Overlooking the River Shannon, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in County Clare one of the country's most popular visitor attractions. Situated among 26 acres, the castle is in excellent condition and contains the finest collection of medieval furniture in the country. The 15th and 16th century furnishings and art on display in the Great Hall capture the Celtic past and heritage of this region. At night time, the Great Hall becomes the setting for medieval costumed banquets complete with court jesters, maids, and food and drink of the middle ages.
Stunning aerial scenes of Bunratty castle
Bunratty Folk Park
Next to Bunratty Castle is Bunratty Folk Park, a huge, picturesque area whose main attraction is the Village Street -- a reconstruction of rural Irish village as it would have looked in the 1800s. The village contains over 30 buildings, designed and furnished to look as the would have in the 19th century. These ranging from a typical one roomed-dwelling to the Georgian mansion Bunratty House, built in 1804 for the wealthy Studdart family, who had previously lived in the castle.
Other buildings in the Folk Park include a pub, a grocery, a schoolhouse, a doctor’s house, a hardware shop and a post office. Costumed actors play the roles of the various occupants of these buildings, such as a policeman, a schoolteacher and a bean an ti (Bann On Chee) -- a "woman of the house".
These actors demonstrate the traditional crafts and jobs that would have been undertaken in a 19th century village, such as farming, milling, baking and printing. Visitors can purchase local produce, crafts and Ireland souvenirs at the folk park, while MacNamara and Sons pub on the village street serves Guinness and other beers.
Bunratty House and Walled Garden
Also of interest to visitors is the splendid walled garden at the Georgian mansion Bunratty House. This half-acre garden was constructed along with the house in 1804, and was originally a kitchen garden -- used to grow vegetables for its owners, the Studdart family, who had previously occupied the castle. Outside the house is a deer park, which may delight younger visitors.
Bunratty Castle is one of Ireland's most popular attractions. During summer months, particularly in the middle of the day, the Fok Park can become quite crowded with Tour Bus visitors. If you are coming by car, it is better to arrive before 11am, to avoid the heavier crowds and still give you time to explore. Alternatively, arrive after 3pm when things are slightly less busy, but you will still want to give yourself at least two or three hours to wander round the Park and also see the castle. Be aware also that you will need to do a lot of walking if you intend to explore the Folk Park. The castle contains some narrow, winding staircases. While the vast majority of visitors to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park hugely enjoy it, those attempting to avoid "touristy" spots may want to give it a miss.
History of Bunratty Castle
The present Castle is the fourth or fifth structure to occupy this location, close to the River Ratty. A fortified settlement, surrounded by a moat, was originally built by the Vikings. In 1250 a Norman by the name of Robert De Muscegros erected the first defensive fortress, made of wood.
- Another Norman, Thomas De Clare, built the first stone structure in the 1270s
- In 1318, the castle and town of Bunratty were completely destroyed
- The castle was restored for the King of England but was laid waste again in 1332
For 21 years it lay in ruins until it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby. The castle eventually became the stronghold of the O'Briens, kings of Thomond, who controlled it until the 17th century. With the arrival of the Cromwellian troops, the castle was surrendered. Bunratty Castle and its lands were granted to various English settler families. The Studdart family were the last of these families, and they left the castle in 1804 to live in Bunratty House, on the castle grounds.
- The Castle then fell into disrepair until it was purchased by Viscount Lord Gort in 1954
- Lord Gort restored Bunratty to its former glory and opened it to the public in 1960 as a National Monument
Bunratty Castle is just 10 kms from Shannon Airport just off the main dual carriageway (N18) between Limerick and Ennis.
Bunratty Castle. Image by John Menard
Cottage at Bunratty Folk Park. Image: Bill Barber
Village Street at Bunratty. Image: Bill Barber.
Walled path at Bunratty Folk Park. Image: nz_willowherb