Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, a favorite of tourists and locals for over 50 years, just got a facelift! Now, there's not a lot you can do to a nearly 600-year-old castle that is already regarded as the most complete and authentically restored and furnished castle in all of Ireland. But you can do quite a bit around it!
If you've visited Bunratty in the past you're in for a wonderful surprise when you return! And if you've not visited before… be sure it's on your County Clare itinerary!
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Updates at Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
The entrance to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park used to be quite dark, and small. At busy times the area would easily become crowded and a bit stifling.
A completely new layout made the reception area larger, with more queues for ticket purchases and an easier flow through.
But before you reach that there are a couple of great additions!
The new, airy breezeway entrance opens directly into a brand new gift shop filled with wonderful handcrafted items like woolens, pottery, and handblown glass. In the back corner a large nook is dedicated to stunning jewelry. Of course you'll still find trinkets and Bunratty gifts (including a wonderful selection of Bunratty Mead!) I would estimate that the shop is roughly 3 times the size of the previous gift shop and displays are beautifully designed and well spaced- no more cramped shopping!
In the past the folk park really only had one place to eat- MacNamara and Sons Pub at the top of the village street. The fully licensed pub serves a fabulous pint and tasty pub food but was often so busy that we would skip by. A new food hall, just past the gift shop, highlights the ‘new flavors' of Ireland – hyper local, fresh foods- served deli-style. Meats, salads, cheeses, and lovely desserts are even drawing locals in for lunch! (The food hall lies before the admissions area.)
The Updates don't end once you have paid your admission… In addition to freshly painted buildings and more interactive costumed characters you will find these new & noteworthy additions:
Bunratty Folk Park has always had a fair number of animals – but there were more this year. Piglets raced through pens, sheep and goats contentedly grazed while the new lambs and kids frolicked in fields, ponies approached for a scratch on the head, while new coops for duck and chickens kept the birds under control but interactive.
My girls loved the old ‘castle' playground when they were little, but that came down a few years ago. The new playground has been completed and features fun areas for little kids as well as bigger ones. The castle theme remains on the ‘big kids' area, while a ‘pirate ship' draws the adventurous small tykes. A variety of swings and a kiddie controlled zipline round out the playscape.
I have saved my favorite addition for last. Along an oft-missed trail near a back edge of the folk park the faeries have created a hamlet in the trees. Kids (and adults, if you wish to bend) may enter this enchanted land through the reedy tunnel.
I'm a huge fan of faerie gardens and this is, quite honestly, one of the best I've encountered. Some fairy houses are easy to spot, others are more hidden. You'll easily spend half an hour (or more!) discovering all the fairy secrets!
What do you think of the updates at Bunratty Castle? Will you be visiting soon?