Wednesday, 7 March 2012

There was an old Castle near Limerick...

Willie & Siobhan had been wonderful hosts at the Barker House B&B & had certainly made us feel very welcome.  We were sad to have only been able to spend one night with them.

We met up with Rosemary back at the Heritage Centre around midday & followed her up to Glin Castle where we met the Madam.   Madam Fitzgerald turned out to be a most lovely unpretentious elegant woman, who was only too happy to give us a guided tour of the stately rooms of the Castle.  Beautiful antiques & grand gold framed portraits of generations of Fitzgeralds filled every room.
Looking out into the Garden from Glin Castle
The Flying Staircase inside Glin Castle
Drawing Room, Glin Castle
Glin Castle has superb interiors with neo classical plasterwork, a rare flying staircase and reportedly the best collection of Irish 18th century furniture, pictures and porcelain in private hands.  We were thrilled to have Madam Fitzgerald very graciously give us a tour of some of the rooms of her grand private residence.  It was a rare treat for one so unaccustomed to meeting such dignitaries.

Sadly, it was over all to soon & after saying goodbye to Madam Fitzgerald & Rosemary, we headed on our way out of Glin.   We stopped briefly at the ruins of Desmond Castle in Askeaton just 13 miles from Glin.   Desmond Castle dates back to 1199 when it was the stronghold of the Earls of Desmond, who were also from the Norman family of Fitzgerald dynasty, who once ruled much of Munster.
Desmond Castle, Askeaton, Co. Limerick
Next stop was the beautifully restored 15th century Knappogue Castle in the rolling hills of County Clare.
Knappogue Castle, Co. Clare
Knappogue Castle was built in 1467 as a defense against the invading Normans.  It is now owned by Shannon Development & holds Medieval banquets when it is open each year between April & October .  The closest we got was the gate to the Castle, so we soon moved on to the nearby Bunratty Castle for a closer look at an authentic medieval fortress.

Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare
Durty Nelly's Pub overshadowed by Bunratty Castle
Durty Nelly's Pub & Restaurant, Bunratty, Co. Clare
Again, we have Susan Byron of Ireland’s Hidden Gems to thank for arranging for two complimentary tickets to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.  We were met at the entrance to the Park by the lovely Marie Brennan who was to be our guide around the folk park & castle.

Bunratty Castle, Bunratty

Apparently, this is the most complete medieval castle in Ireland.   Built in 1425, it was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendour .    The houses and cottages of the folk park spread out at the foot of its massive walls, much in the same way that the cottages and crofts of old would have been, giving you a glimpse of what it would have been like living in Ireland during the 1800's. 

Golden Vale Farmhouse, Bunratty Folk Park

A traditional 19th century Irish Kitchen Fireplace
A working kitchen, Bunratty Folk Park & Castle
Bunratty Folk Park, Bunratty, Co. Clare

The Blacksmith's Forge, Bunratty Folk Park

Loop Head Farmhouse, Bunratty Folk Park
Inside cottage at Bunratty Folk Park
There are over 30 buildings set out around the park in a village & rural setting.    Costumed women & men recreate the traditions and lifestyle of a bygone age.   As you stroll around the park, in and out of the houses, you come across the woman of the house cooking griddle bread, men tending to the vegetable garden, and chooks & other farm animals wandering around the yard, there's even a fully licensed working pub. 
Shannon Farmhouse, Bunratty Folk Park
The Shannon Farmhouse [above] was the first cottage to be reconstructed on the site and marked the beginning of the development of Bunratty Folk Park.  The house was removed from where it originally stood on the site of a runway at Shannon Airport.
At night time, the Castle becomes an impressive setting for medieval banquets

Tapestry, Bunratty Castle

The Banqueting Room, Bunratty Castle, Co. Limerick

Kitchen inside Bunratty Castle
Altar inside Bunratty Castle

Replica Village at Bunratty Folk Park, Co. Clare

Irish Wolfhound at Bunratty Folk Park & Castle, Co. Clare

From Bunratty we drove on to the nearby Dromoland Castle which is now a beautiful 5 star hotel accommodation for those wanting an elegant castle experience.

Dromoland Castle, Co. Limerick

Dromoland Castle
Dromoland Castle, Co. Clare

Signage at Doolin, Co. Clare
Time was moving on, so we pushed on to Doolin where we had booked a couple of nights at the Doll’s Cottage B&B on Fisher Street, just a couple of doors up from the well known Gus O’Connor Pub.  On arrival at the Doll’s Cottage we found the proprietor to be one Sean O’Connor who just happened to be the son of the late Gus & Dolly O’Connor.  Sean filled us in on the history of the Gus O’Connor pub & the famous musicians who used to frequent there. 

Traditional Music at McGann's Pub, Doolin, Co. Clare
We finally extricated ourselves from Sean’s chatter & headed down to the O'Connor's Pub for a bite to eat only to find they weren’t having any live music there this night.  A nearby pub called McGann’s were.  So it was here that we decided to spend the evening.  We sat ourselves down & watched as a couple of guys on guitar & a banjo warmed up.  Musicians seem to just stop by for a bit.  A woman materializes from the crowd now filling up the pub, with a bodhran & begins to sing.  She had the most amazing voice.  We had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours listening to old familiar reels & ballards, with the pub crowd joining in on a great rendition of 'Cockles & Mussels'.

McGann's Bar, Doolin


  1. The banjo player in the McGann's photo is Kevin of the best Irish banjo players of all time, and definitely my favorite! Awesome pub!

  2. Thank you for putting a name to the face. These guys were fantastic. I'd love to know who the woman was playing the Bodhran. She had a most amazing voice. If anyone knows her, please let me know.

  3. I'm headed to Ireland in May 2014. I'm going from Dublin then south and west. Can I correspond with you? I have some questions!

  4. Happy for you to correspond, please post any questions you have on this blog or any of the other blogs of my Ireland trip as you wish. I'll answer them as best I can. Cheers.

  5. I am so gloriously happy you took the time to contact me about your grand trip to Ireland. You are so kind to have mentioned the pictures you took that you wanted to share with me! My heart longs to visit Ireland and see some of the places that perhaps my ancestors walked and worked and played. I am proud of the Green Isle that runs through my veins! Again, thank you.

    1. My pleasure Norma. I hope you get to visit the land of your ancestors soon. I know you'll love it as much as I did.