Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Clare, Ireland
Bunratty village, near Shannon Town, is home to the Bunratty Castle (Irish: Caisleán Bhun Raithe, meaning “Castle at the Mouth of the Ratty”), a large 15th century tower house in County Clare, Ireland. Bunratty could be your ideal base for a day trip while visiting the unspoiled, cultural West of Ireland with Galway and Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and the beautiful lakes of Killarney.
Archaeologists believe that Bunratty castle is located on the site of a tenth-century Viking trading camp. The present castle is the last in a series of wooden and stone castles built there. The first stone castle, though, was built in 1277. Quickly a town developed around it but both the castle and town were destroyed by the native Irish in the fourteenth century. The castle was rebuilt a number of times and the current building was erected by the MacNamaras, a native Irish family, in 1425. By the fifteenth century the castle had been taken by the O’Briens. The O’Briens were among the most powerful kings in medieval Ireland and they were descendants of Brian Ború who defeated the Vikings once and for all in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Henry VII, King of England, granted the O’Briens the title “Earls of Thomond”. In the centuries that followed the castle was home to a number of Plantation Protestant families and later used as a barracks for the Royal Irish Constabulary.
By the nineteenth century, the castle had fallen into disrepair. Bunratty Castle and grounds were acquired by Viscount Lord Gort in the mid-twentieth century who extensively restored the spectacular castle to its former glory and opened it to the public.
Today this impressive site is among the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. So if you’re searching for a quiet retreat this isn’t it! The great hall and elegant chamber rooms have been fitted with medieval furniture, impressive tapestries and beautiful plaster decorations. There are a total of fifteen toilets … surely a record for any medieval castle!
What to see
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is an amazing experience with its authentic reconstructed farmhouses, quaint cottages, magnificent walled gardens, a mill, a blacksmith’s forge and native farm animals. Look out for the giant Irish wolf hounds! You can enjoy the hustle and bustle of a medieval street housing traditional Irish craft shops and gift shops, as well as cafés and restaurants serving local traditional country fare. If you want to try a good ole Irish stew or some traditional bacon and cabbage, be sure to try drop by one of Bunratty’s restaurants. And if all that isn’t enough, Bunratty hosts medieval banquets nightly during the summer season. Be sure to book ahead as these are very popular and it’s easy to see why. The staff dress in authentic medieval costumes and the entertainment comprises a night of traditional song, dance and storytelling. This is one not to be missed!
Another good time to visit Bunratty Folk Park is during Traditional Harvest Day where you can experience a flavour of rural Irish life of over 100 years ago and see the traditions of a typical 19th century harvest day. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, otherwise, is open all year round.
How to reach
Buratty is just a 15 minute drive from Shannon Airport but it is a 2 hour drive from Dublin City. You can travel by public bus from Bus Éireann for about €35 adult return. Railtours Ireland operate a (rather expensive) one day tour from Dublin to Bunratty, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and Galway Bay.