The 15th century medieval Bunratty Castle and its charming 18th century village (known as the Folk Park) are not to be missed if you find yourself in County Clare, Ireland. Neither is the amazing medieval feast that you can sign up to be a part of.
Our first stop upon arrive in the Bunratty area was a visit to Bunratty Winery. The best thing about this shop? They sell Potcheen (the original Moonshine) and Mead (an alcoholic drink of fermented honey and water from ye olden days). Keep in mind this important note for anyone planning on enjoying Potcheen: “one does not enjoy Potcheen, one just tries not to black out from Potcheen”. Fair enough.
Armed with our alcohol, we made it back to our room at the Bunratty Castle Hotel and made a picnic out of our new liquid refreshments and some smoked salmon and cheese purchased earlier in the day.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park At Night
Embarrassingly enough, not long after our picnic we headed out to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park for a medieval times style dinner. I’ve always loved Medieval Times, but you know what beats that place hands down? Having a medieval style dinner in an authentic castle. It was truly the highlight of our entire trip. One additional perk of having dinner reservations at Bunratty Castle is access to the Folk Park. Surrounding the castle is an 18th century village, which closes earlier in the afternoon. However, once you give your dinner admissions tickets at the entrance, you have free reign to roam around the park until dinner.
Dinner Time at Bunratty Castle
When it was finally time to enter the castle for dinner, we were led up to a welcome reception and offered cups of mead to drink. Refreshments in hand, we were able to wander around while listening to music from a violinist and a harpist. Before long, Sir Patrick and his fair maiden collected us for dinner.
Dinner at Bunratty Castle turned out to be served in the former guard quarters. In the dining hall we sat on long wooden tables and ate with our hands. The food was delicious and we didn’t miss the utensils.
After dinner the minstrels of the castle entertained us with singing, including my long-awaited favorite, Danny Boy. I had been dying to hear Danny Boy every night in the pubs but I suppose it would be the equivalent to waiting to hear Tiny Bubbles at a (kama’aina attended) luau.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park During the Day
In the morning, we headed back to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park to experience the place when it was truly open in the daytime. As mentioned above, the castle was from the 15th century. Anything that had been moved into the castle post 1600 was taken out when the castle started being shown to the public. There was even a dungeon that had previously been in use! Meanwhile, the folk park showed different abodes from the 18th century. This included landless paupers whom lived in their Lords’ stables as well as the wealthy original mansion of the inventor of HP branded ice cream (an Irish household name). Some places even had scones and soda bread for us to sneak a taste. Some had fires going and Bryan took it upon himself to make sure there was enough bog on the fire.
We did spend some time looking for a shrubbery. Get it? The Knights that say Ni? Monty Python? Bueller?… It’s okay, Bryan didn’t laugh either.