- Travel and Places
Visit a Medieval Castle in Ireland
The Medieval Castle at Bunratty, County Clare
On a recent visit to the medieval Castle at Bunratty, which is only 30 miles from where I live, I've achieved something that has eluded me for over 40 years - to go on a tour of this amazing medieval castle. I know that seems ridiculous when one lives so close to a major tourist attraction, but there it is, we often don't visit places of interest on our doorstep!
Bunratty Castle is a large tower house in County Clare in the west of Ireland near to Shannon Airport. It's situated in the center of Bunratty village adjacent to the main Limerick to Ennis road, near Shannon airport.
The name Bunratty comes from the Irish Bun Raite (or Bun na Raite) which means the 'bottom' or end of the 'Ratty' river. This river, beside the castle, flows into the Shannon estuary.
From the top of the castle, one can look over to the estuary and the airport. The castle and the adjoining folk park are run by an organization called Shannon Heritage. Please join me on a tour with my camera.
This IMMINENT lens was created on St.Patrick's Day, 17 March 2013
All photos © Rob Hemphill - except one from Art.com
Most authentic medieval fortress in Ireland
Bunratty Castle is the most authentic and complete medieval fortress in Ireland. It was built in 1425 and overlooks the Shannon Estuary. Around 1804 the castle fell into disrepair, and it was restored back to its former medieval glory in 1954.
As a popular tourist attraction the Castle houses Middle Age and Renaissance furnishings and tapestries, and a selection of works of art mainly from 15th and 16th centuries. The castle stands in delightful grounds, in which several cottages and houses make up the dwellings within the area of the folk park. Surrounded by massive walls, the layout of these buildings are reminiscent of the way that the cottages and crofts of old would have looked.
You can wander around the castle through rooms of many sizes, and gaze at the fine collection of medieval furniture and tapestries, then climb the heights to the roof-top on narrow winding stone steps for some breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
A guided tour of the castle is well worthwhile. The Castle closes each day at 4pm to prepare for the Medieval Banquet.
Bunratty Folk Park
See how it was in the 19th century
I have been driving past Bunratty Castle on the way to and from Shannon airport for years and years, but had never actually had a proper tour inside the grounds. The Folk Park is a specially laid out site on 26 acres of over 30 buildings, each building depicts rural life in Ireland long ago.
We visited during the winter months so various street characters weren't around to greet us - must have been too cold and wet for them! However, during the summer months you'll be able to talk to the Bean an Ti (Woman of the House), the Policeman and the Schoolteacher, who all help give the site its charm. You know the Irish, they're always ready to pass the time of day (Irish speak for making time to chat and be friendly).
As you stroll round this quaint and enchanting place you can enjoy the sights and sounds of old rural Ireland. Pop into one cottage and have a scone and cup of tea, another will offer you scented items, a third a taste of mead, and so on.
You can wander from house to house or stroll though the old village, which has a school, a post office, hardware shop, doctors house, printers shop and of course the pub!
We had a a fabulous experience, so if you ever come to Ireland, especially through Shannon airport, you must take a tour. It's ideal for adults and children alike.
Bunratty Folk Park Village
Bunratty PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
"May you live as long as you want
and never want as long as you live."
Stuff About The Castle
Learn how the Castle was reborn after its turbulent history.
If you can't visit the Castle for the dinner, why not isten to the music and song from the world famous medieval banquet?
Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet
Go back in time with this sumptuous banquet
Bunratty holds a marvelous medieval banquet at the castle most evenings, so if you've never experienced the splendor of one of these ancient functions, I recommend you come along one day and join in the festivities in the main guard of Bunratty Castle.
Each night the Ladies of the Castle welcome guests from around the world to dine at The Earl's Banquet at Bunratty Castle. You'll be entertained by the renowned Bunratty Castle Entertainers accompanied by harp and violin.
The evening kicks off with a mead reception in the Great Hall, then you proceed downstairs to enjoy a fabulous four course meal with wine while you enjoy the entertainment.
Bunratty Castle on canvas.
1. Danny Boy, 2. How Merrily WQe Live, 3. Deirin De, 4. Slievernamon, 5. The Spinning Wheel, 6. O'Carolin's Concerto, 7. Cruiskeen Lawn, 8. Tabhair Dom Do Lamh, 9. The Bard Of Armagh, 10. Gaire na mBan, 11. Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms, 12. Kilkenny Races (Set Dance)/Bonny Kate (Reel), 13. The Kerry Dances, 14. Lilting Diversion, (Planzty Bunratty Rinnucini's Reel Dutty Nelly Reel), 15. Greensleeves, 16. The Jug Of Punch
Bunratty Castle Lady
The Bunratty Collection
The many artifacts inside the Castle
The Bunratty Collection. This is a collection of furniture, statues, tapestries and paintings as well as a variety of other items, including a 17th century musical instrument.
As you walk around inside the Castle, you can see, and even touch the exquisite antique furniture with its intricate wooden carvings. The huge tapestries hang on the castle walls alongside large antlers from the giant Irish elk which roamed the land more than 12,000 years ago long before man arrived in Ireland. These antlers were recovered from the Irish boglands where they lay preserved for posterity.
Bunratty Castle has had a dramatic and turbulent history and has been destroyed at least eight or nine times over its 800-year old history. The Castle lay in ruins in the mid 20th century and could have been demolished for stone. However, Viscount Gort, a medievalist bought and saved the castle in 1953.
The collections of artifacts in Bunratty Castle are protected by the Gort Furniture Trust.
This art quality piece of jewelry will certainly set a tone especially if you wish to define your connection to a Celtic ancestry. The craftsmanship and symbolism of the piece, sold by Silver Insanity isÂ really beautiful.
Being roughly the size of a silver dollar the detail can easily be seen. I especially love the symbolism of the Tree of Life.
Mead - The Drink of the High Kings of Ireland
Mead is an alcoholic beverage produced by brewing a solution of honey and water. Depending on where the mead comes from and local traditions, it can be flavored with hops, fruit or spices. The alcohol percentage ranges from 8-18%, the Bunratty Mead I got was 14.7%, and didn't it taste wonderful. Not only did we enjoy it at the banquet reception, they then served it up alongside the wines during the meal.
The "Honeymoon Drink"
Mead was discovered by the monks in the middle ages and soon made its way into the courts of Ireland, no banquet was complete without it - I agree!
It was believed to have powers of virility and fertility. The custom was for brides and grooms to drink mead for one full moon after their wedding, and so the name 'honeymoon' was born.
The production of mead dates back to around 2000 BC following archaeological evidence of pottery vessels along with various organic compounds.
Good times, good friends,
good health to you...
and may the luck of the Irish
be always with you.
Great Irish Houses and Castles
This is such and enjoyable book. Seeing Ireland's beautiful landscape of rolling hills and gentle flowing rivers marries perfectly with the extraordinary Manor houses that it hosts. There are 308 pictures in the book which show many of the most historic houses in Ireland.
The histories accompanying the photos are comprehensive and concise, and extremely well written. I have had this book for over 10 years and am constantly using it as a reference. If you enjoy architectural history, then this book is a must buy.
Guides on Ireland
Castles were built a stone at a time
Not Quite a Giant Elk!
In the grounds of the Folk Park was this one stag and two hinds, but he was no match for his giant ancestor whose antlers are displayed on the walls in the Castle.
Bunratty Castle Layout
Image courtesy of Shannon Heritage - Bunratty Castle Layout Plan
1. The Basement
2. The Main Guard
3. The Captains Quarters
4. The Great Hall
5. The Earl's Kitchen
6. The Earl's Bedroom
7. The North Solar
8. The Earl's Private Chapel
9. The Earl's Pantry
10. Public Chapel
11. The Chaplain's Room
12. The Robing Room
13. The South Solar Bedroom
14. South Solar Lounge
15. The South Solar
May the roof above us never fall in and may the friends gathered below never fall out.
The Great Hall
Oak Dower Cupboard
This elaborate and beautifully carved oak dower cupboard originated from Westphalia in Germany circa 1570.
The door is ornamented with the following religious scenes: the 'Annunciation', the 'Nativity', the 'Last Supper', 'Christ before the High Priest', 'Christ before Pilate'.
The Earl's Kitchen
The North Solar
The Earl's Bedroom
"May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be always at your back,
and may the sun always shine warm upon your face."
A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle