Adventures in Ireland: Bunratty Castle & Folk Village

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We wanted to make sure we took it easy our first half day in Ireland, but still wanted to make the most of our time. Shawna had discovered Bunratty Castle was on the way to our hotel from the airport AND only required a few left turns and a roundabout or two to get to. Sold!

Bunratty Castle

I managed to navigated the narrow road and make right turn into the parking lot and off we went. The entrance of course goes through the gift shop. 🙂

Bunratty Castle & Folk Castle Gift  Shop Entrance

We hadn’t realized the castle was also a Folk Village until we got there and we still weren’t sure what that meant. It wound up being a very charming reproduction of village structures that would have surrounded the castle. Complete with fake felt snow attached to the roofs. And an overpowering smell of burning peat.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park Fake Snow

The castle itself had been built in the 15th century and changed hands quite a few time until it started falling into disrepair in the 19th century before being renovated in the 1950s. About 14 rooms are open to the public, starting with the barracks in the basement. Then the next floor is the soldier’s hall complete with a tiny dungeon off to the side.

Bunratty Castle Soldier Hall

Shawna Bunratty Castle dungeon (314x400)

I don’t remember ever being in a restored tower house style castle, so I found it really interesting though slightly difficult to navigate. I hadn’t changed out of my long dress from the plane and found the narrow, steep stone steps challenging. Next time I’ll know!

The volunteer/guide in the main rooms was great! He volunteered just enough historical information to peak your interest, but left it to the visitors to ask any amount of follow up questions they had. One thing I learned is that most Irish structures were painted white inside to reflect as much light from narrow windows as possible.

We admired the recently restored tapestry.

Bunratty Castle restored tapestry

Clambered up to each of the 3 open towers to enjoy the amazing views!

Bunratty Castle View from Towers

And got a big kick out of seeing the listening/spy holes dotting the walls of the great hall! (Normally covered by tapestries or paintings)

Bunratty Castle listening hole into Great Hall

Then we went out to explore the rest of the Folk Park. What we thought was just a few structures on the way to the castle, turned out to be extensive grounds, including a church and manor house. There were few other visitors about so we had the park to ourselves. It made the deserted main street of the “town” feel rather like a ghost town.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park Main Street

Lots of chickens, goats, and even deer! The Ardcroney Church of Ireland moved there stone by stone (from Ardcroney).

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park Ardcroney Church

And Bunratty House, with it’s beautiful walled garden. It was quite a trek from the entrance so we were pretty bummed when we discovered it wasn’t open. The garden was beautiful though.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park Walled Garden

At this point it was past 4PM. We’d originally planned to check into the hotel early afternoon and then take a bus or cab into Limerick to see the castle and cathedral before dark, but the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park actually wound up being the perfect experience – well worth the 12 euro admission price for each of us.

If you haven’t already hit your fill of castles and historic villages and need something to do near the Shannon Airport, I highly recommend!

Next up: Bunratty Mead Tasting


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