Bunratty Castle is a medieval castle on the River Shannon in the village of Bunratty in County Clare.
Along with the folk park next to it, the castle is a passport to another time where you can experience life in Ireland in the 19th century.
The area is run by Shannon Heritage and they have gone to great effort to restore old ruins and construct new period buildings so visitors can get an authentic glimpse at how Irish people of differing social status, from lords to gypsies, used to live.
There is entertainment in the form of medieval banquets in the castle and the folk park contains several elements of the lives of the villagers.
Castle in mouth of Ratty
The name Bunratty Castle comes from the Irish ‘Caisleán Bhun Raithe’, which means ‘Castle in the mouth of Ratty’.
The first incarnation of the castle was built in 1270, about 300 years after the Vikings first settled in the area. It was used as a defence fortress or ‘motte and bailey’ castle and contained a watch tower.
Over the centuries the castle has been taken over several times by the English and each time the Irish clans like the O’Briens and the MacNamaras have eventually fought to reclaim it.
It has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, often after it had been fought over but also when it had been neglected and left to lie in ruins for several years.
The Irish laid siege to the castle
The current structure of the castle was built by the MacNamara clan in 1425. It is a three storey high rectangular building with two towers on opposite corners. It wasn’t long before the O’Briens, who were the more powerful clan, claimed the castle for themselves.
Over the years the O’Briens became more friendly with the English nobility and when Barnabas O’Brien gave permission for the English Parliamentary garrison to land in Bunratty in 1646, it did not go down well with the Irish.
They laid siege to the castle and O’Brien had to flee to England for his own safety. The castle was taken by the Studdert family but they left in the early 1800s after they built Bunratty House which was more homely and modern.
Today the Castle and Park are used to entertain visitors.
Bunratty Folk Park
Tourist attractions in IrelandThe Blarney Stone Bru na Boinne Bunratty Castle The Burren Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge The Cliffs of Moher Croagh Patrick Dingle Peninsula Garnish Island The Giant's Causeway Glendalough The Guinness Storehouse Hill of Tara Lakes of Killarney Newgrange The Peace Bridge Ring of Kerry Wild Atlantic Way
Irish citiesBelfast Cork Derry Dublin Galway Limerick Waterford
Tourism articlesTripAdvisor's top 10 destinations in Ireland for 2015 Top holiday destinations in Ireland - as voted by the Irish Top holiday destinations in Ireland - as voted by tourists Ireland's favourite heritage site The most romantic city in Ireland Hidden gems in Ireland The top ten Irish beaches Where would Irish people take overseas guests? Tips for first time visitors to Ireland What not to do when visiting Ireland Ireland's top sacred pilgrimage sites Eight reasons why Irish pubs are Ireland's top attractions What do you like about Ireland? Local Irish pubs number one attraction for tourists Tourists happy with 'value for money' on visits to Ireland Video - initiative to promote 'Ireland's Ancient East' Ireland can boast the best 'cliff view' in the world Most visited tourist attractions in Ireland in 2014? Industry warned not to 'repeat the mistakes of the past' Dublin 'favourite worldwide city' for young travellers Which tourist attractions in Ireland made the Lonely Planet's ultimate guide? Dublin is one of the world's top three cities say Lonely Planet Ireland has three of the world's four friendliest cities
Did you know?Irish attractions: Dare you take the nerve-wracking Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Challenge. Don’t look down. It’s not for the fainthearted. Find out more.
Have you heard about…Which Irish county has the sexiest accent? Irish people have their say. Find out more.
What about this…Irish nationalist Michael Collins has been called the “greatest Irishman that ever lived” after masterminding military operations in the Irish War of Independence and helping negotiate the treaty with the British that brought the Irish Free State into being. Find out more.