Sheila R. Lamb
Buhn Raithe: Bunratty Castle – Living History, With A Pint
I first touched Irish soil near the River Shannon, when I landed at Shannon airport many years ago. I spent my first days at the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Buhn Raithe, and later explored nearby Limerick on my own. I didn’t want to be seen as a typical tourist…but I was a tourist. And I found Bunratty a perfect introduction to Ireland.
Vikings occupied this piece of land along the Ratty, an estuary of the River Shannon. Vikings sailed up the river, to camp and trade at this site.
Bunratty land changed hands several times, depending on war, politics, and conquest. To muddy the waters further, the attacks depended on who controlled Ireland at the time – the Vikings, the English, or the Irish themselves. For example, Edward the Bruce was sent to Ireland during the Irish-Bruces Wars between 1315-1318. The Scots were there to devastate the Norman English, who ruled the land at that time.
From the 1200’s onward, the land of Buhn Raithe was owned by the de Clare’s, the O’Briens, and the MacNamara’s. The castle, as we know it today (along with much restoration in the 1950’s by Viscount Gort) was built by the MacNamara clan.
The Bunratty Castle and Folk Park also includes living history exhibits, which recreates village life, farm life, and costumes of the 18th and 19th century. Of course, no castle visit is complete without the Medieval Banquet. There was much singing, a lot of food, and quite a few pints (except on Good Friday. Plan accordingly). Irish Fireside gives a terrific description of what happens at the Bunratty Castle Banquet.
A stay at Bunratty is worth the visit to the castle, the banquet, the living history village, and of course, a pint at Durty Nellys. Will there be a few other tourists? Sure – but don’t let it stop you from experiencing the fun!