Bunratty (Irish Bun na Raite, "end of the Raite river") is a village in County Clare, in the Shannon Region of west Ireland. It's best known for Bunratty Castle, which has a folk museum and medieval-themed banquets. It's relentlessly touristy but has good accommodation and food; Shannon Airport is only 5 km west and Bunratty offers a more enjoyable stopover than the airport area.
Dublin Coach 300 (M7) runs hourly from Dublin Burgh Quay via Kildare and Limerick to Bunratty (3 hr) and continues to Ennis. It doesn't call at Shannon Airport.
Bus 51 runs hourly from Cork via Mallow and Limerick to Bunratty (10 min from Limerick), continuing to the airport (another 20 min), Ennis and Galway. Don't take X51, which runs nonstop between Limerick and Galway. The last bus is around 22:00.
Bus 343 meanders hourly from Limerick via Cratloe, Bunratty (30 min), Sixmilebridge, Shannon town and airport, and Newmarket-on-Fergus to Ennis. The last bus out of Limerick is around 23:00, and from the airport towards Bunratty and Limerick at midnight.
In Bunratty the bus stop is by The Creamery Bar. The nearest railway station is Limerick Colbert, with hourly trains from Dublin Heuston and connections from Cork.
By road take M7 west from Dublin, which bypasses Limerick to become N18 / M18, with sliproads at Bunratty and Shannon before it turns north towards Galway. You'll know you're in the right place when you see all the tour buses parked next to the castle.
And see Limerick for other connections, including the direct bus from Dublin Airport.
Bunratty is a small village, with the castle, hotel and restaurant strip all a short walk along the main street, now bypassed to the south by N18. B&Bs are strung along L3040 the lane north, called "Lower Road" or "The Low Road". There's no bus along there so you'll want wheels to stay, and to explore the countryside.
- Bunratty Castle is three attractions: the castle itself, the Folk Park outdoor museum (visited on the same ticket), and the medieval banquets which are separately ticketed and described below under "Do" as they're more like cabaret performances than dining. The castle and park are often used as event spaces.
- 1 Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Bunratty West, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 09:00-17:00. The castle, built 1425, is the most complete medieval fortress in Ireland. It became derelict in the 19th century but was restored in 1954. There's an extensive collection of 15th / 16th-century furnishings, tapestries and artwork. The Folk Park is an outdoor museum or skansen, with over 30 buildings collected from around the country - even the church was hauled here from Ardcroney in County Tipperary. Costumed docents illustrate various crafts and daily activities of the 19th century. There's also a walled garden recreated to the same period. Adult €15, child €9.
- Reservations are essential, via castle website or +353 61 360788.
- Medieval Banquets are a sort of O'Cabaret. They're held year-round twice a night within the castle at 17:30 and 20:45, a four-course meal with drinks and themed entertainment, with the "Earl's Butler" acting as MC. The guests don't themselves put on medieval drag, though on corporate nights who knows. Demand priced, say €60 a head.
- Irish Nights are held in the Corn Barn of the Folk Park, Apr-Oct nightly at 19:00. Three-course meal (simpler fare than the Banquet) with traditional music and song, approx €50 a head. The shows suit those for whom real Irish pub entertainment, which only gets buzzing from 21:00, would be way past their bedtime.
- For touristy stuff, Blarney Woollen Mills and Meadows & Byrne are just opposite the castle.
- Fuel and top-up shopping for the road are at Spar Express (M-Sa 06:00-23:00, Su from 07:00).
- 1 Gallagher's Seafood Restaurant, Old Bunratty Road, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 17:30-21:00, Su 12:30-15:30, 17:30-21:00. Upscale seafood, worth the extra money, with a la carte and set dinner menus.
- JP Clarke's is part of Gallagher's next door and does a wide range of bar food to a high standard. The bar is open daily 10:30-23:30.
- 2 The Creamery Bar, Old Bunratty Road, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 12:00-23:00. Gets mostly good reviews for traditional fare.
- Noel's within Bunratty Manor Hotel gets rave reviews. They're open Tu-Sa 18:00-21:30 and Su 12:30-16:00.
- Cratloe Hill Sheeps Cheese is made on a farm 2 km east across the little Raite River.
- Durty Nelly's, Lower Road, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10:30-23:30. Pub in a thatched cottage next to the castle, 400 years old in 2020. Good pub grub and ambiance, but it's very much on the tourist circuit, so you'll be sharing it with vast fire chiefs from Milwaukee.
- Bunratty Mead & Liqueurs, Lower Road (just north of Folk Park), ☏ . M-F 09:30-17:00. Producers of Bunratty Mead and Poitín (or Potcheen), Irish moonshine - the name refers to the pot-still and there's industrial-strength mythology around it, but it's now a legal product, protected as an EU "Geographical Indication" name.
- Old Bunratty Road, now bypassed by a loop of N18, has the village centre and hotels, while a string of B&Bs lie along Lower Road north from the village.
- Bunratty Camping & Caravan Park on Lower Road is open all year.
- Bunratty Courtyard is a pleasant B&B next to Gallagher's.
- Bunratty Castle Mews, Lower Road, ☏ . Small B&B with an outstanding hostess. B&B double €80.
- 1 Bunratty Manor Hotel, Old Bunratty Road, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Modern comfortable hotel, and the restaurant draws rave reviews. B&B double €95.
- 2 Bunratty Castle Hotel, Old Bunratty Road, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Part of Best Western chain. Modern and well-decorated rooms with spa, pool, free WiFi, pleasant outdoor surrounds. No pets. B&B double €85.
Good signal all along the highway between Limerick and the airport.
- Bunratty is at the east edge of County Clare, so head west for its main sights along the coast from Mizzen Head, Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.
- Just east is Limerick, an interesting Georgian city like a miniature Dublin, and many sights in County Limerick to its south.
- New York or Boston: say you need to drop the rental car back at Shannon and be on the midday homeward flight to the US, you want to check in not much after 09:00, so you need a nearby stopover the night before. Bunratty might be a more agreeable spot than an anonymous chain airport hotel.