Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Bunratty Castle is a Norman castle in County Clare, Ireland. It lies in the centre of Bunratty village (Irish: Bun Ráite), by the N19 road between Limerick and Ennis, near Shannon Town and its airport. The name Bunratty, in Irish, means the bend of the 'Ratty' river. This river, alongside the castle, flows into the nearby Shannon estuary. From the top of the castle, one can look over to the estuary and the airport.
There have been several stages in Bunratty's history:
- The first dwellings to occupy the site, in 970 were part of a Viking trading camp.
- In 1270, Robert De Muscegros built the first defensive fortress, known as a motte and bailey castle.
- These lands were later granted to Thomas de Clare , who built the first stone structure on the site. At this time Bunratty town had grown to a population of 1,000.
- In 1318, Thomas's son Richard de Clare (new holder of the castle) was killed in a Norman-Irish battle. The castle and town were completely destroyed.
- In 1332, soon after being restored for the King of England, the castle was once again razed by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the O' Briens and the MacNamaras.
- In 1353, after lying in ruins for 21 years, it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby , but was almost immediately attacked again by the Irish and was held by Irish hands thereafter.
- The present structure was completed by the MacNamara family around 1425 but 50 years later was in the hands of the O' Briens, the most powerful clan in Munster.
- In 1646, during the Irish Confederate Wars, Barnaby O'Brien, the Earl of Thomond, allowed a large English Paliamentary garrison to land in Bunratty. The castle was besieged and taken by the forces of Confederate Ireland under Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry.
Bunratty Castle is now a very popular tourist attraction, due in a large part to the proximity of the airport. The interior has been furnished with tapestries and artifacts from various eras in the castle's history (none or few are belonging to the castle). Some of the sights include the 'great hall', dungeons and four towers with spiral stairwells. Mediaeval-style banquets are held twice every evening in the great hall. Quite a treat for tourists, the cost is only about twice that of a restaurant meal, but must be pre-booked.
Alongside the castle is an extensive folk park, particularly popular with families, tourists and schools. This features reconstructions of historical cottages and buildings, giving the general feel of a 19th century with a period style village main street. Old tools, furniture and artifacts are displayed, with the village kept alive by some actual shops, an old home bakery and peat fires in cottages.
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