Visiting Bunratty Castle, Ireland: imposing, fifteenth century structure, restored in the 20th century
Memories of Medieval banquets projected to the present day
The looming presence of this Medieval castle has for centuries been a feature of Bunratty (Irish: Bun Ráite ), County Clare (Irish: Contae an Chláir ), Ireland. Bunratty Castle (Irish: Caisleán Bhun Raithe ) dates from the 15th century (1), By the 20th century, it was lacking a roof and slowly becoming a ruin.
This was to reckon, however, without Viscount Gort (full name: Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker, 7th Viscount Gort). This grandly titled peer rebuilt Bunratty Castle, which he had acquired, and in 1954 he turned it into what must be Ireland's most sumptuously furnished castle. Today, the Castle is noted for its Medieval-style banquets, which have for many enthralled visitors, particularly those from North America. The restorer's efforts were encouraged by the Irish Government, which could foresee the benefits which would likely accrue from publicity surrounding this kind of hospitality venue. This foresight was indeed well founded; over the past decades, Bunratty Castle has thus become one of the 'must see' stops for North American travellers in the West of Ireland.
A stone structure with several storeys, the Castle served in the 19th century as a police headquarters. Thus, while the Union flag doubtless flew from the Castle in the 19th century, its walls are now decorated by the Irish tricolour.
The renowned Shannon River (Irish: Abha na Sionainne ) flows not far from the Castle. A Folk Park adjacent to the Castle is extensive.
This structure was associated at its inception with the MacNamara family. But among its banqueting guests, the efforts of the Castle's restorer are as likely to be associated with the name of Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker, 7th Viscount Gort!
August 27, 2012
(1) On the same site as the present day Castle, there was previously a structure dating from Viking times.
Also worth seeing
In Bunratty itself, in addition to the Catle, a number of retail outlets and hotels attract many visitors.
Limerick City (distance: 17 kilometres); visitor attractions include: King John's Castle, the Treaty Stone and the Thomond Bridge across the Shannon River, and some fine ecclesiastical architecture.
How to get there: Aer Lingus flies from New York and Boston to Shannon Airport, from where car rental is available; a bus link between Shannon Airport and Bunratty is also available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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