Access to Carrigglas Manor grounds is relatively painless. The old wall that surrounds the 660 acre site is a thing of crumbling beauty. Although signs alert you to how dangerous it is, few of these inform you how also how porous it is. My dog and I enter from an opening in a fenced-off break in the wall, past those signs, some concrete bollards, climb carefully down and up a small mossy slope into the woodlands of Carrigglas manor, mindful of the stills camera I’ve brought with me. I have visited the failed development at Carrigglas a few times before, however, on this occasion I am searching out the old manor building itself . A clearing through the woods, in fact a well-heeled woodland path is flanked on either side by a thick body of beech trees and sturdy ash. In my work as a craftsperson I regularly go for long wanders in many of County Longford’s unspoilt and tranquil woodlands to gather organic materials I use to create my jewelry. So I was pleasantly surprised at this private woodlands at Carrigglas; the scale and undisturbed beauty of the place. Towards the end of the pathway as a clearing in the woods appeared to be on the horizon an even greater shock was in store.
Suddenly out of the peaceful surroundings this strange structure emerges. I struggle to get a grip on my emotions, to even figure what it is I’m staring at. An uneasiness hits me. Or is it fear I am experiencing?
I move down an uneven temporary gravel roadway that runs along the side of the structure to try comprehend what it is before my eyes, but also to try steady myself. The shock of the place is overwhelming. As I walk down the short slope I grip my dog’s lead more determinedly, concerned about the many odd and barely recognisable building materials littered around the site or protruding from the ground.
On initial appearance it looks somewhat like a carpark but on closer inspection there looks to be objects that suggest someplace that was intended to be a dwelling. Is it an unfinished apartment block? Though the place from the outside is very inhospitable and unnerving, I can’t help myself and nervously venture inside.
Once inside we are suddenly enveloped in darkness. The hallways are extremely eerie not solely because of the darkness and that it is difficult to see what you are stepping on, but also because they curve in a very unusual manner and it is therefore difficult to get a perspective on the place.
I walk the length of the hallways past a series of cavernous rooms on either side. Most of these rooms are empty though a few have random objects scattered about the floor- fire extinguishers, bedframes still in their packing, broken ceramic sinks. Each room is fitted with what appears to be pre-made bathroom units that don’t reach as tall as the ceiling and many without ceilings of their own. The rooms are too small to be apartment units. I wander upstairs to get a better perspective on this matter. If anything the bathrooms on the first, uncovered floor of the building are an even more bizarre encounter.
Disturbing as these bathrooms are (smashed shower doors, glass strewn floors, mirrors with moss and fungus growing all over them) the weirdest sight were the baths filled to the brim with rainwater as if ready pored for a tired bather. Or guest? Hotel rooms, of course. It’s an unfinished hotel.
At this point, the experience of the place becomes too much. The constant slow sound of dripping, a sense of a presence of people, or something, I can’t quite articulate it. The walls and concrete floor ooze with strange, slimy substances. A flight of birds screech overhead. My initial feeling of unease returns, and I decide to leave despite all the questions circling in my mind. What manner of hotel was this meant to be? I see no space in it for a reception, bar or lounge. How did it fit into the overall scheme of the development? It sits not 500 metres away from the manor building and a collection of unfinished townhouses. Why is there a sign announcing directions to a seminar on a barricade at the side of the building? Why were the bathrooms completed and installed and then left to decay in such a way? Do local people not know that there is such a bizarre and incongruous looking building sat here on the edge of an extraordinary woodlands close by an old ruined manor of the gentry?
Words & Photos: LH