Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet
Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet
One of the highlights of our trip to Ireland was the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet, in Co. Clare. We attended courtesy of Shannon Heritage (thank you!), arranged by Dolores, the friendliest person in Ireland - who runs Bunratty Castle Mews B&B, right down the street from Bunratty Castle. We LOVED staying there. But I digress.
You may know that Bunratty Castle is part of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. We've shared our experiences at Bunratty Folk Park, which is an extraordinary place to learn about life in Ireland over time. Seen in the daytime, Bunratty Castle is a gorgeous structure, with lots of winding stairs to get up and down the various levels. Furnished with period furniture and art, it's a glimpse into medieval life.
Bunratty Castle is located on a Viking Camp from about 970. The first stone castle on the grounds was built by Thomas De Clare. In 1318, this castle was destroyed. It was restored, and then again destroyed in 1332. In 1425, the present castle was built, although it fell into disrepair in the 1800s. Lord Gort purchased the entire estate in 1954 and set about restoring and refurnishing it. It's been open to the public since 1960.
Bunratty Castle kitchen (not where our meal was prepared!)
When you attend the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet, you'll enter through the folk park, and head over to the Castle. Climb the stairs to the Great Hall - you receive a glass of mead and a bite of friendship (bread, dipped in salt) and can mix and mingle while the Bunratty Castle Entertainers provide beautiful medieval music (strings and song).
Afterwards, you head downstairs to the dining room, where you'll sit at long communal tables. One guest is chosen to be the Earl - on the evening we went, a stately older gentleman was chosen for the part. His role? To start the dining! And, judge the musicians!
Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet (photo by our friend Hiroko)
Dinner was delicious - a four-course meal, served family-style. How will you eat? Well, you have beautiful sturdy pottery dishes and cups, and a sharp meat knife for a utensil. Our 8-year old daughter was impressed at how people could eat like that, but she soon got the hang of it. From soup, fresh potatoes, ribs, an incredibly delicious chicken, to a fruited dessert, this was the best food we'd had in Ireland. Wine or water was available at table.
The best part, though, was the entertainment. The Bunratty Castle Entertainers are rightly famous - their musicianship was extraordinary, blending beautiful music and voices in such a way that we felt transported back in time. They wore beautiful velvet costumes, and although they had to serve the food (I felt having the entertainers server us made us more a part of the evening's events), the music and entertainment was non-stop. We sat at table with other Michiganders, and one of their crew was selected to be the villain. He was tossed into the dungeon, and had to beg for release and sing a song! Of course, he sang the Notre Dame Fight Song, to rousing success (he was pardoned).
Door to the Dungeon!
Our daughter was invited up to the small stage at the end, for the last song. She even wore a crown! The ambiance - a dark room, candles, beautiful music, excellent food - served to highlight the best of history for the night. No dogs at our feet, or rats rustling through the rushes, but a remarkable experience, one of the highlights of our time in Ireland. Not a tourist trap, but a real glimpse into history, the evening ended with coffee in the basement, accompanied by a bagpiper. We LOVED it.
Lillie up on stage, at the end of the banquet. (photo courtesy of Hiroko)
Highly recommended, both to learn more about Irish History and Culture, but to experience a great meal and incredible entertainment.
For more information, please see:
There are two seatings nightly. Adult admission is around €50, discounts for kids. Reservations are required.
Bunratty Castle at night
All photos copyright Jessie Voigts, except where noted.
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