The present Bunratty Castle is the last of a series of castles that have existed on the same site. Built by the MacNamara family around 1425, about 75 years later it came into the hands of the O’Briens, the most powerful clan in Munster, and later Earls of Thomond.
A self-guided tour reveals mostly 14th and 15th century furniture, as well as a table said to have been salvaged from the wreck of a Spanish Armada ship, and leuchterweibchen, female figures of German origin often used as chandeliers. One can be seen in the photo below taken in the Earl’s bedroom, which also features an extremely rare 15th century cupboard with writing flap, and one of “her ladyship’s” magnificently beaded dresses.
After seeing the castle interior, there was still time before dinner to tour the Folk Park. It is one of the most complete reconstructions we have seen in our travels, as evidenced in the plan displayed on the grounds.
We visited the Mountain Farmhouse and Weaver’s Shed and then popped into Shannon Farmhouse, the first farmhouse to be reconstructed on the site. Its name comes from the fact that originally it stood on the site of the main runway at Shannon Airport. Note the ladder to access the loft, which provided extra sleeping space.
Next up was Bothan Scóir, a one-roomed house of a landless laborer who worked for a local landlord. Many of these houses, with their thatched roofs, disappeared along with their tenants during the Great Irish Famine.
The day was warm and sunny. It was time for a cool beverage. Following along the path, past another farmhouse, the schoolhouse, and up the Village Street with its grocery and hardware stores and post office, I arrived at P. MacNamara & Sons. There I met Joan, who served up ice water and a refreshing glass of chilled Chardonnay along with a beautiful Irish smile.
When it was time for our medieval feast, I rejoined the others and we all headed back to the castle. Greeted with music, mead, and “the bread of friendship,” we knew a great evening awaited us. Our grandchildren were transfixed by the showmanship of the head butler.
When our meal–eaten without benefit of utensils–and the entertainment concluded, we moved over to Durty Nellie’s, a pub just on the other side of the castle, to engage in a bit of rigorous debate with new friends we had made during dinner. Contrary to the usual caveats about not discussing politics or religion, it seems in Ireland it’s expected. The only topic of conversation that engenders more excitement is that of rugby. And maybe Irish poets and writers. Well, maybe music, too. And. actually, which Guinness brew is the most tasty. Get the picture?