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Monday, January 11, 2021

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park - County Clare, Ireland



It was our last day in Ireland.  The first thing we had to do was to end our vacation the way we started it with breakfast at Gus O'Connors Pub.  We had wanted to have breakfast here again ever since the first time we ate here but never made it.  This morning was our last chance and we got here which actually surprised us a little bit.

While my sister, Sandie, and her husband, JT, loved the black and white pudding, a type of sausage and staple of an Irish breakfast, I was not a big fan and tried their vegetarian fry this time.


After our delicious breakfast, it was time to head to the castle.  We left our excursion to the Bunratty Castle & Folk Park for the last day of our trip.  We didn't think we would be up to traveling the hours we traveled on our other road trips around Ireland all week.  A short one hour ride to the castle sounded like the perfect plan for Day 7.


The building we had to walk through to get to the castle was the gift shop.  It was one of the best shops we had been in the whole trip.  There was something for everyone here.  I came out with a bag full of the nicest gifts for myself, including a charm for my Pandora bracelet and this adorable hat and soccer ball for our grandson.


We saw the castle to our left when we came out of the gift shop and headed there first.


The Bunratty Castle is the most complete and authentic castle in Ireland.  It was built in 1425 and restored in 1954.  The furnishings, tapestries and art date back to the 15th and 16th century.


We climbed the steep staircases to explore the three floors of the castle.

The Great Room - the banquet hall

Earl's Kitchen - the large turtle shells were used as dishes and covers.

The Main Guard - the main living room of the common soldiers


We took some pictures out on the rooftop of one of the castle's four towers.


After carefully descending the winding staircases, we exited the castle and wound up in the Folk Park, a living reconstruction of the homes and environment of Ireland over a century ago.  


We followed the path and walked through the park enjoying the many buildings both inside and out.

The School House 


The Loop Head House was the home of a fishing-farming family.



Ardcroney Church, built in 1838, was moved stone by stone from County Tipperary and unveiled at the Folk Park in 1998.




There were a few farmhouses around the park.  This one would have been the home of a farmer from the rich lands in Limerick and Tipperary.

Golden Vale Farmhouse

Inside this farmhouse, we met the Bean an Ti. (Woman of the House.)  She chatted with her guests and answered any questions they had.


The Folk Park included The Village Street where we found a collection of shops and buildings typical of 19th century urban Ireland.



After having a great time and spending hours at the castle and park, it was time to get back to the cottage to get ready to have our last dinner in Ireland.  We were going to O'Connor's Pub, our favorite pub in all of Ireland.  We were hoping their dinner was as good as their breakfast and it was!

We all really enjoyed our side of pureed carrots and parsnips.  After asking the waitress about it, I tried my hand at making it when we got back home.  It actually came out really good!  (You can find my recipe here.)


The guys drank as much Guinness as they could on our last night!


One of the top things on our To Do In Ireland list was to make it to an Irish pub session.  Finally, on our very last night, we would have that experience.  It would have been so disappointing if we didn't.  

We saw that the pub was getting very crowded, with people showing up to enjoy the music, as we ate dinner but luckily we were able to find a spot where we could sit and get a good view of the band.


The music was lively and fun but the highlight of the night, for me, was when the young daughter of one of the musicians jammed with the band.  I was really in awe of her unbelievable skills on the banjo.  I imagined she must have been playing the banjo since toddlerhood! 


Unfortunately, we had to leave the pub before the band was done.  We had to get up early to catch our flight back to the U.S.  On our way to the airport the next morning we stopped for gas and ran into the station's store to grab some snacks.  And guess who was in that store?  The little banjo playing girl, along with her mom and siblings!  After I confirmed with her that she was the talented girl from the night before, I was very happy to be able to compliment her on performance.  I also had to ask her how long had she been playing the banjo and her answer was one year!! 

We made so many amazing memories during our vacation in Ireland and talk about returning one day.  I crossed Ireland off our bucket list but after our unforgettable trip, it is back on! 

Erin Go Bragh!    

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