Nature / Outings

Exploring Ireland {Bunratty Castle}


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I have been lucky enough in my life to have been taken on wonderful holidays, a lot of the time to the States as we have some family over there. But it occurred to me recently, that I have seen hardly any of my own country! I don’t have much time off from work, as I work 5 and a half days every week, so usually Sundays are my only chance. This Monday was a bank holiday though, so I went on a day trip with my family. We chose to go to Bunratty Castle, in County Clare. We had been there a couple of times before, but I was very young so I don’t really remember it. We have a wonderful photograph of the 4 of us, dressed up in vintage clothes, that was taken there, and I thought it would be lovely to get it done again today – 15 years later!

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Here’s a brief history: Bunratty Castle is a 15th century castle, which has been beautifully restored since it was left to the People of Ireland by its last owner. It is located in Bunratty town in County Clare, which is about 90 miles from where I live in Cork. The castle has had many forms over the centuries. It fell in 1318 after a major battle, and the castle was burnt down and the ruins later collapsed.

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The present structure was built by the MacNamara family after around 1425. At around 1500, Bunratty Castle came into the hands of the O’Briens (or O’Brians), the most powerful clan in Munster and later Earls of Thomond. In 1712, Henry, the 8th and last Earl of Thomond (1688-1741) sold Bunratty Castle and 472 acres of land to Thomas Amory for £225 and an annual rent of £120. Amory in turn sold the castle to Thomas Studdert who moved in ca. 1720. The Studdert family left the castle (allowing it to fall into disrepair), to reside in the more comfortable and modern adjacent “Bunratty House” they had built in 1804. For some time in the mid-19th century, the castle was used as a barracks by the Royal Irish Constabulary. 1956, the castle was purchased and restored by the 7th Viscount Gort, with assistance from the Office of Public Works. He reroofed the castle and saved it from ruin. The castle was opened to the public in 1960, sporting furniture, tapestries and works of art dating to around 1600.

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Be prepared to walk up and down lots of very narrow stairs!

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The view at the top is pretty enough though, if you can manage the stairs…

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The Throne in The Main Hall is a good photo-op, or a good place to ponder over your kingdom ;)

The folk park, gardens and walks around the castle are quite beautiful. There are lots of small thatched roof cottages dotted around, showing what life in rural old Ireland would have been like. There is a little village too, full of old style buildings such as shops, a pub, a school, a doctor’s house etc. There are also lots of other little treasures along the paths to hold your interest.

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I thought this wooden carving was beautiful

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There are lots of animals on the grounds like this little donkey. There were also ponies, chickens, geese, pigs and 2 Irish wolfhounds!

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And deer!

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Ardcroney Church, a former Church of Ireland building which was painstakingly moved, stone by stone, from County Tipperary, to Bunratty.

All in all Bunratty is a wonderful place to visit. However, I would advise anyone going there to maybe bring some lunch with you as there aren’t many places to get food in there. There are lots of pubs and hotels across the road where you can eat, but I don’t think you can re-enter the castle and folk park once you leave… without paying anyway that is. Also, it’s a shame there aren’t any information plaques for all the wonderful objects in the rooms in the castle, and in the rooms in the cottages. I think they are missing a trick here with these little errors. But we all thoroughly enjoyed our day!

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