Ihave never been to any castle before. Especially if we’re talking about other countries, where fabled “medievalism” does exist. Only once in my childhood, I visited the town nearby, and it’s local attraction – “The leaning tower of Nevyansk“, located in Sverdlovsk oblast of the middle Urals region. I was a secondary school student, and the scales of the building was breathtaking. But this is not today’s story; its story of my first journey to medieval Irish castle – Bunratty Castle.
Let’s turn a year back when we’re still in Dublin. Meet Tony: the nicest man in the world, fate brought us together. Having made up our mind to find a permanent space to live, we predictably began surfing rental websites, such as daft.ie or so. After scrolling hundreds of options, we finally found a great offer: room for sublease in a condominium just a step away from the city centre (30 minutes bus ride). After the visit, we rented a room trouble-free for the first time, and we were almost sure (ha-ha!) in our ability to pay on time – all 450 euros. For that time, it was one of the most comfortable apartments I’ve ever lived. This condominium district was near to ClareHall Shopping Centre (Dublin 17 district). What a lovely place it was. But I’m pretty sure most of Irish won’t agree with me back then because locals prefer houses instead of apartments. Always.
Couple more words about Tony: as I said he is one of the most positive Irish I’ve ever met. Adventures enthusiast with a good sense of humour. We became friends instantly, it happened so naturally because of his easy and optimistic way to live, welcoming temper and attraction to communication. He offered us his helping hand so many times, and I still remember every single one.
Back then (Summer, 2015), we were hunting our first commercial photoshoots. One of our clients lived in the small town calls Drogheda, north of Dublin. The destination wasn’t so far, but by getting on a train or bus with all the equipment would be extremely inconvenient. And then Tony suggested his help because he had a car. This world is lack of such whole-hearted lads.
So, the year 2016, county Carlow, a small town called Tullow. Our little adventure to Bunratty Castle began when Tony messaged on Facebook with his plan to drive somewhere in a small company. He didn’t give us any details, just noticed that it’s going to be someplace on the nearby west Limerick. There were four of us: Tony, his friend, E. and me. Guys picked us up on their way, and we hit the road.
The full name of the place is Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, but back then I had no idea of where I was going.
The way-time was so fast that I still can barely understand how it is possible to cross the whole country in 2 hours? Maybe, the origin of such in apprehension is the drastic difference between the sizes of my motherland and the country where I was back then. During any trip, this inequality was being felt severely. Nevertheless, this fact has its own cosiness and warmth. Just the road itself worth being glorified: we came across the house where Barrack Obama used to live, the variety of inviting towns and villages, hundreds and thousands of valleys and fields, coloured the most vibrant green in the world.
The castle impressed me from the first glance. All group of buildings is hidden just a stone’s throw from the city of Limerick and has the form of a small village with the main building behind closed doors.
The second remarkable thing is the amazing ability of Irish to keep things naturally as nothing has changed through the centuries. It involves not only to museums created but also to general buildings, living and public houses (pubs 200-300 years old look as good as new!). Don’t get me wrong: museums looks okay all around the globe and seems roughly the same because people are able to recreate the living conditions of previous generations wheresoever. However, the visitor’s head just doesn’t fit how diligently the “Irish approach” this process.
As I said our plan was fairly simple: the walk around the castle and its surroundings. Sounds boring I know (wasn’t at all). No guide or something like that. I am not a big fan of scheduled excursions and typical tourism. But that day for the first time in my life I regretted about it. There were too many things for such a small territory. This cosy village comprises almost 600 years of history, and it seems that you’re observing the scenes of favourite series “The Last Kingdom”, based on Bernard Cornwell’s novel. One of my favourite historical tv show.
The castle itself reminds you of the game setting, with lords and peasant village nearby. It is multileveled inside: king-size halls, sleeping rooms, and countless attributes of the period. Quite often, halls gave place to spiral stairs less than a meter in diameter. If you ever wanted to visit the medieval banquet – this is your big chance. Prices affordable for any tourist and you can explore feudal events with live music.
By fully explore Bunratty, we headed to the village. It consisted of some extended streets, there almost all the houses were opened for visit. Each of them preserved full furnishings: pub, drug store, school and living houses of the 17th-18th centuries. In all, it created the integral picture, thoroughly authentic for medieval Ireland.
The journey has ended in a local pub with a canonical Guinness pint. By the way, this pub is shown in the video. (pub in a video above with timecode). It is 30 years since the footage was recorded. The pub hasn’t changed even a little and still functioning as the swiss clock. Again: the cool thing is not to build the pub, but also save it over a hundred years.
I am truly sure that it wasn’t my last visit to the castle. I want to visit every one of them all over Ireland. So be it!
Perfect trip with great people.
Thank you, Tony! See you later.