Bunratty Castle & Folk Park

Castle in Bunratty

Dating from the 15th century, square, hulking Bunratty Castle is only the latest of several edifices to occupy its location beside the River Ratty. Vikings founded a settlement here in the 10th century, and later occupants included the Norman Thomas de Clare in the 1250s. It's accessed via the folk park, a reconstructed traditional Irish village with smoke coiling from thatched-cottage chimneys, a forge and working blacksmith, weavers, post office, grocery-pub, small cafe and more. Tickets are 10% cheaper online.

The present castle was built in 1425 by the energetic MacNamara family, falling shortly thereafter to the O'Briens, in whose possession it remained until the 17th century. Fully restored in 1954 and loaded with 14th- to 17th-century furniture, paintings, wall tapestries and antlers, the castle is home to a dungeon, a main hall and the magnificent and colossal Great Hall.

A few of the 30 buildings in the folk park were brought here from elsewhere, but most are re-creations. In peak season, employees in period garb explain the more family-friendly and rose-tinted aspects of the late 19th century. Faux but fun.

Medieval banquets in the castle and traditional Irish evenings in the folk park's corn barn are other crowd pleasers.