Tuesday was essentially our last day in Ireland, as our flight was early Wednesday morning – but the last day of travel is always an interesting one. My family can probably relate when we’ve gone on those Vegas trips and booked a late-day flight thinking “This will be great! We’ll give our selves some extra time to enjoy Vegas!” Then that last day rolls around and you find yourself wasting that day with anticipation, boredom and just eager about traveling home. This last day in Ireland felt very much like that. It’s funny how not having a home-base anymore really changes your mindset about your travels. Still, it was a fun day and I think we did make the most of it.
Given that the four of us had our four large suitcases (plus all the tech crap I take on trips that inflates my backpack), we didn’t want to drive far, so we stayed in County Clare and by Shannon (our airport city). We started our day in Limerick, in hopes that we could do some shopping. While LImerick is really pretty, the streets we walked consisted mainly of shops that would be found back at home, offering us little that was unique. After about an hour in Limerick we headed over to Bunratty Castle for the afternoon.
Located about 10 minutes from Limerick, Bunratty Castle was originally built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 15th century in it’s restored form. It ended up getting restored into a museum/exhibit of sorts. There’s the castle itself, but there is also a surrounding mock village, that has been restored to show what the village would be like. I think the best comparison in the US would be a renaissance festival with no people or merchants – more authentic. There were many groups of kids that were on field trips, as well as tourists all over the place.
The castle itself was neat. It was like the Blarney Castle, but with more restoration (and thus seemed more modern), but wasn’t as modern as the Kilkenny Castle (which if you remember disappointed us for this reason). They allowed photography in the castle, but you were not permitted to use a flash, which is why some of these pictures are dark.
There were the circular stone stairways, like Blarney Castle, but Bunratty had put in some better railing.
You could climb the stairs to the various rooms around the castle, or go to the top, which I think was about 6 stories tall.
I was just amazed at the vast size of the place. When you first went in, you climbed what seemed like 2 stories, only to walk into this vast room that sat inside the castle. Look at this room below and then imagine this sitting on top of another room that was equally big (I took this picture from a little window in one of the surrounding rooms in the castle).
In the surrounding “village” there were various replica homes of people who lived in that time. They had a home for farmers, fishermen, and land-less servants. In one home, I loved how they still had little lofts, making the best use of their small space.
I also love this early version of the hide-a-bed. It makes you wonder if they were ever comfortable to sleep in.
Bunratty also had this little recreation of the village as well, showing off some of the stores that may have existed in that era. We of course checked out the bar, as well as the schoolhouse.
Bunratty also had some of the various animals as well. Our favorite ones were the little miniature pony. I found a baby miniature pony, which was really cute.
One of our favorite spots was by the old Mill House, which had a nice miniature waterfall right next to it. We found an opportunity for another nice picture moment, squeezed in between the times when kids were playing next to it.
Overall Bunratty was a great final day activity. It definitely was not my favorite castle on the trip, but after seeing fantastic ruins like Blarney and The Rock of Cashel, this was a really nice middle-of-the-road attraction. In the end we spent nearly four hours at Bunratty.
We ended up checking into our hotel and then having our last meal in Ireland at a place called Gallagher’s. The food was fantastic, as I took my last opportunity to enjoy fresh fish and fresh Guinness. Our hotel in Shannon was really nice, although the anticipation of the plane trip home made it difficult to sleep. We got to our flight back to New York with no problems, as I am actually writing this blog post on the plane.