Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Co Clare, Ireland

Harp and Violin players in Medieval costume, Bunratty Castle Ireland

Harp and Violin
Women in period costume play traditional tunes in the Great Hall of Bunratty Castle.

You can’t visit Ireland without partaking of at least one Medieval Castle Banquet – or so the travel books and agents would have you believe!

I’m not a huge fan of theme parks, but every so often it is nice to relax and have your history and culture spoon-fed in tourist-friendly bites. So, when my contact in Ireland, with whom I was organising our ten-day Dingle Way walking trip, strongly recommended that we book the medieval dinner at Bunratty Castle as part of our stay in Shannon, I took his suggestion seriously enough to have a look, and bought tickets on line before we left home.

I’m glad we did!

The price of dinner includes entry to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, a “living reconstruction of Ireland over a century ago” set on 26 acres, so we made sure to arrive early enough to have a look around the park and castle beforehand.

Thatched, whitewashed Loop Head House, Bunratty Folk Park, Ireland

Loop Head House
This cottage was originally the home of a farming and fishing family – the thatched roof was roped down to protect against the Atlantic gales.

Master Bedroom at Loop Head House, Bunratty Folk Park

Master Bedroom
Inside is dark, with wooden floors, whitewashed walls – and the all-important cross in the window.

Put the Kettle on! No running water in the cottages, but always a kettle on the fire.

Put the Kettle on!
There is no running water in the cottages, but there is always a kettle on the fire, ready to make tea.

View of Bunratty Castle, Co Clare, Ireland

Bunratty Castle
We get our first glimpse of the castle, built in 1425, through the wet trees. It is, of course, a rainy afternoon; we did not have a day in Ireland without rain.

Rusty iron latch on a rough wooden Door, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Latch the Door!

Irish Gaelic plaque detailing the history of Bunratty Castle.

Caisleán Bhun Raithe
The plaque outlining the history of the “Castle at the Mouth of the Ratty” is in Gaelic.

Earl

Earl’s Bedroom
Refurbishing the castle was a labour of love for Lord and Lady Gort, who bought the ruins in 1953. Together with John Hunt, they sourced tapestries, furnishings and artworks to re-create the atmosphere of the castle’s earlier years. For example, in this room the escritoire (writing desk) is an unusual oak piece from the 15th century, and the carved bed posts are 16th century. The castle furnishings are now maintained by the Gort Furniture Trust.

Earl

Earl’s Private Chapel
Most of the religious artworks here are from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Irish Flag flies over Bunrattly Castle, Co Clare.

Fly the Flag!

A stained glass window inset into a wall, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Stairwell Window

A view into the Public Chapel and up a staircase, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Public Chapel

View of Bunratty Castle and Towers, Ireland

Castle Towers
Outside again, we look back at the castle, with it’s three large central floors and six floors in each tower, before continuing our tour of the park.

Tea setting on a lace cloth in the dining room, Mountain Farmhouse, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Mountain Farmhouse
In the dining-room of a simple cottage, the table is set for tea.

Rooster

Rooster
Farm animals wander around the village streets.

The Doctors House, Bunratty Castle and Folk VIllage

The Doctors House
A typical 19th Century urban Irish house, where a doctor once lived and worked.

Shelves of a 19th Century Irish kitchen, kitted out as a local pup, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

J J Cory’s Pub
A typical village pub was operated out of a family kitchen.

Large mill stone in a dark space, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Mill stone
The folk park has two working mills.

Wooden Water Wheel, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Wooden Water Wheel

Portrait: man in medieval period costume and two ladies in waiting, Bunratty Castle

The Earl’s Butler
We are welcomed back to the castle in time for dinner. We had reserved the early seating; the banquets are so popular in high season, that they run twice a night!

Back view of women in medieval costume playing Harp and Violin, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Harp and Violin
In the Great Hall, we are treated to mead and traditional music. The acoustics in the large room are improved by the French, Belgian and Flemish tapestries hung on the walls amongst the other artworks.

Butler and Lady

Butler and Lady
Once we move down to the Main Guard Hall, we are given the safety drill and regaled with stories.

A troupe of singers in medieval costume, Bunratty Castle Ireland

Bunratty Singers
As we eat our dinner, seated at banked tables, we are treated to traditional songs. I was relieved that – contrary to some medieval feasts I have heard of – we were given utensils and serviettes! It was all very civilised – although one ‘traitorous’ guest was thrown into the dungeon for a spell.

Singers, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Irish Singers

To listen to a delightful, live rendition of “Lord of the Dance” by the Bunratty Castle Singers, press play:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Beautiful young Irish woman playing a violin, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Minstrel

Kilted piper playing, Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Piper
A kilted piper plays us out when our time in the castle is finished.

text: slainte - good health

Even without the dinner, the castle and folk park is worth a visit.

For us, it was a delightful change of pace – especially after the miles we had so recently walked.

Smiling eyes, lilting voices, decent food and wine – that’s how I like my history!

Sláinte – Good health!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: The Two William Davies & The Rolling Waves, with Ciara O’Sullivan on harp.

Pictures: 29June2012

  • gabe - October 10, 2013 - 9:31 pm

    Very coolReplyCancel

  • Kevin Dowie - October 14, 2013 - 4:34 am

    Nice work Ursula, adding the audio is a great idea.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - October 14, 2013 - 11:36 am

      Thanks, Kevin, glad you like it. I tried the choral track first – and found I couldn’t read while they were singing. 😉ReplyCancel

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