The Fright at Castell Rhuthun by Coco Ihle

Years ago I was driving with my family throughout England, Scotland and Wales. I had spent a year mapping out an itinerary that would include a variety of interesting places and things to do for our three-generation group. Our accommodations varied, too. We stayed in bed and breakfast hotels and homes, historic manor homes and castles, traveling just before the tourist season to avoid the crowds.

Castell Rhuthun Gatehouse

Castell Rhuthun

I was excited as we drove through the ancient entrance gates of Castell Rhuthun, more commonly known as Ruthin Castle in northern Wales, because this romantic getaway set on acres of scenic parkland had over seven hundred years of tantalizing history, with such notable owners as King Edward I, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. According to Arthurian legend, when there would have been no more than a wooden fort on the site, King Arthur disguised himself for a romantic liaison with his mistress at Ruthin. In later years, Reginald de Grey, who according to some, was formerly the Sheriff of Nottingham was tasked with forming the “finest army in the land” to defeat the followers of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest.  Ruthin is even said to be haunted by the “Grey Lady.” Only a few years before our trip there, HRH Prince Charles visited on his way to his investiture as Prince of Wales. This was definitely a place to see.

We settled in our rooms and then prepared ourselves for the Mediaeval Banquet we would be attending that evening. Joining other guests, we started with a tour of the 13th century part of the castle: the dungeon, whipping pit and the drowning pool and then gathered in the Presence Chamber to await the Court Steward and the Ladies of the Court, all dressed in period costumes. After experiencing the hospitality ritual of the partaking of bread and salt, we were escorted into the lofty, candle-lit Banquet Hall.

Here the romance and color of those early times were revived as guests joined together in the lively atmosphere with harp music and singing, in Welch and in English, a song of welcome, “Hi roes, lechyd da” ( Long life and good health). We were served thick vegetable soup in wooden bowls which we held to our mouths, since we had no silverware. Next was a course of lamb and potatoes that we ate with daggers followed by a leg of chicken. Mead, a drink made of fermented apples and honey definitely enhanced the mood and was very, very good. For some reason, I can’t remember what the dessert was. The whole evening was enchanted.

Mediaeval Banquet

I was sad when the banquet was over and we had to return to the 20thcentury, but there was a plush feather bed to look forward to. I slept soundly and arose early next day to shower and set and dry my hair in rollers.

A gentle mist hovered over the expansive lawns and I eased open the casement window to feel the chill morning air. All was quiet and still, but the day promised to be sunny and calm and I was lost in the memory of the evening before. Dreamily, I went about my hair dressing.

My reverie was suddenly broken by a sound so startling I was momentarily frozen in place. It was only one word, but it pierced the stillness in a high-pitched shriek. Where had the sound come from? I wasn’t sure. The castle room was large and the sound echoed throughout. I listened, afraid to breathe. Long silent seconds passed and I wondered if I had actually heard it? Was I imagining the sound? Would it repeat?

Just about the time I convinced myself I had an over-active imagination, there it was again. “HELP!” Someone was shouting, “HELP.” Had my family heard it? No. I didn’t know what to do. Should I wake them? I glanced out the window, but saw nothing. Maybe someone was hurt or in trouble in the hallway. I rushed to open the door. The hallway was empty. What was happening? My feeling of panic grew.

“HELP!” Now I was certain the sound had come from outside.  I rushed to the window again and leaned out as far as was safe. My eyes darted here, there and everywhere.

Then I saw it. The shrill cry rang out again. At the far side of the castle lawn against a rock wall, a white peacock strolled with feathers spread in all their glory.

The Culprit

I was so relieved, I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh. I was a wreck. That was the first time I had ever heard a peacock make any kind of sound. I couldn’t believe it sounded exactly like someone crying, “Help.” Now, as my heart began its return to a more normal beat, I felt embarrassed. I decided I wouldn’t tell anyone about my early morning scare, but I’m sharing it with you, dear reader. Have you had anything of this sort happen to you?


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, life, musings, photographs, Travel

16 responses to “The Fright at Castell Rhuthun by Coco Ihle

  1. Great article! You had me going. I have been in northern Wales – loved it. And I have heard a peacock cry – they do sound eerily human. Thanks for the fun memory jogger.

  2. Bob Warms

    Very good, Coco!!! I would have loved to been there with you…….I love history, mostly ancient history of the knights, and castles, and how they lived and enjoyed life.

  3. Hi Coco,
    What an adventure!
    I’d love to plan a tour as you did!

  4. Suzanne Baginskie

    Hi Cocoa,
    I loved reading about your adventure in Wales. The meal sounded so wonderful too. I must be hungry. Since I raised a peacock here in Florida, I’ve heard this unusual cry. Mine sounded as if an old woman screamed out in fear. Very distinct. My neighbor didn’t like him and had the animal control take him away. I was so disappointed, but he did fly over to her yard. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi CoCo,what a trip .Your ordeal with the Peacocks is real for sure.If you ever want to hear them again,they hang out at the Dunedin Cemetary on CR.1

    • Yep, David, it was real, all right! I’ll have to check out the Dunedin Cemetery. I just can’t imagine such a beautiful bird having such a bone jangling cry!

  6. What a fabulous voyage for the family! How lucky! And, yes, the “help” of the peacock! That just shows what happens when a writer has her head filled with stories and wakes up to an atmospheric scene. Too funny!

  7. Yvonne Dorsey

    Coco, that was quite a tale, you are so fortunate to have spent time in all those wonderful places and experience the eerie calls of peacocks. I have a similiar story. In Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations Garden, sitting on a bench, I was writing a postcard. When out of the peaceful quite I heard someone say Cuckoo! Startled, I looked around but saw no one. I froze, then after a long silence…Cuckoo. I later learned about the Cuckoo bird. Now everytime I hear a Cuckoo clock, I chuckle. Looking forward to your next topic. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Yvonne. I can just imagine your puzzlement as you sat listening to the Cuckoo. What in the world??? I know what you mean by having that scene play back eveyr time you hear a Cuckoo. I do that every time I hear a peacock. Ha, ha, ha!

  8. I loved reading this. You really had me going.

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