02 Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Potcheen Cocktail and She Moved Thro’ the Fair
Episode Guide – Podcast #2 Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Potcheen Cocktail and She Moved Thro’ the Fair
We visit Bunratty Castle and Folk Park where we give our tips to avoid the crowds, suggest some interesting sites nearby, mix up a potcheen cocktail and hear Liam’s haunting version fo She Moved Thro’ the Fair. CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON below to listen.
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Making the most of your visit to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park:
- Village Shops and Pub
- Bunratty Manor
- Red Deer
Sites we recommend nearby:
- Quin Abbey
- Knappogue Castle & Walled Garden
- Bunratty Folk Park Pub After Hours
- Shannon Airport
The Knockahopple Irish Fireside Cookbook
Irish Fireside Song
- She Moved Thro’ the Fair
Bunratty Castle & FolkPark Overview
The village of Bunratty has become a favorite stopover for visitors arriving or departing Ireland from Shannon Airport. Its popularity is due in part to its proximity to the airport, only five miles, and its fully restored 14th century castle.
A Short History
Bunratty’s position on the O’Garney River attracted Viking traders in the 10th century, and as their camp grew, a defensive earthen fort was built in the 13th century. The existing castle replaced an earlier stone castle in the 15th century.
Built by the powerful MacNamara family, it later became the stronghold of the O’Briens. In the 17th century, Cromwellian troops took over the castle and the land was divided among English plantation families. One of these families, the Stoddard’s lived in the castle until 1804 when they built the more comfortable Bunratty Manor nearby.
The castle fell into ruin, but a huge restoration effort began in 1945. In 1960, the castle opened to the public as the most complete and authentically restored castle in Ireland.
On the grounds of the castle, the Bunratty Folk Park includes ten homes and buildings that have been moved from different parts of the country to showcase various aspects of Irish life. These meticulously re-created homes focus on turn-of-the century Ireland and also include a manor house, mill and village with shops and a pub.
Things to Know
The Castle and Folk Park can be overrun with tourists in the summer and school groups in the spring, but a patient visitor can work around these distractions to achieve a worthwhile experience.
Arriving early can help beat the crowds, especially the popular castle, village square and first few cottages, but the best advice is to expect to spend at least three hours at the park, and just take your time.
There are four towers in the castle that are all worth exploring, so be prepared to climb narrow, spiral staircases. Also note that the castle closes earlier than the Folk Park, so plan your visit accordingly.
Bunratty is well-known for its Medieval Banquets that are held in the castle. Musicians, singers, fair maidens and, of course, a court jester entertain packed audiences who find themselves forgoing silverware and drinking plenty of Mead (an Irish honey wine).
For a more traditional Irish experience, the Folk Park offers the Shannon Céilidh (aka the Irish Traditional Night). Held in the corn barn, the céilidh includes a lively evening of music, dance and storytelling. Although it lacks the allure of a medieval castle, the Traditional Night is less crowded and offers (in our opinion) better food and entertainment than the banquet.
Combined Castle & Folk Park admission is about 12 euro for adults. Tours are self-guided and it is open year-round usually between 9a-6p.
Nearby Sites We Recommend
Built on the site of a former castle in the 13th century, Quin Abbey is an off-the-beaten path treasure. The abbey was confiscated during the English Reformation in the 16th century, and later re-opened and operated a college with 800 students by the mid 17th century. However, before the end of the century, Cromwell’s troops arrived, executing the friars and destroying the complex.
The abbey is located in the quaint village of Quin. Parking is available on the street and a path leads to the structure. Although the interior provides a maze of rooms and corridors to explore, it is still worth a visit even when the abbey is closed to visit the cemetery and the remnants of the drum towers from the castle that once stood on the site.
The site is free and self-guided during daylight hours. The interior is open daily May-Oct, 10:30a-6pm M-F, 11:30a-5p Sat-Sun.
Knappogue Castle & Walled Garden
Built by the MacNamara’s in the 15th century, Cromwell used Knappogue as a headquarters in the 17th century and thus spared it from destruction. It was restored and extended in the 19th century.
The castle remained occupied until the 1920s when it was abandoned and fell into ruin. In the 1960s, Honorary Mark Edwin Andrews of Houston, Texas, and his wife, an architect, collaborated with Shannon Development to carry out an extensive restoration. The castle is now open for tours and more recently, the walled garden has been restored to its early 19th century glory.
The castle is now owned by Shannon Development (who also operate Bunratty) and is home to its own medieval banquets. Knappogue banquets are a bit more intimate and less crowded than Bunratty.
Admission is about 5 euro. The castle is guided and and the garden is self-guided. Open daily May-Sep, 9:30a-5p.
Bunratty Folk Park Pub After Hours
After the park closes, visitors can access the folk park pub via the side entrance. This traditional Irish pub provides the perfect atmosphere for a evening of craic (good times). Many locals prefer this old-fashioned pub to the larger, tourist-driven pubs nearby.
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