Why is Bunratty Castle Ireland one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland? Because visitors love to pretend they are living in the 1500s and are invited to the Earl's castle for a rowdy medieval banquet.
You can reserve a spot at Bunratty Castle Ireland for the last evening of your visit to Ireland and partake of food, drink and music with some new friends. Singers, dancers and period musicians in costume will make you feel like you've gone back in time for a night. The good news is that you get to return to your own comfortable lodging to sleep before flying home out of nearby Shannon Airport the next day.
You will also want to tour the Bunratty Folk Park before your banquet at Bunratty. The park is located next to the castle on 26 acres and is a replica of a 19th century Irish town. You will see traditional Irish cottages, shops, traveler wagons, a post office, grocery and the pub. You will meet characters in costume who demonstrate crafts such as butter-making, bread baking, wall building and farming. Irish Nights are held in the Folk Park Corn Barn. Singers, dancers and musicians provide a celebration of Irish traditions.
Across the road from Bunratty Castle is another popular spot called Durty Nelly's Restaurant and Pub. Durty Nelly's is a great place to have a drink and dinner. The lower level is a bar with tables for informal meals. The upstairs offers an area where delicious Irish fare is served in a more formal setting. Outside the pub are picnic tables where you can visit and have a meal if you'd like to enjoy the weather.
Across from Durty Nellie's is Blarney Woollen Mills, a retail store where you can purchase souvenirs for your friends and yourself before heading home. Yet another gift shop and restaurant are located nearby and a gas station is located near the exit onto the main road for fueling the rental car before you return it.
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Bunratty Castle is the fourth castle on its present location which once was an island off the north bank of the River Shannon. The Vikings had a trading camp there and the Normans built the first defensive structure on the site.
The first stone Bunratty Castle was built by Thomas De Clare. Bunratty developed into a town of one thousand people during that phase of the castle.
In 1318, during a battle between the Irish and the Normans, the town and Bunratty Castle were destroyed. Richard De Clare, the son of Thomas, was killed in the battle.
Bunratty Castle Ireland was restored by the King of England, but it was again destroyed by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the O'Brien clan and the MacConmaras. The castle was later rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby, but was attacked by the Irish once again.
The existing Bunratty Castle Ireland was built in the 15th century by Sioda MacConmara and was later owned by the O'Brien Clan, who were known as the High Kings of Munster. The O'Briens lived in luxury at the Castle.
The O'Briens were later named the Earls of Thomond because they agreed to be loyal to the King of England. They ruled the region and occupied Bunratty Castle until the troops of Cromwell forced their surrender of the castle. The O'Briens left the castle and later built the beautiful Dromoland Castle.
Bunratty Castle was later granted to various Plantation families. The last of the families left the castle in 1804 and the castle fell into disrepair.
Bunratty Castle was restored in the 1950s by Lord Gort, the Office of Public Works, the Irish Tourist Board and Shannon Development. The castle is furnished to replicate the time of the fourth Earl, which was approximately 1580. The main area of the large tower house has three floors over the dungeons. The first floor has a murderhole over the door, a spiral stairway and narrow windows.
"Murderholes" are located above the entry doors of castles. They were used as a method of defending the castle during an attack. Boiling oil or water was thrown on the attackers to delay their entry.
The Great Hall of Bunratty Castle is above, where the Earl dined with guests. The room has a large fireplace and wooden roof. Above the Great Hall is the private area with the Earl's bedroom, sunrooms and a chapel. Many small rooms and at least fifteen "privies" are found throughout the towers.
You can follow the signs from Shannon Airport to Bunratty Castle Ireland. The castle is near N18, just to the east of the airport. When you start at Shannon Airport, take the exit onto Airport Road- N19 (signposted Galway, Limerick, Ennis). At the next roundabout take the exit onto N19. At Drumgeely roundabout take the exit onto N19. Continue on N19. At the Shannon Town roundabout take the N19 exit marked Galway, Limerick. At the next roundabout, merge onto the N18 (signposted Limerick). Then branch left onto Clonmoney (signposted Bunratty). Continue on by following the signs to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
Here is a map of the area near Bunratty Castle.