you; this sign of Ireland’s more recent fight for independence, a fight some Irish will tell you was only half won. Ireland’s fight for freedom is still noticeable in her music. Whether you’re listening to an older band like The Clancy Bros. or an Irish Band punk band like Flogging Molly, who currently reside in LA, you hear both a love of country and yearning for something… If you’re lucky enough to step in to a pub on the right night, maybe you’ll find your own band like I did with the Three Toms, they play traditional Irish music with an influence of Johnny Cash.

Finding something that feels like yours comes naturally when visiting Dublin. Maybe you’ll find your band, or perhaps it will be a place.  Will your place will be a hip pub in Temple Bar or an out of the way restaurant or sweet shop on Grafton Street. It could even be St Mary's Pro-Cathedral.  Dublin is an easy city to make your own. It is also a very hard city to leave. Oh and before you do, leave that is, go up to the tearoom on the top floor of Cleary’s Dept store for a spot of tea. It’s where my Grandfather Bartle would take my dad Jim whenever he came in to see him at Belcamp, the Catholic School he attended in the city.  It’s kind of a tradition and despite all of the hustle and bustle of the new and modern Dublin, tradition is still something that matters a lot both to Ireland herself and to her people.

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