Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Bunratty Castle is a big tower house located in County Clare, Ireland.  It is in the center of Bunratty Village near the N18 road that is located between Ennis and Limerick.  It is near Shannon Town and the airport there.  The Bunratty River runs along the castle and then flows into the Shannon Estuary.  You can look over to the estuary and airport from the top of the castle.

There are a number of important events to remember and appreciate about the history of Bunratty Castle.  The first dwellings on the site were a part of a Viking trading camp, and this happened in only 970.  The first defensive fortress was built in 1270 by Robert De Muscegros, and it was known as a motte and bailey castle.  Later on, the lands were granted to Thomas de Clare, who was responsible for creating the very first stone structure at this location.  The town of Bunratty had increased its population to 1,000 at this time.  The Battle of Dysert O’Dea was responsible for the death of Richard De Clare, who was the Steward of Forest of Essex and the son of Richard De Clare.  His death occurred in 1318.  The castle was restored for the King of England, but soon thereafter in 1332, the castle was razed by Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the MacNamaras and O’Briens.  The castle was in ruins for about 21 years, but in 1353, it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby.  Soon after, it was attacked by the Irish, and from then on was held by the Irish.

Bunratty Castle, Ireland

Bunratty Castle, Ireland

The current structure that exists today was finished by the MacNamara family around the year 1425.  They only held it for about fifty years until the O’Briens took over.  The O’Briens were the most powerful of the clans in Munster.  During the Irish Confederate Wars in 1646, Barnabas O’Brien, who was the 6th Earl of Thomond, permitted an English Parliamentary garrison to land in Bunratty.  The castle was taken by the forces of Confederate Ireland under Viscount Muskerry, Donagh MacCarthy.  Barnabas O’Brien, the 6th Earl of Thomond, left Bunratty to go to England in 1646, and he left for his own safety.  This happened during the Confederate wars, and he was the final member of the O’Brien clan to live in Bunratty Casle.  The castle and its lands were granted to the Studdert family, but left left it in 1804 and it fell into disrepair.  They instead lived in the more modern and comfortable Bunratty House that was built by the family adjacent to the castle.  It is said that they reason they moved out was because the oldest son married his first cousin.  Today the home and the castle are both open for public viewing.  The castle has since been restored and purchased.  The 7th Viscount Gort has possession, and he purchased it in 1954.  Part of his improvement included putting a new roof on the castle.

If you visit the castle, you will not only be able to see this historic castle and the adjacent home, but also visit the extensive folk park.  Here you will find reconstructions of historical buildings and cottages.  This helps recreate the feel of the 19th century.  There are also artifacts, old tools, and furniture displayed.  It is a big tourist attraction for families and for schoolchildren as well.  Thousands of people visit every year.  You should too!

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