A View into 19th century Irish Life at Bunratty Folk Park

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Want to take a step back in time? While we were in Ireland last month, we traveled through time and explore Ireland's history. Where? The very cool Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. Located in Bunratty, near the Shannon airport (Co. Clare), the folk park is the home of both the 15th century Bunratty Castle and the 19th century Bunratty Folk Park. The castle was restored in 1954 and is a showcase of a medieval castle/fortress. We also went to the Medieval Banquet in the Castle (story to come later this month on both the castle and the banquet). It was incredible!

Loop Head Farmhouse, Bunratty Castle Folk Park

Loop Head Farmhouse

Cashen Fisherman's House, Bunratty Folk Park

Cashen Fisherman's House

The folk park is located on extensive grounds (26 acres!) and has over 30 buildings that recreate life in the 19th century. There are various cottages, showing life in all classes from around Ireland. There is a village, where you can see the school, post office, shops, and a pub. Animals (and Irish gypsy carts!) are a big attraction, including 2 very large Irish wolfhounds.

Irish wolfhound

Irish wolfhound

gypsy caravan

gypsy caravan

Golden Vale house, Bunratty Folk Park

Golden Vale farmhouse

This living museum is an incredible resource to learn about Irish history. From chickens wandering around to local women in costume, making apple pies, it's a glimpse into Irish life in the 19th century. The houses are furnished with period furniture - we were amazed by the very small beds, the prized dishes, and how smoky the houses were from the peat fires. We learned that there is still a local thatcher that works on the roofs. From the blacksmith's forge to fishermen's cottages, from single story houses to double story houses of the more weathly folks, from the Golden Vale Farmhouse (from Limerick) - a house of a prosperous family - to the classical Georgian Bunratty House, you can learn of the various ways that the social classes lived and worked.

thatched roof

thatched roof

hay stacks

hay stacks

Bunratty folk park street scene

19th c street scene

It is a brilliant way to learn - that of seeing, and doing. When our daughter sat in the schoolroom, you could see her mind cranking about how uncomfortable the benches were, and if it was a good idea to sit up close near the stove (and teacher), or if it might be better to sit in the back (the classroom decision of the ages, it seems). Wandering the village streets, it was interesting to see the different businesses that were successful, and to dream of how it might be to live and work in that era.

19th c school sign

19th c school sign

19th c street scene

19th c street scene



We loved visiting the Bunratty Folk Park. It opened our eyes to a history that we'd not known much of before, and inspired further learning and reading. We can't wait to go back!

mill, Bunratty Folk Park


Disability accommodation: There are push wheelchairs available for a returnable deposit. The terrain consists of wide avenues, but they are a bit rough at times, and there are some hills. We chose not to use the wheelchair, since my husband had a recent foot injury and was unable to push me. It is a very long walk and we chose not to do as much as we would have otherwise. If you bring your own wheelchair scooter, it would be much easier to get around. Besides the Castle, all of the buildings could be gotten into on the ground floor. There are curbs in the village.

Details: Bunratty Castle & Folk Park is run by Shannon Heritage, who "endeavours to preserve our culture and heritage, traditions and customs, castles and places of history for future generations to enjoy. Our attractions bring visitors into the magic and mystery of the Prehistoric, Celtic, Viking, Anglo-Norman and native Irish communities starting 5000 years ago and continuing to the present day."

Open daily except for 3 days around Christmas.

For more information, please see:

If you have time, catch a Medieval Banquet at Bunratty! Read more - and make a plan. It's great fun.


Where to eat in Bunratty

Where to stay in Bunratty






Note: We were given media passes to attend Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, courtesy of Shannon Heritage. Thank you!




Comments (4)

  • Anna Moffat

    7 years 8 months ago

    Another very interesting post. I love the thatched roof.

  • LadyExpat

    7 years 4 months ago

    Lovely photos. Looks like a great place to spend the day.

  • louisebarlow

    6 years 10 months ago

    I visited this park and it was amazing.  My grandparents, in Tipperary, lived in a house very similar to the Golden Vale farmhouse and when I walked across the threshold, it was like stepping into their house.  I would like to add, that though this is billed as 19th century Ireland, many people lived in houses like these right through the 1970's and even later.


    Rural electrification, in Ireland, did not begin until the 50's and was completed on the mainland in 1973.  The last remote region received electricity in 2003.  When I visited my grandmother in the 60's there was electricity in the house and running water (cold) in the kitchen, but otherwise no indoor plumbing. 

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    6 years 10 months ago

    How fascinating, Louise. I think it is amazing that some places are *still* like this today. I bet it was incredible, when you went to Bunratty and saw this! Thanks for your comment and insight!


    Jessie Voigts, PhD

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

Leave a comment