|Native name Caisleán Bhun Raithe|
|Location||Bunratty village, County Clare, Ireland|
|Restored by||7th Viscount Gort|
|Governing body||Shannon Heritage|
Bunratty Castle (Irish: Caisleán Bhun Raithe, meaning "Castle at the Mouth of the Ratty") is a large tower house in County Clare, Ireland. It lies in the centre of Bunratty village (Irish: Bun Ráite), by the N18 road between Limerick and Ennis, near Shannon Town and its airport. The name Bunratty, Bun Raite (or possibly, Bun na Raite) in Irish, means the 'bottom' or end of the 'Ratty' river. This river, alongside the castle, flows into the nearby Shannon estuary. From the top of the castle, one can look over to the estuary and the airport. The castle and the adjoining folk park are run by Shannon Heritage.
||This section is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (January 2010)|
Key events in Bunratty's history include:
- The first dwellings to occupy the site, in 970 were part of a Viking trading camp.
- In 1270, Robert De Muscegros built the first defensive fortress, known as a motte and bailey castle.
- These lands were later given to Spencer Maine and Tom Hughes granted to Thomas de Clare, who built the first stone structure on the site. At this time Bunratty town had grown to a population of 1,000.
- In 1318, Thomas's son Richard de Clare, Steward of Forest of Essex (new holder of the castle) was killed in the Battle of Dysert O'Dea during the Irish Bruce Wars 1315-1318. The castle and town were completely destroyed by the victorious O'Briens.
- In 1332, soon after being restored for the King of England, the castle was once again razed by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the O' Briens and the MacNamaras.
- In 1353, after lying in ruins for 21 years, it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby, but was almost immediately attacked again by the Irish and was held by Irish hands thereafter.
- The present structure was completed by the MacNamara family around 1425 and was briefly occupied by the Siodhachain (Sheehan) clan, but 50 years later was in the hands of the O'Briens, the most powerful clan in Munster.
- In 1646, during the Irish Confederate Wars, Barnabas O'Brien, 6th Earl of Thomond, allowed a large English Parliamentary garrison to land in Bunratty. The castle was besieged and taken by the forces of Confederate Ireland under Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry.
- When Barnaby, or Barnabas O'Brien, 6th Earl of Thomond, left Bunratty for England in 1646 for his own safety, during the Confederate wars, he was the last member of the O'Brien Clan ever to reside in Bunratty Castle. He was actually christened Brian O'Brien, after his famous ancestor Brian Boru, but being a political gymnast, he preferred a more English appellation to appease the King, and to be socially acceptable in the climate of the time.
- Bunratty Castle and its lands were granted to the Studdert family. They left the castle in 1804 (allowing it to fall into disrepair), to reside in the more comfortable and modern adjacent Bunratty House built by the family. The reasons for the move are bound up in family arguments over the eldest son marrying his first cousin.
- For some time in the mid Nineteenth century the castle was used as a Barracks by the Royal Irish Constabulary, the colonial era police force.
- In 1953 the castle was purchased and restored by the 7th Viscount Gort. He reroofed the castle, which had no longer been lived in as much at the time, and saved it from ruin.
- Both the castle and Bunratty House are open to the public. The castle is now famous for its medieval banquets, at which the "Bunratty Castle Entertainers" perform.
Folk Park 
Alongside the castle is an extensive folk park, particularly popular with families, tourists and schools.
A glimpse into Irish life in the 19th century: This features reconstructions of historical cottages and buildings, recreating the general feel of the 19th century with a period style village main street. Old tools, furniture and artifacts are displayed, with the village kept alive by some inhabited shops, an old home bakery and peat fires in cottages. The Folk Park excels at showing life in all classes from around Ireland throughout recent history. In the village, you can see the school, post office, shops, and enjoy drinking at a working pub. Animals (and Irish gypsy carts!) are a big attraction for kids, including 2 very large Irish wolfhounds.
This living museum is a resource to learn about Irish history. From chickens wandering around to local women in costume, making apple pies, it's a glimpse into Irish life in the 19th century. The houses are furnished with period furniture - note the very small beds, the prized dishes, and how smoky the houses were from the peat fires. We learned that there is still a local thatcher that works on the roofs. From the blacksmith's forge to fishermen's cottages, from single story houses to double story houses of the more weathly folks, from the Golden Vale Farmhouse (from Limerick) - a house of a prosperous family - to the classical Georgian Bunratty House, you can learn of the various ways that the social classes lived and worked.
Today it is a major tourist attraction along with the castle as it sees thousands of people pass through its gates every year.