Friday, May 23, 2014

Banquet at Bunratty castle

After our lovely day visiting Kilkee beach, where we found a huge colony of jellyfish hanging out on the sand-

we headed back to our cottage to get ready for our evening activity- a banquet at Bunratty Castle. I had been to a banquet at Bunratty when I was about 13 years old and it was one of those truly memorable experiences that sticks with you always (and not just because, back then, they gave me snuff to snort and some to take home. Whooooo.) 

Anyway, I think we have visited Bunratty on almost every trip to Ireland. The kids LOVE it there. Its not just the castle, but there is also the "folk park." Some info culled from the shannonheritage website:

Bunratty Castle
Welcome to Bunratty Castle, the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. Built in 1425 it was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendor and now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art which capture the mood of those times.

Bunratty Folk Park
Enjoy the sights, sounds tastes, scents, of this enchanting place as you stroll from house to house or around the charming village street complete with school, post office, doctors house, hardware shop, printers and of course McNamara’s pub!

Bunratty Walled Garden
The gardens at Bunratty Folk Park have been restored to their former glory. The gardens are modeled on the original Regency period garden which supplied fruit, vegetables, and flowers to Bunratty House (built in 1804) and are refurbished in typical Victorian style. This is your opportunity to experience one of the great gardens of Ireland.

The Bunratty Collection
Browse the castle and marvel at the finest collection of medieval furniture in the country which brings to life a vital part of our Medieval past.  You can explore at your own leisure or join in a guided tour with our experienced guides. At night time the castle is the impressive setting for the medieval castle banquets which are held year round.
As I had regaled my children with stories of this fabulous banquet that I had once attended at Bunratty, DD was adament that this was how she wanted to celebrate her sixth birthday. After many years of childrens' birthday parties that involved hard labor, who was I to argue with no work and bottomless (or so it seemed, at least) jugs of house wine.

There are two seatings for the banquet: 5:30pm and 8:45pm. When I went to book, 5:30pm was sold out, so we went with 8:45 (knowing that we would be on Spring Break and my kids are not sleepers.) So, we headed down for our 8:45 banquet and were allowed stroll around the folk park, though it was closed to the public.

At around 8:30pm we entered the castle for our banquet. After being serenaded at the entrance by a bagpiper, we entered the main hall where the adults were offered a porcelain goblet of mead (Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, and frequently fruits, spices, grains or hops.) Yum!!! The children were also offered a goblet of juice. Everyone was happy. While enjoying our refreshments in the main hall, we were treated to delightful music by a harpist and violinist.

We soon moved up to the dining hall, where we were treated to a four course meal (lovely vegetable soup, ribs, chicken with potatoes and vegetables, then dessert) and lively entertainment. There were jokes at the audience' expense. Incredibly beautiful singing. People taking photos with their giant iPads (oh, rewind, am I the only one who struggles with this? people whipping out their giant tablets to take photos! Who carries a bag that big around? get a camera! anyway...)

My daughter was brought up on stage to contrast her youthful 6 year birthday with the 60 year old who was also celebrating his birthday (by being taunted and sent to the dungeon.) It was a fabulous evening. My children had the time of their lives (and were oblivious to the tawdry jokes at the 60 year olds expense), and I think they were the only children at the 8:45pm seating. We had a fabulous evening and highly recommend a banquet should you visit Ireland (or this area). I think you have to be a visitor to attend. No one that I know who lives near there,  it seems,  has ever been to one.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cottage in Clare - part I

Its been a while since I posted and I now have a bunch of catching up to do. Last month the kids were on Spring Break for 2 weeks. So we were able to take a nice little week-long vacation to county Clare. Then, the week after Spring Break, there was a "bank holiday." There is a bank holiday every month! That's basically a Monday off, so you get a three day weekend. Every month! For the May bank holiday, we took a little trip to Wexford. So, we had two trips in a row and I was itching to blog about them. I really wanted to do so while I was immersed, but I had no internet in either location. Grrr. There's always a lot to catch up on after a trip, so I am only getting there now.

I won't try to cram everything into one post because we did a lot of touring around while we were in Clare and that would be too overwhelming- for you and for me!

We chose Clare for our trip because DD wanted to celebrate her birthday with a banquet at Bunratty Castle. I also have friends in Clare and generally love visiting the Shannon region. There is also The Burren, caves, Cliffs of Moher, beaches and plenty of "touristy" things that we love to explore. I had a little trouble finding a cottage for us to rent. Though cottage rentals are abundant around Ireland and generally pretty cheap in April, it was hard to find one that allowed us to start our vacation on a Friday. The standard turn-over is Saturday. Bringing the dog was not problem, but starting on Friday was. I looked on vrbo, airbnb, a whole bunch of cottage rental sites, but ended up using sykes as they were really helpful and found me a cottage at a great price, that allowed me to start our trip on a Friday.

Clare is a county on the west coast of Ireland. We rented a cottage that was somewhat central in Clare and would allow us to tour around. It took about three hours to drive there. The cottage was a small, traditional two bedroom farm cottage, just perfect for our little family.

The cottage was in a rural area, near the village of Kilmihil, mostly surrounded by farms. The day we arrived, the weather was beautiful, so we were able to take a nice walk around our new hood.

On the second day, we decided to drive over to the beach. It was about a half hour drive to the town of Kilkee. Again, we had lovely weather and a really nice day at the seaside.

Next up, Bunratty castle!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


My DD has just started Irish dancing classes, so a new pair of ghillies (Irish dancing soft shoes) are in order: