Bunratty Castle was constructed in 1425 and is believed to be the fourth castle to have stood on the site. The castle was built by the MacNamara family, and through the centuries, possession passed to the O’Briens and then the Studderts. The Studderts vacated the castle following the construction of Bunratty House in 1804. The Royal Irish Constabulary was using the castle as a base by 1845 and the castle was abandoned when they moved out.
By 1956, the castle was in ruin and extensive renovations began to establish it as a tourist hub. The interior was furnished with art, tapestries, and furniture, some of which dates to the 16th century. Today, the castle and the adjoining folk park offer visitors a taste of what life was truly like in years gone by across the full spectrum of Irish society, from the poorest of the poor to the wealthiest landowners. The park includes a faithful recreation of a village street, with a church, traditional houses, and also a watermill, while the castle hosts regular immersive medieval banquets with music, song, and fine food.
Several ghosts are believed to haunt Bunratty Castle and some locals claimed to have experienced unusual activity at the castle before renovation work began. However, an early encounter was recorded in 1642 when a Lady Fanshaw was staying with the O’Brien’s. One night, she was awoken during the night by the sound of a woman screaming. As she looked over towards the window, she saw the figure of a young, red-haired woman floating outside the window. Knowing that she had encountered a banshee – a harbinger of death – she learned the following morning that a cousin of her host family had died during the night.
On another occasion, a guest was staying overnight and preparing for bed. As she went to turn off her bedside light, she caught sight of a lady in Victorian nightdress standing by the window. The mysterious figure appeared to be carrying a lit candle. The guest advised her that she was in the wrong room, at which point the lady disappeared, leaving only the scent of a newly extinguished candle.
In 2002, a visiting couple was viewing the banqueting room. As she stood by a doorway leading to the castle dungeon, the lady claimed that she felt a sudden rush of energy charging at her. The terrified lady quickly left. A further story tells of how a visitor heard what he thought was a dog scratching at whining at the door of an upper floor room. When the door was opened, the room was empty.
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