This is post #3 of a blog series I’m writing including pictures of the recent amazing trip I took with our precious, beautiful daughter Leah. Here are posts #1, My daughter Leah and I went to Ireland, and #2, Ireland: Dreams Come True.
We took so many pictures with our phones that I need to break up the posts, to make it easier for you to read, as I know you live a busy, hectic life like mine and you don’t have lots of spare time!
I hope these blogs inspire and bless you. I thank my Lord Jesus Christ, who made this amazing opportunity and prayer possible.
“My heart is quite calm now. I will go back.”–James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
I booked my and Leah’s vacation through Great Value Vacations, and our first night’s lodging was at the beautiful Bunratty Castle Hotel, the only hotel we stayed at during our trip (the rest were B & B’s). It is located near Bunratty Castle. The staff was so friendly and welcoming; the hotel and the rooms are gorgeous and elegant; and the breakfast in the dining room serving a full Irish breakfast was delicious!
Leah really liked the coffee and tea makers in our hotel room and in our B & B’s. Each morning we’d enjoy our hot, creamy coffee with the full Irish breakfast, and in the afternoons we’d have hot tea with cookies or chocolate wafers. She especially liked the little packets of sugar and cups of cream provided for the guests. I told her we should continue this afternoon tea tradition after we went home. I’m having a cup of tea right now as I blog about this!
Since we arrived at the Bunratty Castle hotel our first day a little early before check-in at 3 PM, the staff person suggested that Leah and I visit Bunratty Castle nearby and its wonderful gift shop, where I bought a few souvenirs–some postcards for my family and friends, and a beautiful sterling silver pocket watch with the Trinity knot for one of Ray’s gifts. He’s always wanted a pocket watch.
After we browsed the gift shop, Leah and I decided to tour the castle the next morning after we’d eaten supper and gotten some sleep from our long international flight! This is a great pic of Leah below in front of the castle.
There are castles and castle ruins all over Ireland. The castle was interesting to visit. It is huge with many narrow, winding stairs and low door frames overhead. This castle is not for the faint of heart or anyone with bad knees or back problems. The stairs are very hard to climb!
But Leah and I did make it to the roof of the castle, which has a spectacular view! It made Leah happy to reach the top of the castle.
Bunratty Castle is located in the village of Bunratty, Ireland, and was built in the 15th Century. It’s between Limerick and Ennis, near the Shannon airport where we flew into Ireland, which is why I booked our first night’s stay at Bunratty Castle Hotel.
If you aren’t interested in the history part of this blog, just scroll on down to see pics and other interesting things!
The Ratty river runs alongside the castle flows into the nearby Shannon estuary. The first settlers around this site were Vikings.
Around 1250, King Henry III of England granted the district of Tradraighe (or Tradree) to Robert De Muscegros. These lands were later taken back by King Henry III and granted to Thomas De Clare, who built the first stone structure with lime white walls (the second castle).
It stood close to the river, on or near the site of the present Bunratty Castle. In the late 13th century, Bunrattty became a large town of about 1,000 inhabitants. The castle was attacked several times by the O’Briens (or O’Brians) and their allies. In 1284, while De Clare was away in England, the site was captured and destroyed.
It is awesome to think that at one time in history, people actually lived inside these castles and fought to defend them and the land. What and who are you and I willing to fight for today?
In 1318 Richard De Clare, son of Thomas, was killed in a battle between the Irish and the Normans. His followers were routed and the castle and town were completely destroyed. The castle was restored for the King of England, but was laid waste in 1332 by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the O’Briens and MacNamaras.
It lay in ruins for 21 years until it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby, but was once again attacked by the Irish and after that, the castle remained in Irish hands. What’s in ruins in your life? What needs rebuilding through Christ’s love?
Other battles and wars occurred at the site, with a third and finally a fourth (the present structure) being built by the MacNamara family after around 1425. Around 1500, Bunratty Castle came into the hands of the O’Briens (or O’Brians), the most powerful clan in Munster and later Earls of Thomond.
Leah’s relatives on her dad Ray’s side were Irish, and I believe my father’s ancestors were Irish, too. I just know I have Irish blood somewhere–Ireland was calling me! Leah really wanted to go, too, and I’m so glad she did! We had a fun time!
The O’Briens eventually made it their chief seat, moving it there from Ennis. The castle was surrounded by beautiful gardens and they supposedly had a herd of about 3,000 deer. I have a feeling these guys didn’t want Bambi because they thought deer were cute. They were likely made into sausage and deer jerky!
One interesting bit of trivia is that the Studdert family who owned and moved into the castle in 1720 later moved out, from family arguments over the oldest son marrying his first cousin! (Resource: Wikipedia) Family dysfunction at its finest.
In 1956 the castle was purchased and restored (re-roofed, and saved from ruin) and is now a major tourist attraction and a National Monument. The castle is famous for its medieval banquets with entertainers dressing up in the medieval clothing. My friend Pat who just visited there with her husband attended the banquet.
At the door a pretty young woman in a purple gown greeted me and Leah. She told me her name was Brianna, which means “noble and virtuous,” very fitting for her role there.
One of the first rooms you see as you enter is the Great Hall, where the soldiers spent a lot of time. One wall has an enormous decorative wall hanging. There’s also a king’s chair, soldiers’ helmets and guns, and a fire place in the middle of the room. The king’s chair was made of beautiful, ornate wood–but looked so uncomfortable! Did you know that there is only one true King–the Lord God?
The castle has furniture and works of art dating to the 1600’s. One was an enormous wardrobe. I teased Leah about this one and the huge one in our hotel room, that we could go inside them to visit the land of Narnia and see Aslan. (This remark comes from one of our family’s fave movies, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, based on the books by C. S. Lewis.)
I was curious about one little window which had a sign by it, “Buttery Hatch.” What on earth is a buttery, I asked Leah aloud. A room for making butter? Just kidding! After googling back home, I found out it was a service room in which large barrels, or butts, of alcohol (ale) were stored and from which they were served in the Great Hall. I thought it was a cute little window. It should be used for coffee instead!
I’m an extremely nosy person, so it was fun poking around in someone else’s (big!) house. Leah enjoyed it, too. I found bedrooms, one with a desk and writing quill in it (which blessed me, being a writer! I didn’t think that was an accident, since I paid for this trip to Ireland with money I made from one of my books, selling it to God’s Glory Box!)
One of the things I noticed was how dark some of the rooms of the castle were. I can’t imagine what it was like with no electricity and just being lit by candles. When it stormed, I’m sure it was a little scary!
Then as we explored, Leah found the dungeon! We both went down the narrow, winding stairs to look at it. The dungeon had bars across it, so you can’t go in there. I didn’t want to, anyway. It’s dark and eerie!
There were also unique, pretty aspects to the castle, like narrow windows and stained glass windows.
The castle was intriguing. Next to it is Bunratty Folk Park, which is 26 acres of a “living village” reconstructed of the homes, shops, and environment of over a century ago. It has 30 buildings, including the school, doctor’s house, pub, grocery, pottery house, and post office reminiscent of 19th century Ireland.
They’re furnished as they would have appeared according to their social standing, from the poorest one room house to the gentry home built for the Studdarts, the last family to occupy Bunratty Castle.
In the early 19th century the country people provided for most of their own needs in food, clothing and supplies and bought only luxuries like sugar, salt and tea. Fairs and markets at the Village gave the farmers and the rural craftsmen an opportunity of selling their products for cash, while shops provided for their needs.
On our second day there, I was eager to drive straight to the Cliffs of Moher (about 1 1/2 hours away), which is one of the main reasons that I wanted to visited Ireland. But I’m so glad we visited the Bunratty Folk Park first. Leah loves the outdoors like I do, as well as animals which the park had.
This was a very peaceful, relaxing, much-needed time for me and Leah, since we were tired from our long day of flying.
We walked around in the beautiful outdoors of Ireland (it felt surreal!), looking at the animals in the village, the little shops, the church, and I was so happy to see a small, beautiful waterfall. We also found a delightful, little fairy village.
I’ll share more about this and pics in my next blog post in this Ireland Blog Series. I invite you to come along with me for this exciting adventure in Ireland!