Bunratty Castle
Bunratty Castle is a large tower house
Tower house
A tower house is a particular type of stone structure, built for defensive purposes as well as habitation.-History:Tower houses began to appear in the Middle Ages, especially in mountain or limited access areas, in order to command and defend strategic points with reduced forces...

 in County Clare
County Clare
-History:There was a Neolithic civilisation in the Clare area — the name of the peoples is unknown, but the Prehistoric peoples left evidence behind in the form of ancient dolmen; single-chamber megalithic tombs, usually consisting of three or more upright stones...

, Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

. It lies in the centre of Bunratty village , by the N18 road between Limerick and Ennis
Ennis is the county town of Clare in Ireland. Situated on the River Fergus, it lies north of Limerick and south of Galway. Its name is a shortening of the original ....

, near Shannon Town and its airport
Shannon Airport
Shannon Airport, is one of the Republic of Ireland's three primary airports along with Dublin and Cork. In 2010 around 1,750,000 passengers passed through the airport, making it the third busiest airport in the Republic of Ireland after Dublin and Cork, and the fifth busiest airport on the island...

. The name Bunratty, Bun Raite (or possibly, Bun na Raite) in Irish, means the 'bottom' or end of the 'Ratty' river
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

. This river, alongside the castle, flows into the nearby Shannon
River Shannon
The River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland at . It divides the west of Ireland from the east and south . County Clare, being west of the Shannon but part of the province of Munster, is the major exception...

An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

. From the top of the castle, one can look over to the estuary and the airport.

The castle and the adjoining folk park are run by Shannon Heritage.


Key events in Bunratty's history include:
  • The first dwellings to occupy the site, in 970 were part of a Viking
    The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

     trading camp.
  • In 1270, Robert De Muscegros built the first defensive fortress, known as a motte and bailey castle.
  • These lands were later granted to Thomas de Clare, who built the first stone structure on the site. At this time Bunratty town had grown to a population of 1,000.
  • In 1318, Thomas's son Richard de Clare, Steward of Forest of Essex
    Richard de Clare, Steward of Forest of Essex
    Richard de Clare 1st Lord Clare was the son of Thomas de Clare, Lord of Thomond and Juliana FitzGerald.A descendant of Strongbow, he succeeded his older brother, Gilbert, in 1308 as Lord of Thomond. In 1309, and then again between 1312 and 1316, he was sheriff of Cork...

     (new holder of the castle) was killed in the Battle of Dysert O'Dea
    Battle of Dysert O'Dea
    The Battle of Dysert O'Dea took place on 10 May 1318 at Dysert O'Dea near Corofin, Ireland. It was part of the Bruce campaign in Ireland. The Norman Richard de Clare attacked the Gaelic Irish chieftain Conchobhar Ó Deághaidh, chief of the Cineal Fearmaic and ally of Muirchertach Ó Briain, but he...

     during the Irish Bruce Wars 1315-1318
    Irish Bruce Wars 1315-1318
    After his victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, King Robert I of Scotland decided to expand his war against the English by sending an army under his younger brother, Edward Bruce, to invade Ireland. Another reason for the expedition was also the fact that supporters of the exiled House of Balliol...

    . The castle and town were completely destroyed by the victorious O'Briens.
  • In 1332, soon after being restored for the King of England, the castle was once again razed by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond
    Thomond The region of Ireland associated with the name Thomond is County Clare, County Limerick and north County Tipperary; effectively most of north Munster. The name is used by a variety of establishments and organisations located in , or associated with the region...

     under the O' Briens and the MacNamaras.

  • In 1353, after lying in ruins for 21 years, it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby, but was almost immediately attacked again by the Irish and was held by Irish hands thereafter.
  • The present structure was completed by the MacNamara family around 1425 and was briefly occupied by the Siodhachain (Sheehan) clan, but 50 years later was in the hands of the O'Briens, the most powerful clan in Munster
    Munster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the south of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes...

  • In 1646, during the Irish Confederate Wars
    Irish Confederate Wars
    This article is concerned with the military history of Ireland from 1641-53. For the political context of this conflict, see Confederate Ireland....

    , Barnabas O'Brien, 6th Earl of Thomond
    Barnabas O'Brien, 6th Earl of Thomond
    Barnabas O'Brien, 6th Earl of Thomond , son of Donogh O'Brien, 4th Earl of Thomond; succeeded his brother, 1639; lord-lieutenant of Clare, 1640–1: his rents seized, 1644; admitted a parliamentary garrison to Bunratty Castle and went to England: joined Charles I; successfully petitioned parliament...

    , allowed a large English Parliamentary garrison to land in Bunratty. The castle was besieged and taken by the forces of Confederate Ireland
    Confederate Ireland
    Confederate Ireland refers to the period of Irish self-government between the Rebellion of 1641 and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649. During this time, two-thirds of Ireland was governed by the Irish Catholic Confederation, also known as the "Confederation of Kilkenny"...

     under Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry
    Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry
    Donagh [Donough] MacCarthy, 1st Earl of Clancarty, 2nd Viscount Muskerry was an Irish noble. He married Ellen Butler , who was the sister of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde). The Earl served as a Munster general during the Irish Confederate Wars...

  • When Barnaby, or Barnabas O'Brien, 6th Earl of Thomond, left Bunratty for England in 1646 for his own safety, during the Confederate wars, he was the last member of the O'Brien Clan ever to reside in Bunratty Castle. He was actually christened Brian O'Brien, after his famous ancestor Brian Boru, but being a political gymnast, he preferred a more English appellation to appease the King, and to be socially acceptable in the climate of the time.
  • Bunratty Castle and its lands were granted to the Studdert family. They left the castle in 1804 (allowing it to fall into disrepair), to reside in the more comfortable and modern adjacent Bunratty House built by the family. The reasons for the move are bound up in family arguments over the eldest son marrying his first cousin. Both the castle and house are open to the public.
  • For some time in the mid Nineteenth century the castle was used as a Barracks by the Royal Irish Constabulary
    Royal Irish Constabulary
    The armed Royal Irish Constabulary was Ireland's major police force for most of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. A separate civic police force, the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police controlled the capital, and the cities of Derry and Belfast, originally with their own police...

    , the colonial era police
    The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

  • In 1954 the castle was purchased and restored by the 7th Viscount Gort
    Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker M.C., 7th Viscount Gort
    Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker, 7th Viscount Gort MC was an Irish peer, connoisseur and collector of fine art, antiques, and objets d'art, whose seat was at Hamsterley Hall, County Durham.He was appointed High Sheriff of Durham in 1934....

    . He reroofed the castle, which had no longer been lived in as much at the time, and saved it from ruin.

The castle is now famous for its medieval banquets, at which the "Bunratty Castle Entertainers" perform.

Folk Park

Alongside the castle is an extensive folk park, particularly popular with families, tourists and schools.

A glimpse into Irish life in the 19th century: This features reconstructions of historical cottage
__toc__In modern usage, a cottage is usually a modest, often cozy dwelling, typically in a rural or semi-rural location. However there are cottage-style dwellings in cities, and in places such as Canada the term exists with no connotations of size at all...

s and buildings, recreating the general feel of the 19th century with a period style village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

 main street. Old tools, furniture and artifacts are displayed, with the village kept alive by some inhabited shops, an old home bakery
A bakery is an establishment which produces and sells flour-based food baked in an oven such as bread, cakes, pastries and pies. Some retail bakeries are also cafés, serving coffee and tea to customers who wish to consume the baked goods on the premises.-See also:*Baker*Cake...

 and peat
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter or histosol. Peat forms in wetland bogs, moors, muskegs, pocosins, mires, and peat swamp forests. Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world...

fires in cottages. The Folk Park excels at showing life in all classes from around Ireland throughout recent history. In the village, you can see the school, post office, shops, and enjoy drinking at a working pub. Animals (and Irish gypsy carts!) are a big attraction for kids, including 2 very large Irish wolfhounds.

This living museum is an incredible resource to learn about Irish history. From chickens wandering around to local women in costume, making apple pies, it's a glimpse into Irish life in the 19th century. The houses are furnished with period furniture - note the very small beds, the prized dishes, and how smoky the houses were from the peat fires. We learned that there is still a local thatcher that works on the roofs. From the blacksmith's forge to fishermen's cottages, from single story houses to double story houses of the more weathly folks, from the Golden Vale Farmhouse (from Limerick) - a house of a prosperous family - to the classical Georgian Bunratty House, you can learn of the various ways that the social classes lived and worked.

Today it is a major tourist attraction along with the castle as it sees thousands of people pass through its gates every year.

External links

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