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Bunratty Castle, North Munster, is sited on an original Viking Trading Camp which dates back to around 970 and is the last of four castles to be built on the site. Robert De Muscegros, a Norman, built the first defensive fortress (an earthen mound with a strong wooden tower on top) in 1250. His lands were later granted to Thomas De Clare who built the first stone castle on the site.

In 1318 the castle and surrounding town were completely destroyed when Richard De Clare, son of Thomas was killed in a battle between the Irish and the Normans.

After being restored for the king of England, it was once again laid to waste in 1332 by Irish Chieftains. For 21 years it lay in a state of ruin until being rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby.

Once again the Irish besieged Bunratty and to this day has remained in Irish hands.

The present castle was built in 1425 by the McNamara family and remained in their possession until 1475 when it past to the O’Brien’s, the largest clan in North Munster. They then went about landscaping the castle grounds with picturesque gardens and which reputedly sustained a herd of 3000 deer.

Under Henry VIII's 'surrender and re-grant' scheme, the O'Brien's were granted the title 'Earls of Thomond' and they agreed to profess loyalty to the King of England. The reign of the O’Brien’s came to an end with the arrival of the Cromwellian troops and the castle and its grounds were surrendered. The O’Brien’s never returned to Bunratty.

Bunratty Castle and its lands were granted to various Plantation families, the last of whom was the Studdart family. In 1804 Bunratty fell into disrepair after the family decided to relocate to a more modern and comfortable at Bunratty House, located in the grounds of Folk Park.

Bunratty Castle was finally returned to its former glory when Lord Gort purchased the estate in 1954. It is now the most complete and authentically restored and furnished castle in Ireland and it has been open to the public since 1960.

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Additional Photos by Pawel Stryjek (Pablo25) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 298 W: 6 N: 247] (3186)
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