When we finally decided to go out to the Castle and Folk Park because the rain wasn't going to stop and it wasn't raining very hard, we went to the Folk part first because the lady at the entrance said that there were two coach (bus) loads of tourists in there.
Finally we cut short our park visit so as to have time for the castle, we went in the exit by mistake and went up the down staircase (photo 3). When we got to the Great Hall, I sat down and sent my grandson up the stairs to the four towers (photo 5) and then came down the entrance stairs. We didn't see the dungeons. I thought we would see them when we came back for the banquet but we went to Knappogue instead.
There were tapestries and artifacts from various eras in the castle's history (none or few are belonging to the castle).
Open Year Round (Closed Good Friday & Dec 24th.,25th.,26th)
Jan, Feb, Mar, Nov, Dec
9.30 - 17.30 (Last Admission to Folk Park 16.15)
Apr, May, Sept, Oct
9.00 - 17.30 (Last Admission to Folk Park 16.15)
June – Aug
9.00 – 18.00 (Last Admission to Folk Park 17.15)
Last Admission to the Castle - 16.00 Year round
Admission Prices - As per 01 April 2007-31 March 2008
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.
Great for families and anyone with an interest in the history of how irish used to live centries ago. This is the only main attraction in Bunratty.
The folk park is designed like an old irish village with thatched houses, mills, etc and people dressed in clothing from that century. They also have animals which the kids enjoy.
You can walk around the castle also. I advise you wear comfortable shoes also as you will be walking up narrow steep staircases. The castle is furnished to how it was in medieval times so interesting to look at how they lived in it.
If you have a spare evening I suggest going to the medieval banquet in the castle for dinner. You actually eat in the dining hall of the castle and you are met by castle servants etc (They try to keep it medieval for you). They have harpists who play for you and also the servants sing old traditional irish songs during dinner. Its quite entertaining. Although there was no irish dancing which was a downside. The food was exceptional. Plenty to go around the table and you have unlimited wine and water. I think it cost around 50euro pp so its not cheap but its a great night out and something different. There is also an 'Irish night' which you can choose also but thats held in a barn with traditional irish entertainment. Alot of people actually prefer this to the banquet. And theres irish dancing at this.
Went into Bunratty castle and folk park (sort of a small Williamsburg). We toured the castle first as the day was a little rainy.
Again, our son looked for toilets - we found one inside and evidence of more from the outside. This castle was much newer than Trim. It was built in the 15th century. The folk park was nice. Our son enjoyed watching them make apple pies (we probably watched for 30 minutes). He also enjoyed the water wheel. The man there gave him some wheat seeds for the ducks.
This little church is an original Church of Ireland building, which was moved stone by stone from where it had been originally built in 1824 in Ardcroney, Co. Tipperary, and rebuilt in the Folk Park. It was opened to the public in 1998.
This house which was originally built in 1898 and was the home of the Hughes Brothers who produced HB ice cream - a household name in Ireland. They started a dairy industry in the 1800’s.
We ran out of time and only got to see this from the outside, but I understand that:
Hazelbrook House offers the visitor the unique opportunity to learn about the evolution of Ice cream making from the domestic dairy to the modern day production plant. The House features the history of the industrious Hughes Brothers family.
The park has both a vertical and a horizontal mill. The Vertical Mill is a classic stone example of a rural undershot watermill. Photos 2, 3 and 5 show the inside of the Vertical mill.
Picture 4 shows the Horizontal Mill and the mill pond. This is a working corn mill based on findings of an excavation in Mashangla Co. Cork. This type of mill is described in detail in Irish Law texts of a 1000 years ago. Such mills were still in use up to the middle of this century. We didn't go in that mill.
Additional photos are in one of the travelogues.
This school was originally built at Belvoir in East Clare in the early 19th Century. It is typical of the type of school that would have been in existence around the year 1900.
The teacher role played and smacked her pointer down on the desk for emphasis. She also fed the fire in the fireplace with peat (photo 2).
There was something written on the blackboard about hedgerow schools (photo 4) and a model of a hedgerow school (photo 5). I couldn't read all of it because part of it was erased. Apparently education (whether this was in religion or in Gaelic or was any kind of education at all) was illlegal for Irish Catholic. The Hedgerow schols were out in the fields in lean-tos under the Hedgerows where they could hide from the English.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!