By Gemma Grant
When Bridget (Bonnie) Vance first encountered Charleville Forest Castle, she thought she had located the castle from Sleeping Beauty. Similar to the fairytale, Charleville castle was all but consumed by the surrounding woodlands.
Curious for a peek inside, Bonnie climbed in through a window to behold what had once been a home of great beauty.
The native New Yorker resolved to restore the old castle to its former glory. One report claims that Bonnie and her family had intended using the castle as a hotel and wedding venue. Joining her in the Herculean task, was Dudley Stewart.
The castle, in 1996, was transferred to the Charleville Castle Heritage Trust. Bonnie and Dudley were ably assisted by teams of volunteers, working long and hard to bring out the magic of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ castle.
Their first task, of a twenty-five year ordeal, was to replace the lead, stripped from the roof. One of the main showpieces of Charleville is the long room with the magnificent Gothic fan-vaulted ceiling, reminiscent of an upside down egg box.
The room is the perfect spot for acoustics where musicians give vent to their artistic abilities.
Bonnie recalled in an interview their encounter with little Harriet, one of the ghosts of the castle. Harriet, daughter of Charles Bury, the third earl of Charleville, fell to her death while playing around a stairwell. Harriet was eight years of age when she died in 1861.
She is not the only ghost to haunt the castle. Bonnie’s mother recalled seeing spectres of what appeared to be ancient druids. This would work in with the grounds Charleville is built on. The ancient woods were once the happy hunting grounds of Ireland’s pagan Druids.