Looming alongside the River Ratty, Bunratty Castle is Ireland’s most authentic and complete medieval castle. It was built in the early 15th century, and many of the furnishings tapestry and artwork on display today date to period shortly after the castle’s completion. Only 12 kilometres from Shannon International Airport, the castle is easy to reach and is often one of the first attractions tourists visit in the region.
This actually not the first castle to occupy this riverside plot. In the 10th century, Vikings established a settlement here, though little architecture remains from that period. The castle as it stands today is, more or less, a fortified tower surrounded by a moat and accessible by drawbridge.
Three-hour medieval-style banquets are hosted in the Grand Hall. Guests feast on traditional medieval dishes and are encouraged to eat with their hands, as castle guests would have so many centuries ago. Mulled wine and mead round out the experience. Send an email to Shannon Heritage to reserve seats.
Bunratty Folk Park
Adjoining the castle is Bunratty Folk Park, a 20-acre plot surrounding the castle. The folk park contrasts the trappings of medieval aristocracy with the lives of plebes. The park features a recreated 19th-century Irish village, with farmhouses and thatched roofs.
The recreation continues on the central village street, which includes a few re-enactments. Drop a parcel at the post office; stop by the school; and refuel at the village pub. You can also sample fresh scones from the local bakery. Counterpoint to the medieval banquet, the village offers dinner at a village farmhouse, with Irish stew, soda bread and trad music.