I visited Bunratty Castle in 1997 while in Ireland. I have a postcard of this castle on the wall of my cubicle. This castle is on the river Shannon. It is located near the city of Limerick in county Clare.

The Vikings built the first fortified settlement on this spot, which was an island in the river Shannon. Then the Normans came, and Thomas de Clare built the first stone structure on the site in the 1270's. Its strategic position on the River Shannon always attracted interest and envy from unfriendly quarters. It changed hands many times, usually violently, during the periods of friction between the native Irish of Thomond and the Norman and Norman-Irish intruders. The castle has been destroyed at least eight or nine times and it has seen many bloody murders.

The current castle was built in the early 1400's by the McNamara family, but fell shortly afterwards to the O'Briens, kings of Thomond, who controlled the castle until the 17th century. Admiral Penn, father of William Penn, resided here for a short time.

Today, the castle's Great Hall holds a collection of 14th to 18th century furniture, paintings, and wall hangings. The Great Hall also hosts "medieval banquets" complete with maids playing the harp, court jesters, food a la the middle ages, and mead (a honey wine favored by the Irish in the middle ages). The castle is surrounded by a “Folk Park”, which has replicas of the houses that commoners lived in during the various periods of Irish history. There are also workshops in the park, such as a blacksmith, a weaver, and a bakery. A replica of an Irish village with various shops and places to eat completes the site.

The park is a popular destination for tourists and school trips, so if you visit, it may be crowded with tour buses full of people. It is a great place to visit though, and the climb to the top of the castle is worth it for the views of the countryside.

Historical information about the castle was gleaned from various websites and a brochure from visiting the castle.

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