Bunratty Castle & Folk Park - Co. Clare, Ireland
In the center of the village of Bunratty in County Clare, Ireland lies Bunratty Castle. The name is derived from the Irish words 'Caisleán Bhun Raithe' translating to "Castle at the Mouth of the Ratty." It was named so because the Ratty River flows past the castle grounds.
The castle and its grounds are now called Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. Thousands of visitors, including tourists and students from local schools, come to the castle and folk park each year making it a particularly popular destination. The folk park offer visitors a glimpse of Ireland throughout history and the castle has a dining experience that is absolutely spectacular!
The Castle & Folk Park
There are only two seating times each night for banquets, so reservations are definitely a must! Visitors enter by crossing the drawbridge and, once inside, are greeted by beautiful tapestries and 16th-century style furniture. The history of the castle, including its besiege, will be shared as diners make their way to the banquet hall.
The hall is complete with long, medieval-era tables and bench-style seating. Visitors will hear music sung by the castle singers as they enjoy an Irish meal typical of the 16th century.
Visitors to the folk park do not need reservations. The park shows life in Ireland during the 19th century. The area includes period cottages and thatch roof buildings as well as a historical "main street."
Purchases can be made in some of the period-style shops as well as the old home bakery and the pub (where drinks are offered.) This is a great experience for anyone who wishes to learn how the Irish lived, worked, and enjoyed their time in the 19th century. It's definitely a must see for anyone who makes their way into County Clare.
The History of the Castle
The castle has had a tumultuous history as it was destroyed several times. However, the castle shows the persistence of the Irish people as each time it was pillaged, it came back even stronger. Bunratty Castle was constructed in 1425, but this is not the only fortification that has been on these grounds.
The first buildings on this site made up a Viking trading camp. The camp was constructed just before 1000 AD. In 1270, a raised earth castle was constructed here but it (and the entire town of Bunratty) was completely destroyed during the Irish Bruce War, by the O'Brien clan. Shortly after this, the area was restored for England's King, but the castle was once again destroyed by the O'Briens. Yet again the castle was restored in 1353 but was attacked and captured immediately after being rebuilt.
The MacNamara clan took control of the castle and built it into what is the present day structure. That is not the end, however, to the destruction of the castle. In the late 15th century, the O'Briens took control of the castle and held control of the castle until 1646, when the O'Briens allowed the English to garrison here. The Irish Confederate forces then besieged the castle. Later, the Studdert family was given the castle, but they later left the castle in 1804. The castle was left in ruin until 1954 when it was purchased by the 7th Viscount Gort, Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker, who refurbished the castle to its present state. Today the castle is now used as a tourist locale with medieval-style banquets as well as the extensive folk park on the grounds.
The Bunratty Mead & Liquor Company is also located in the village of Bunratty, just off the castle grounds. Visitors the shop can purchase mead and potcheen. Those who attend a Bunratty castle dining experience will be offered mead with their dinner for a truly unique experience.
Bunratty Village Mills is also a popular locale as many widely sought after Irish crafts can be purchased here. Crafts such as Irish linen, tweeds, and knitted clothing are available as well as a variety of top name items such as Waterford Crystal, Belleek, and Royal Tara.
Bunratty village is just 8 miles from Limerick and 5 miles from Shannon Airport. The area is rich with Irish hospitality which is apparent in the friendly faces at the local shops. Bunratty Castle & Folk Park are not to be missed. Those in the area should also check out the Bunratty Mead and Liquor Company as well as Bunratty Village Mills for some great finds on popular Irish crafts.
© 2011 Melanie Shebel