Heritage Attractions

Click on the great attractions below to find out more information.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park

The site on which Bunratty Castle stands was in origin a Viking trading camp in 970. The present structure is the last of four castles to be built on the site.

Early History

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. About this time Bunratty became a large town of 1,000 inhabitants.In 1318 Richard De Clare, son of Thomas was killed in a battle between the Irish and the Normans. His followers were routed and the castle and town were completely destroyed. The castle was restored for the King of England but was laid waste in 1332 by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the O’Briens and MacNamaras. It lay in ruins for 21 years until it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby but was once again attacked by the Irish and the castle remained in Irish hands thereafter.

MacNamaras and O’Briens

The powerful MacNamara family built the present structure around 1425 but by 1475 it had became the stronghold of the O’Briens, the largest clan in North Munster. They ruled the territory of North Munster and lived in great splendor. The castle was surrounded by beautiful gardens and it was reputed to have a herd of 3,000 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’Briens came to an end with the arrival of the Cromwellian troops and the castle and its grounds were surrendered. The O’Briens never returned to Bunratty but later they built a beautiful residence at Dromoland Castle, now a luxury 5 star hotel.

Plantation Families

Bunratty Castle and its lands were granted to various Plantation families, the last of whom was the Studdart family. They left the castle in 1804 (allowing it to fall into disrepair), to reside in the more comfortable and modern Bunratty House, which is open to the public in the grounds of the Folk Park.Bunratty returned to its former splendor when Viscount Lord Gort purchased it in 1954. The extensive restoration work began in 1945 with the help of the Office of Public Works, the Irish Tourist Board and Shannon Development. It was then opened to the public in 1962 as a National Monument and is open to visitors year round. It is the most complete and authentically restored and furnished castle in Ireland. http://www.bunratty.ie/

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park are listed well within the top ten visitor attractions in Ireland. A visit to the castle, built in 1425 and plundered on many occasions is the most complete and authentic mediaeval fortress in Ireland, and the absorbing Folk Park is a wonderful experience for all the family.
The majestic castle was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendour. It now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries and works of art. Which capture the mood of the times. You can marvel at the finest collection of medieval furniture in the country, which brings to life a vital part of the Celtic past and the heritage of Co. Clare.

The present castle, last of a series on the same site was built around 1425. During the 16th and 17th centuries it was an important stronghold of the O’Briens, kings and later earls, of Thomond or North Munster. The main block has three floors, each consisting of a single great room, or hall. The four towers have six stories each. The castle is entered by a drawbridge to the Main Guard.

Bunratty Medieval Banquets

The world famous Bunratty Medieval Banquets take place nightly in the Castle. Join the Butler and ladies of the castle for an unforgettable evening of merriment music and song complemented by good food and flowing wine at this majestic 15th century castle. You will be captivated from the moment of arrival when you get your first taste of honey-rich mead. Listen to the world famous Bunratty entertainers a they perform enchanting melodies to harp and violin accompaniment.

Bunratty Folk Park

When you visit Bunratty Folk Park you experience a living reconstruction of the homes and environment of Ireland of over a century ago. Set on 26 acres, the impressive park features over 30 buildings in a ‘living’ village and rural setting.

Rural farmhouses, village shops and streets are recreated and furnished as they would have appeared at that time according to their social standing, from the poorest one roomed dwelling to Bunratty House a fine example of a Georgian residence for the gentry built 1804 home of the Studdarts, the last family to occupy Bunratty Castle.

Bunratty Folk Park contains examples of many houses and other buildings, which provide a rich store of information and insight into the country’s past. Eight farmhouses represent every area of North Munster. These exhibits are exact copies of buildings that existed in the region in the 19th century, and have been furnished and decorated in the style of that time. Set on 26 acres the impressive Park features over 30 buildings in a ‘living village’ setting.

There are eight farmhouses representing every area of North Munster, two watermills, a blacksmith’s forge, a church, a recently restored walled garden, a village street complete with pub, post office, school, doctor’s house, hardware shop, printers, drapery shop, pawn shop, and village hotel. Traditional skills of the period are put to everyday use in the settings in which they were nurtured. On your visit, you can see crafts such as bread baking, weaving, ice cream and pottery making.

Another very interesting feature at the park is the formal Bunratty Walled Gardens, modelled on the original Regency period garden which supplied fruit, vegetables and flowers to Bunratty House built in 1804 (and now furnished in typical Victorian style). To round off a truly memorable visit drop in to the fully licensed, old world Mac’s pub on the village street, which is renowned for its delicious home-cooked food.


Welcome to Craggaunowen – the Living Past Experience, Ireland’s original award winning Pre-historic Park. Come and explore the roots of the people, homesteads, animals and artifacts of our Celtic ancestors of over 1,000 years ago which have touched and shaped how we live today.

Can you imagine what life was like for people in the Bronze Age? How did they adapt? At Craggaunowen you will experience the resilience and fortitude of these early Bronze Age settlers.

Explore the Crannog – an artificial island dwelling defended by a hidden pathway in the water. Marvel at how the Celts fed large numbers of hunters while on hunting missions deep in the forest. These were skilled hunters who adopted highly sophisticated cooking techniques involving a large pit, a length of rope and of course fresh meat!Travel back in time to the life of the hunter-gatherer in the Ring Fort. You will see how the Celts carried out their every-day activities as they cooked over open fires or in pits; ground corn for making bread or porridge on hand-powered querns; or made pottery, wooden bowls, goblets and platters.Do you know who really discovered America? Visit the Brendan Boat – a leather hulled boat built by Tim Severin who sailed across mid-Atlantic, re-enacting the voyage of St. Brendan and the early Christian monks reputed to have discovered America centuries before Columbus!! Explore Craggaunowen Castle the 16th century restored Medieval Castle built in 1550 standing defiantly on a crag overlooking the lake and enjoy magnificient views of the countryside. Observe rare and really interesting animal breeds such as wild boar and soay sheep – specimens of the pre-historic era. Visit one of Ireland’s earliest roadways or ‘togher’ dating to 148 BC. Exploring the Souterrain is fun – designed to store food but these were often a welcome escape route when under attack from the enemy! Good place for hide and seek!Enjoy the fresh air and lake walks in a most enjoyable rural setting. Savour our wonderful homemade fare in the charming farmhouse tea-room. http://www.shannonheritage.com/Craggaunowen/

A re-creation of Celtic Ireland is how you could describe Cragaunnowen – the Living Past Experience. This award winning Prehistoric Park is situated on 50 acres of wooded grounds and interprets Irelands pre-historic and early Christian past.

Crannogs were artificial islands on which people built houses, kept animals and lived in relative security. Step inside the thatched housed on the crannog, built of wattles and mud, and you are transported back to an ancient time. The second dwelling is a Ring Fort, which served more as a farmstead rather than a fortification. The Ring Fort features a man made cave or underground passage, which was used for storage and as a refuge in times of danger.

Overlooking all is Craggaunowen Castle, built by John MacSioda MacNamara around 1550. The visitor centre houses exhibitions of artefacts and display panels as well as an AV show, which interpret the area. Many of the tools and implements used by the pre-Celtic settlers of Ireland who farmed and lived in this peaceful valley are on display in the centre. A tea and gift shop rounds off the experience.

Knappogue Castle

Tucked away amid the rolling hills of Quin in Co. Clare lies Knappogue Castle, a 15th century restored medieval tower house that proudly stands as a reminder of our past and reflects the medieval glory in which our nobility of yesteryear lived. the walls of this stronghold, medieval fantasy is brought to life. Here you can time travel back to a time of struggle for land and title or join in nights of merriment and song, while feasting over a great banquet. Newly -weds can be whisked away to a unique fairytale setting or you can leave your worries behind and escape to the luxurious Castle State Rooms and surroundings to live like an Irish Lord and Lady.

Walled Garden

In the magical setting of Knappogue Castle, the walled garden is a romantic oasis to sit and muse or just escape the ‘madding crowd’. Dating from 1817, the beautiful 1.76 acre garden is now restored to its former splendour. The tall and imposing walls of the walled garden, are lovingly refurnished with climbing roses, grapevines and many clematis varieties. http://www.majestic-castles-in-ireland.com/knappogue-castle.html

Knappogue Castle was built by Sean MacNamarsa, son of Sioda, in 1467.The 1571 the Castle became the seat of th eMacNamara Clar, Earls of West Clancullen. Donagh MacNamara was a leader of the 1641 rebellion and the Cromwellian forces occupied the Castle. Arthur Smithe was then granted the Castle, however it was later returned to the MacNamaras who sold the castle to the Scotts in 1800.
The Scotts carried out extensive restoration before it was acquired in1855 by Lord Dunboyne, who made many additions to it including the courtyard and clock tower as well as the walled garden, which is also now open to the public.

When owned by Sean, Lord of Clancullen, his reputation for lavish parties and truly royal entertainment surpassed that of his father. The medieval banquet held twice nightly at Knappogue is a fresh experience in every respect. While maintaining the medieval atmosphere the entertainment takes us through the story of the women of Ireland – The Celtic Pirate Queen, inspirational saints and downright simmers, all formidable women, who helped to shape our Celtic Past. This colourful and theatrical pageant will enthral and delight from the moment you are welcomed by the ladies of the castle through an entire evening of good food and wines, music song and dance. As the Earl’s Butler ensures that everything proceeds in time honoured tradition.

Clare Archaeology Centre – Dysert O’Dea Castle – Corofin

Home of the O’Dea Clan until 1691, this castle is situated in one of the richest archaeological areas in Europe. Built in 1480 by Diarmuid O’Dea. Lord of Cineal Fearmaic, the uppermost floors and staircase were badly damaged by the Cromwellians in 1651. Repaired and opened as an Archaeology Centre in 1986 the castle today houses an extensive museum with a comprehensive exhibition of local artifacts, an audio-visual presentation, tea-room and souvenir shop. Archaeology/History Trail Dysert O’Dea features a trail of 25 sites of interest, all within a few miles radius of the castle. A detailed guide of the trail is available at the souvenir shop.

Quin Abbey

Quin Abey, just south-east of Ennis, was founded by the MacNamaras in the middle of the 14th century using some of the curtain wall of the Anglo-Norman castle built around 1280 by Richard de Clare. The cloisters were erected in1402 and remain one of the finest features of the abbey, which has a long history of suppression and violence. In 1584 Sir John Perrot, the English Viceroy of Ireland, had Donogh Beg O’Brien half-hanged, his bones beaten by an axe and hanged again from the steeple. Cromwell’s men sacked the Abbey again and the friars were murdered. The Lady Chapel is the resting-place of John ‘Fireball’ McNamara, a Protestant who supported the cause of Catholic Emancipation. He was a noted duellist and his pistol was known as ‘bas gan sagart’ – death without a priest.
The view from the top of the tower is quite impressive and is well worth the climb up the narrow spiral staircase

Caherconnell Stone Fort – Carron

Caherconnell is one of the best-preserved stone forts in the Burren. Unique in being the only fort developed for tourism, it was built about 1500 years ago and may have been occupied as late as the 16th century.
The visitor centre at Caherconnell incorporates an audio-visual presentation, which revolves around the fort, its people, history and archaeology. Included is a short history of other prominent local monuments including Poulnabrone Dolmen (3800BC), Poulawack Cairm (3400BC) and Cahercommaun stone fort all of which been excavated. The graphic display area provides more detailed information on these topics.

Dromoland Castle and Falconry

The Dromoland School of Falconry based at the world famous Dromoland Castle Five Star Resort which is situated in Co Clare Ireland. The School of Falconry is run by Dave Atkinson who has been working on Dromoland Estate for a number of years and has in-depth knowledge of the Castles’ History and estate wildlife.Experience live birds of prey up close and personal on a Hawk Walk. Your Instructor will teach you the natural history of the raptors and the role they play in our environment. Learn the basics of the ancient sport of falconry as well as the environmental concerns facing these beautiful birds.You will never forget the moment when your hawk first lands on your gloved fist. During your Hawk Walk you will learn how to handle and fly one of the school’s Harris Hawks. Your instructor will introduce you to your hawk and within minutes, you will be setting off around the magnificent woodlands to fly your hawk free. http://www.dromoland.ie/activities-falconry.html

King Johns Castle – Limerick

Welcome to King John’s Castle, on ‘King’s Island’ in the heart of medieval Limerick City. The stunning new exhibition at King John’s Castle brings to life over 800 years of dramatic local history.This 13th century Castle reopened on Friday June 28th 2013, following a multi million euro investment. Explore the brand new visitor centre with state of the art interpretive activities and exhibitions. Relax afterwards in our café – the perfect place to unwind while enjoying terrifc views onto the castle courtyard and the Shannon river.21st century touch screen technology, 3 D models and discovery drawer are among the exciting techniques that will connect you to tales of siege and warfare. Children will love the dazzling array of computer generated animations and ghostly projections as they travel back through time. The Education and Activity Room is bustling with tasks to stimulate curious minds. In the busy courtyard, you will discover a medieval campaign tent, a blacksmiths forge and scenes from a seventeenth century siege. The sights, scenes and sounds of King John’s Castle and its environs all combine to recreate the atmosphere of the era. http://www.shannonheritage.com/KingJohnsCastle/

Adare Village – Co Limerick

In the early 19th century, the Earl of Desmond, laid the plan for the existing streets and townhouses of Adare. These lands and dwellings were rented to tenants, under various agreements, some of which still exist today.Today, Adare village is an architectural wealth of scenic beauty. The mix of centuries is blended into everyday life as some of the thatched cottages are home to arts and crafts shops. The main street of Adare is punctuated with beautiful stone buildings, medieval monastries and ruins and the picturesque village park.Adare’s streets are lined with original thatched cottages survived for hundreds of years. Some of the cottages are kept by local restaurants and Arts & Crafts shops, but many are still privately owned. Take a stroll though Adare’s streets and become transported to a time in Ireland’s history.Located in the heart of County Limerick just 15 minutes south of Limerick City on the N21, and 40 minutes from Shannon airport, Adare is the gateway to the southwest of Ireland, bordering the counties of Kerry, Cork, Clare and Tipperary. Visit some of the links above to find out more information on Adare and its beautiful surroundings. http://www.adarevillage.com/

Muckross House and Gardens – Killarney

This nineteenth century Victorian mansion is set against the stunning beauty of Killarney National Park. The house stands close to the shores of Muckross Lake, one of Killarney’s three lakes, famed world wide for their splendour and beauty. As a focal point within Killarney National Park, Muckross House is the ideal base from which to explore this landscape. – http://www.muckross-house.ie/

Torc Waterfalls – Killarney

Torc Waterfall is approximately 7 kilometres from Killarney Town and approx 2.5 kilometres from the motor entrance to Muckross House and can be accessed from a car park on the N71 better known as the Killarney – Kenmare road. A short walk of approx 300 metres brings you to the waterfall. From that point steps lead to another viewing point at a higher altitude that provides a view over the Middle Lake. The path is also part of the Kerry Way long distance walking route and a starting point for circular walking routes which are indicated by a map down at the start of the trail beside the car park. The waterfall which is approximately 20 metres high is at its best after heavy rainfall. Across the road from the car park jaunting cars can be hired for a trip to Muckross House within the National Park. http://www.killarneynationalpark.ie/Torc%20Waterfall/Torc%20Waterfall.htm

Ross Castle – Killarney

Ross Castle sits on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake and was built by O’Donoghue Mór in the 15th century. The Castle came into the hands of the Brownes who became the Earls of Kenmare and owned an extensive portion of the lands that are now part of Killarney National Park . Legend has it that O’Donoghue still exists in a deep slumber under the waters of Lough Leane. On the first morning of May every seven years he rises from the lake on his magnificent white horse and circles the lake. Anyone catching a glimpse of him is said to be assured of good fortune for the rest of their lives. The large rock at the entrance to the bay is known as O’Donoghue’s prison. Ross Castle was the last stronghold in Munster to hold out against Cromwell. It was eventually taken by General Ludlow in 1652. http://www.killarneynationalpark.ie/Ross%20Castle/Ross%20Castle.htm

Kylemore Abbey – Connemara

The story of Kylemore – both Castle and Abbey – is a truly remarkable one. The twists of fate which its occupants experienced, from moments of romance and happiness, to sadness and courage have all combined to create a fascinating history spanning over 150 years.

Kylemore is home to a community of nuns of the Benedictine Order who came here in 1920 after their abbey in Ypres, Belgium was destroyed in World War I. Settling at Kylemore, the Benedictine Community opened a world renowned boarding school for girls and began restoring the Abbey, Gothic Church and Victorian Walled Garden to their former glory.

Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden welcomes visitors to discover the magic, beauty and peacefulness of Kylemore Abbey. Visit Kylemore Abbey and discover what makes Kylemore the no.1 must-see attraction in Connemara and the west of Ireland. For more about the history of Kylemore Abbey, please click on the panels on the left. http://www.kylemoreabbey.com/