I first noticed the changes at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park last summer. Every building in the folk park boasted a fresh coat of paint, the furniture and decorations inside the cottages had gone through a deep cleaning that dislodged years and years of dirt, and there was a new cast of characters roaming the streets.
It might not seem like much, but the little upgrades enhanced every moment of the visit. Not only were the buildings brighter; but the doctor gave one member of our group a 1900s medical examination, the teacher quizzed our knowledge of Ireland, and the police officer enlisted our help in tracking down some hooligans. It might sound perfect for a day with the kids, but I was with a group of over-50s, and they loved it (Corey shares some of his favorite “grown-up” features of Bunratty here).
Something New at a Very Old Place
This year, the updates continued with a new entrance, shop, and café. This time they went for more than fresh paint and a good scrubbing! The entire space has been re-imagined… and the results are impressive.
The café throws out an eclectic coffee shop vibe with cozy seating areas, but they are serving up a lot more than java. Artisan sandwiches, daily specials, and scrumptious desserts line the cases. I arrived late in the afternoon and enjoyed a bit of calm after a busy day. I have a feeling the tranquility and any chance of appreciating the stylish decor may be out of reach at peak times when the park is packed with tours, but it’s worth a stop before or after the crush… oh, and there’s free wifi!
The first thing I noticed in the new shop… a much more spacious and well-designed space with windows looking out to the park. The second — and more important, thing — a much broader range of Irish-made products. It is a comfort to know that Bunratty is on board with supporting Irish artists, craftspeople, and businesses. The shop still offers a section of tchotchke made in other parts of the world, but there is much more focus on quality, native products.
The ticketing area and the entrance have also be remodeled to integrate better with the shop and cafe. As a result, the three areas flow into each other… and thankfully, the old and unappealing “holding area” in the entrance is gone.
Because the shop is usually open until 9pm and the café until about 7pm (and you don’t need a ticket for the shop or cafe), I have a feeling I’ll be stopping the night before I fly out from Shannon Airport for a snack and some souvenirs.
Here are a few of my pics from the entrance and shop…
I asked Shannon Heritage to send a few of their pics as well…
The Entrance & Shop
The Café and Ticketing