If you’re visiting County Clare, Ireland, put Bunratty Castle and Folk Park on your to-do list. Whether you’re interested in the imposing tower or the sprawling, open-air museum, you’ll find both equally fun to explore and especially good for families. Here’s what we liked best about Ireland’s Bunratty Castle.
Bunratty Castle is a large, square tower house built around 1425, the last of many to stand on the same site. It sits right along Old Bunratty Road in the town of the same name. Passing the tower on the way to the parking area, visitors first enter the gift shop, which funnels everyone through the admission desks and out into the Folk Park. Turning left, the path leads directly to the castle.
The interior walls and stairs have been refurbished to withstand tourists, and the rooms are furnished with pieces from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The four towers on each corner of the building have six stories each. Some of the smaller rooms are cordoned off, but you can still climb the stone stairs and peek in.
The place is a bit maze-like, and if you’re not keen on tight spaces, the spiral staircases may not be for you.
General access to the castle closes at 4 p.m. to prepare for the nightly medieval dinners held here. Be sure to see the castle first if you arrive mid-afternoon.
The Folk Park
Walking around the 26-acre folk park is like stepping back into 19th century Ireland. There are a number of small, thatched-roof houses depicting the rural family life of poor farmers and fishermen.
Modern amenities in Bunratty Folk Park include a tea room, pub, ice cream stand, and this mini zip line near the playground.
On your way out (or in), stop for a drink at the Original Durty Nelly’s Pub, within walking distance of the castle entrance. It might have been established in 1620, but the wooden beams are covered with hundreds of modern police and fire department badges from around the world, including a shrine to the first responders who died on 9/11.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is easy to find off the N18. It’s only a 20 minute drive from Ennis, which is where we stayed. While in this part of Ireland, we also drove to the Rock of Cashel, the Burren and Cliffs of Moher, and the Loop Head Peninsula. See our complete 9-day Ireland itinerary here and all of our Ireland posts here.