Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet

When I decided to come to Ireland, my brother and sister-in-law bought me a ticket to the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet for Christmas. I hadn’t planned on going to anything like this – I’ve attended SCA feasts before, and the novelty had worn off – but they said that they had had a really good time when they’d gone, and thought that I would, too.

I’m really glad they got me the ticket, because I’m just back from a very fun evening that I would have missed out on. So, thanks, folks!

I got a few pictures.

The whole folk park is kind of spooky at night, but the castle stands out very dramatically.
The mead reception is held in the Earl’s Hall, with some entertainment to start. I tried the mead, and I can see how people develop a fondness for it. We were also served the bite of friendship: a little piece of bread dipped in salt. By eating it, we had accepted the Earl’s hospitality and were thus under his protection.
It is a medieval feast, and therefor madrigals must be sung. It is the law. They only sang one, though.
If empty beer bottles are dead soldiers, does that make empty mead cups dead vikings? Actually, I just thought the cups were very attractive pieces of pottery.
This is the company of singers, who double as serving staff, and triple as actors in the little events that go on throughout the evening. They are all very good.

I didn’t get any pictures of the food, because you eat with just a knife, and I really didn’t want to spend the rest of the evening cleaning gravy off my camera. But the food was very good. I sat with an Australian family who were very nice.

The actors/singers/servers were amazing. They were friendly and upbeat, kept everyone smiling, nudged people into the mood to participate, and still got the food coming in and dishes going out with great efficiency. Their performances were also very good, with fiddle, harp, and singing. They crowned an Earl and his lady to preside over the feast, and at one point threw someone in the dungeon, which was kind of fun.

Yes, the whole evening was very touristy, but y’know what? Touristy gets a bad rap. These were talented people showing off a bit of their history and culture for us, and they worked hard and did a good job. It’s easy to turn your nose up at things like this, but I really think you’re missing out if you don’t relax and have fun with it.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening, and I thank Al, Daph, Ryan, and Keira again for this great present.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

I’m getting to be an old hand with the Irish bus system1, and made it to Bunratty a few hours earlier than I had thought I would. This gave me plenty of time to check out Bunratty Castle and Bunratty Folk Park, which is spread out around the castle.

The folk park is a reconstruction of nineteenth-century cottages and a village street in front of the castle. Lots of thatched roofs and bright paint jobs, overhung with thick leaves.
A farm cottage, with stable.
The stone building is the forge. Out front is a shaggy little bog pony.
The main room of a cottage. The fire in the fireplace was real, and was burning peat.
The bedroom of the cottage. Full of stuff, very colourful.
All over Ireland, you find religious statues and shrines tucked away in the strangest corners. Here’s a madonna and child in the hedge wall in front of one of the cottages.
I found the shop you were talking about, Al. Very nice people inside, and some beautiful pottery. The roof was in the process of being rethatched, which was kind of interesting in its own right.

The big draw, of course, is Bunratty Castle.

The front of the castle as you approach through the folk park. Notice that there is glass in the windows – this castle has been restored a lot farther than Blarney Castle, for instance.
Cannons sitting in the front yard of the castle.
The feast I’m going to this evening will, I think, be held in this room – the guard hall. I believe this table will serve as the high table. I could be wrong, though.
The Earl’s Hall, from a notch in the wall of a staircase. I believe this is where the welcome will take place at the feast tonight, before we go downstairs to eat.
This looks like the butler’s pantry (or whatever the equivalent might be), with the bottle, pitchers, and large chalice.
This was the Earl’s private chapel. Note the decorated ceiling – it was done in 1619, and was the cut-off point used during the restoration of the castle. Anything more recent than that didn’t get restored.
This is the side of Bunratty Castle, where you exit after touring around the inside.

My brother and sister-in-law and my nephew and niece bought me a ticket for the medieval banquet taking place in the castle this evening, so thanks again Al, Daph, Ryan, and Keira! I’m looking forward to it. I’ll probably post a little something more tonight after the feast, but I’m not sure if they’ll allow photographs, so it may not be much.

But it’ll be something.

Then tomorrow, I’m off to Galway for three nights.

  1. Of course, now I’ve just jinxed myself, and the next bus I get on will deposit me in Krakow. []