definitely recommend going to Bunratty Castle for a medieval dinner. what is more fun that drinking wine from a jug and also drinking your soup from your bowl. the only utensil you get is a "dagger".
this is fun for all ages!
Bunratty Folk Park recreates rural and urban life in 19th century Victorian Ireland. There is an extensive array of vernacular buildings; visitors can for example view farmhouses of various economic backgrounds, a watermill, church and village street. Traditional jobs and crafts are also represented, milling, the forge, pottery, printing, baking, farming etc.
The site on which the castle stands began as a Viking trading camp, around 970 AD. The first defensive fortress (an earthen mound with a strong wooden tower on top) was built by Robert De Muscegros, a Norman, in 1250 - his lands were later granted to Thomas De Clare who built the first stone castle on the site. His son, however was killed in a battle between the Irish and the Normans, and the castle and town were completely destroyed.
The castle was restored for the King of England but was laid waste in 1332 by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the O'Briens and MacNamaras. It lay in ruins for 21 years until it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby but was once again attacked by the Irish and the castle remained in Irish hands thereafter. The powerful MacNamara family built the present structure around 1425 but by 1475 it had became the stronghold of the O'Briens, the largest clan in North Munster. The castle at this time was surrounded by beautiful gardens and was reputed to have a herd of 3,000 deer. he reign of the O'Briens came to an end with the arrival of the Cromwellian troops and the castle and its grounds were surrendered. It was then granted to various families, until the last left the castle in 1804 to live in a more modern house. The castle was purchased in 1954, restored and then opened to the public as a National Monument in 1960.
The Castle is furnished with mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, and Medieval Banquets are held in the Castle year round.
The castle was great, not that much description though. You're forced to buy the enterance to the Folklore Park which is ok if you have the time. I didn't do the banquet but I definitely think the castle is worth seeing.
Bunratty Castle was built in the 15th century and stands today, every much as it was back then, except for the fact that it is now one of Irelands top tourist attractions. Allow about 5/6 hours free time to take in the full flavour of this place or you really will miss something of this very interesting place.
Open all Year Round (last admission 16.00)
Closed Good Friday and December 24 - 26
Adults €10.00; Child €5.60; Student/OAPs €7.90 Special Group Rates and Family Ticket Available.
Medieval banquets nightly at 17.30 and 20.45 (subject to demand) approx €45.00
Set in the village, there is a school, which I found interesting.
Written onto the chalkboard was an interesting description of what was known as “hedge schools”. Evidently, the penal laws of 1700 forbade Catholics from going to school. This led to “hedge schools” which was, basically, a shed or shelter from the weather constructed inside a hedge or ditch, at which Catholic children would get some schooling from a hedge schoolmaster. Parents would have to pay the hedge schoolmaster for his time.
The national School system was established in 1831, allowing everyone an education, and Ireland was, probably, the first country in Europe to have such a system introduced at primary level.
Please note that there is no easy access to this attraction. Built on 5 levels, plus access to the roof, almost every step you take is up, or down, a set of stairs. The building also contains uneven floors and low headroom, so watch were you walk.
The stairs to all the towrs are very narrow and steep which can be annoying when you meet others going in the other direction, but the photo gives you a good indication of what the servants had to put up with, when running errands for their masters & mistresses.
Almost all of the individual houses have a peat fire going. If you are asthmatic, beware! Be warned that not all of the smoke from these fires always goes up the chimney. There was more smoke coming out of the front door than the chimney in one house that we went into!
The Castle grounds are extensive and have various houses and buildings that show a re-creation of what life was like in rural Ireland, in the past. It all started when a farmhouse was saved and transhipped here, during the building of Shannon Airport.
Now, apart from individual buildings from around Ireland, the grounds now hold a full village, showing various shops (some of which you can buy souvenirs from) and houses, as they were in the 19th century.
This picture shows one of the towers of the Castle that overlooks the north of the surrounding area of Bunratty. I took the picture because of the strange “v” shape along the side of the tower. These are actually steps, recessed into the side of the tower! It would appear that, originally, the tops of the towers were not accessed via stairways inside but via the battlements. I certainly would not have like to climb those open stairs when it was winding and wet!
Bunratty Castle stands on what was originally an island and sits next to the River Ratty and the River Shannon. The Vikings were the first to fortify the site and their original moat is still in place.
In the South Solar and in the Great Hall, look up. You will see a leuchterweilben, flamboyant female characters and deer antlers, used as chandeliers with a difference. As the name suggests, they are of German origin.
The best room in the Castle (I think) is the South Solar and is a guest apartment. The ceiling is partially a replica, in Tudor style. At the end of the room, you can see a painting. This is an original from 1661 and is signed “Jacobus White, Londoni” (Not a mis-spelling!)
If you look around this room, you will find these carvings set on a wall, near the North Solar (a “Solar” was used during the middle ages to describe an upper chamber). The small carving is supposed to be of a fertility god. Be careful, they say that if you sit under this carving, you, or your partner, will become pregnant rather quickly!
The Castle décor has period furniture and decorations from the 14th – 17th centuries, with every room having something different to check out. The Castle was originally abandoned and fell derelict in the last century. In the 1950’s, Lord Gort renovated it back to its original state. The full story of how this came about can be found in the basement of the Castle.