Bunratty Castle is the most complete, authentic castle in Ireland. Standing on the banks of the river Ratty in County Clare, at the mouth of the Shannon estuary, it was an important stronghold to protect trade in times gone by. Four castles stood on the site where Bunratty Castle now stands.
The first wooden fortress was built in Bunratty in 970 by the Vikings. Later three further castles were attacked and destroyed.
Over the years, Bunratty was granted to a number of Plantation families. The last family was the Studderts who lived in the castle until 1804. The family moved to nearby Bunratty House.
When the iron roof collapsed on the great hall in the late 19th century it was open to the elements until Viscount Lord Gort bought and set about restoring the castle in 1956. The castle was restored complete with the most complete collection of medieval furniture in Ireland. It opened its doors to the public in 1962. Visitors today can enjoy the wonderfully restored medieval furniture and stay for the famous medieval banquet held daily in the castle.
The nearby Bunratty House, now forms part of the tour of the Bunratty Folk Park, where visitors can not only visit the Bunratty Castle which reflects the plantation era, but also visit the 19th century homes and thatched cottages of local farmers and fishermen of the period. The folk park enables visitors to taste the food from the Bean an Tí’s (woman of the house) and travel through time and the streets of Bunratty. There are numerous stone and clay thatched cottages and even a small 19th century pub where you can sup on some porter.
It is a timeless experience offering visitors a taste of history from the grandeur of the Bunratty Castle to the cottages and modern tastes of Irish life.