Bunratty Castle

Tower House

This castle was built around 1425 by the McNamara (MacConmara) family but soon passed through marriage to become the stronghold of the powerful O'Brien Clan, High Kings of Munster and later Earls of Thomond. Prior to construction of the current castle it was the site of a motte and bailey castle c1270 on an island in a tidal creek with a view of the water-traffic entering and leaving the port of Limerick. With such a strategic location established, the wooden castle was replaced by a stone structure which was subsequently destroyed during the Irish Bruce Wars 1315-1318 by the victorious O'Briens. A third castle was built and destroyed before the current fortress was built. But that was not the end - this castle was besieged and taken by confederate forces in 1646, and then the last residents, the Studdert family, moved to a newer residence in 1804 and the roof was allowed to collapse. It was saved from ruin in 1954 by Lord Gort with reconstruction of a roof and battlements, and the interior restored to its original medieval splendor with Gort's wonderful collection of 15th and 16th century hand carved furnishings and tapestries.

The tower house has four flanking towers which project from the four corners of the keep as a defense against sapping (trenching under) and battering rams. These corner flankers are connected by arches on the north and south sides. Although there are only three storeys in the main keep including a magnificent great hall, the towers have many floors and small chambers including bedrooms and an amazing 15 privies! We arrived at the castle at 4:15 and could not gain access. Last visitor entry is at 4pm to give them time to prepare for the twice-nightly medieval banquets bunratty is now famous for. I look forward to a return visit to explore the interior of this castle!

Situated: Very easy, Located at the northen side of the N18 between Shannon and Limerick.

Discovery Map 58: R 4510 6092. Last Visited April 2012.

Longitude: 8° 48' 44" W

Latitude: 52° 41' 48" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey and Deb Snelson.

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