A Day at Bunratty Castle and Folk park.
The air was crisp and clean as we piled out of our Grand scenic bundling the kids and filling the buggies with warm blankets. Though there was no snow on the ground, the chilly winter weather had me thinking twice about walking around too much; however, the excitement of getting to see this castle and Irish folk park had me raring to go. I’ve heard from many people that Bunratty was a “must see” and now I can join the chorus.
Little birds chirped and picked at the last few blackberries on the bushes in the car park. We entered through the big gates into the large gift shop filled with tons of local handmade goods as well as your typical tourist stuff and silly do-dads. Our tickets cost only 4 euros after we applied our Tesco club point vouchers (we had been saving up and had 20 euros worth), children under five years old go free and they do have discounted rates for older children and students as well as family passes available. For more info you can check out www.heritageisland.com/attractions/bunratty-castle-folk-park
Once inside the folk park we were met by beautifully arranged flowers and shrubs along with a feeling of adventure…which way should we set out? There were paths leading in all directions with fun signs marking the way. We were given a map with the layout so after a moment of indecision we set out towards the byre cottage. Passing several species of chickens, ducks and other farm animals we arrived at the quaint little thatched roof house. The aroma of peat burning in the fireplace met us as we walked in the door and were surprised by the warmth the tiny little stove put out in the dimly lit room. I enjoyed looking around the rooms as it was set up to replicate what a home would have looked like in the early 1900’s. This particular cottage came from county Mayo where my husband’s family come from, thus it was dear to my heart. Across the little path a black rook and a big pig stared at us.
Leaving the cottage, we came to a huge playground filled with all sorts of large fun equipment for children of all ages. My daughter and I enjoyed the swings and watching as men prepared for the coming Santa’s grota by setting up Christmas lights and a large carousel. We followed another path and found ourselves in a charming little folk village. There was a school with a boy’s side and a girl’s side clearly marked; a doctor’s office with his home above, several stores, a restaurant, pub, post office and many other interesting buildings; many of which were open to the public to simply explore at your leisure. Each place had a unique feel and many antiques making you feel as if you had just walked into another era entirely. My children enjoyed window shopping and seeing all the fun Christmas displays.
From the town, we wondered by the old mill and saw baby goats, sheep and other animals playing in the fields near the path. Autumn leaves crunched under our feet and I thought I could smell a faint aroma of goat’s cheese…perhaps coming from one of the stores or dining areas? The skies opened up with a downpour so we made haste and ran into an old church for shelter. Some of the men who were working there stood under the eaves chatting, they offered to help us carry the buggy inside. As we passed the time waiting out the rain, I sat there wondering what sermons had been preached here over the years. How many people sat in these pews listening to the stories in the Bible? There was an old unique piano in the corner, faded pews, a few hymnals and old books, along with beautiful stain glass windows. It was a peaceful place.
Finally, the rain let up a little and we decided it probably was not going to stop altogether, so we tucked in our hoods and had fun racing the buggies in the rain. There were many other fun cottages that looked and felt entirely different than the first one. Each one had a special history and unique set up. We especially enjoyed the rustic fishing cottage.
Bunratty Castle, a 15th century medieval fortress, sits proudly at the edge of the property overlooking a beautiful ocean inlet. The Castle was interesting with decorated rooms filled with tapestries, wood carvings, actual life size armor, and beautiful furniture. The art work was not entirely my taste, but did make an interesting impression. It was the first castle I’ve been in that actually had a working, comfortable toilet inside where the toilets might have been in the original state. The stairs are narrow, steep, and uneven as were most staircases in the ancient Irish castles. We left the buggies on the ground floor. I think it would be an ideal place for adolescent boys to run up and down as they play knights and battles…not the best for mommies carrying heavy infants, but still, a fun place to explore. Bunratty boasts of a large Banqueting hall where they have live performances, traditional Irish music and special medieval style dinners. Though, I’ve never been to one I’ve heard tell that they are good and worth booking your tickets ahead of time.
I could go on and on describing the place, but that would defeat the purpose…you must see it yourself and discover the fun and adventure of looking back to another day in history.