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Bunratty is a place in the Shannon region of Ireland renowned for outstanding beauty. It is located off the dual carriageway between Shannon and Limerick, the distance being around 10 km's from Shannon airport and 13 km's from Limerick City. Apart from being a wonderful area, there is also located here, one of Ireland's most complete medieval castles, fully furnished and dating back to the 15th century.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
Bunratty castle and folk park is an all year round tourist attraction which draws visitors from all over the globe. It is set on 26 acres of land which dates right back to the vikings in 970.
The castle itself has been there since the 15th century and the folk park is based on a 19th century rural Irish way of life.
The castle was originally built in 1250 by a norman, Robert de Muscegros, but since then three more castles have been built in it's place, the current one being the fourth ever built and obviously the last.
Because of the plantations and such in Ireland the castle was passed from family to family and at one stage even lay idle for 21 years. Finally in 1804 the last familly, the Studdarts, left the castle, allowing it to fall to ruins. They moved to more comfortable accommodation on the land, bunratty House. ( Also open to the public).
Finally in 1954, Viscount Lord Gort bought the castle and restored it to its former beauty. Six years later it opened it's doors to the public year round.
The castle has much original features and furniture. There are beds in the bedrooms, tapestrys on the walls, there is even a dungeon. It gives a fantastic feel of rural Irish life back through the years.
The Folk Park
On the 26 acres surrounding the castle, a folf park has been built showing the way of life through the ages. The folk park has loads of little houses with real open turf fires setting off a scent of years gone by. The houses show how simple life was back through the centuries, some houses only having a fire and a bed but housing six or seven people. There is even an example of a Byre Dwelling, a home which would have been inhabbited by both humans and their cattle!
Ther is a mill,an old church, a post office, a school, a doctors house, a hardware store, many little houses and even a fully operational traditional Irish pub. There are people in costume who wander the little village streets giving you a real feel of the place and animals roam free everywhere you look.The smells, sights and sounds are all so realistic, you are magically transported back to a forgotten time in Irish history.
Also in the Folk park is a walled garden, where the fuits and vegetables were grown, and of course, Bunratty house, the more comfortable dwelling where the Studdards moved to.
HazelBrook House is another must-see in the grounds. It was built in 1898 and was the home of the Hughes Brothers who produced Ireland's favourite ice cream HB.
Of course the folk park not only offers the pub for food and drink but also there are tea rooms and a fabulous souvenir shop plus all the usuals, restrooms etc....
Castle and park
Adult 15 euro
Child 9 euro
Student 10 euro
OAP 6.50 euro
Family 32.50 euro.
Bunratty Castle is home to a now world famous banquet. Each evening there are two sittings, one from 5.30-8 and one from 8-11. It is advisable to book well in advance as they are so popular.
On arrival at the grounds you will enjoy a short, atmospheric stroll to the castle where you will be greeted at the gate by a killted man playing the Pipes. You will be called to enter the castle over a drawbridge and will be seen to the grand Dining Hall, where you will be seated. Your goblet will then be filled with mead (an old Irish drink) and a butler will tell the history of Bunratty. There are singers and finally the Lord and Lady are seated and crowned.
You will be treated to a four course meal as follows:
Spiced Parsnip Soup
Spare ribs with honey and whiskey sauce
Breast of chicken with apple and mead sauce
Tea and coffee
(Vegetarian options available)
This fantastic meal is accompanied with music and song and there may even be a small break where some unlucky person will be thrown in the dungeon.
This is an absolutely fantastic night and should you choose the early sitting, there is also a Traditional Irish Night on the grounds in the Corn Bar in the folk park which starts around 7pm and includes singers, dancers and muscicians all in the traditional pub setting. Booking is not needed for this event.
Rates for the Medievel Banquet are as follows:
Adult 57.50 euro
Child 28.75 euro
.... and although these prices may seem expensive, it is definetly one show that will stay with you for a long time after you have left the Emerald Isle.
Also worth a mention is Durty N|ellies Pub, just outside the grounds of the castle. It is a fantastic spot, admission is free and you are always guaranteed great Irish banter and a fab pint of Guinness!
There are plenty of hotels in the area. We stayed at the Bunratty Castle Hotel which was a beautiful hotel with friendly helpful staff, and close enough for us to stumble home following our night of banqueting and singing into the wee hours in the two pubs!
All in all this was a wonderful experience and I would definetly do it again. Once you set foot on these grounds you know that the area is steeped in history and upon leaving (a little worse for wear!) the eerie feeling you get only adds to the wonderful experience.
On a whole I say if you dont mind paying well for a truly once in a life-time experience, then this is definetly an attraction not to be missed.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, I only hope I have done this wonderful piece of Irish History justice.
(By the way... we flew from Manchester to Shannon for free with Ryanair, and just paid taxes!)
There is generally one thing that people go to Bunratty for, and that is the Castle. In the Castle you see, they have Medieval Banquets. We booked up for one of these (on the day of the All Ireland Hurling Final) and managed to get the last few spaces. Spaces are reserved about a year in advance by Americans who are coming to Ireland to explore their history. The cost is about 50 Euros each for the banquet but as Ill explain in a moment that covers as much wine as you want, plus a 4 course meal, again with as much as you want.
As you enter the site there is also a folk park, which is where Ill start my review. Surprisingly its not free to go round the park even though we had the banquet in the evening (5.30pm sitting or 8pm sitting). It was about 7 Euros each. The park itself is a living reconstruction of the homes of Ireland of the 19th century and before. There are a variety of farmhouses, shops, streets and gardens.
The first stops are at the fisher-farmers house followed by the blacksmiths forge and the salmon fishermans house. After that there is a poor farmers house, a weavers shed and a small house that would have been lived in by a poor landless labourer. All of these houses were made up to look like they would have done at the time, also there are actors that portray people that would have lived there and will talk to you about their lives.
There is a tea room on site, obviously the food is not from the 19th century and they have a good selection of drinks and snacks such as scones, crisps, cakes etc.
After a stop for tea we went to the banquet in the castle. We decided to go dressed fairly casually, however we were in the minority. The Americans (its usually 70% Americans) all came dressed up and the rest of the people were a mix of nationalities and attires. After a reception drink of home-made mead we moved down to the main banquet chamber. In the castle there are rooms you can go in that are also set up the way they would have been and you can also go up onto the top of the turrets which gives an excellent view of the locality, each is 6 stories high. The castle was built in the 15th century and is furnished with furniture in the style of the time.
The banquet itself is a hands on affair, in that you have no cutlery to eat your food with, however you do get a knife you can at least cut things up. The meal we had was soup (with bread), ribs, chicken with veg and potatoes, and finally strangely a cheescake. I was sat next to a German who we think was called Horst, or Gunther or something like that. He asked for another plate of ribs for his family, which they got through, just. The food was all very nice and was interspersed with someone being thrown in the dungeon briefly. After the meal there was singing from the wenches and from the musicians. By now wed downed quite a lot of wine and were enjoying ourselves quite a lot, so luckily they also supplied coffee.
All in all it was an excellent experience and well worth the money.
After the meal we decided to go for a wander around the remainder of the folk park. This isnt necessarily a good idea as there was minimal lights, however we got round it all. There is a recreated school, and then the village street which has a Doctors, Pawnbrokers, drapery, printers, grocery, hardware store and Post Office. Also there is a shop that sells pottery and a pub (yes a real pub, with beer). There are finally a few houses which are clearly newer and a bit better built than the other houses previously.
By the time wed finished going round it was dark and most of the gates were shut, however as the castle was open for the next banquet we had no problems getting back out.
All in all it is a good way to spend an afernoon/evening.