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The Earl of Thomond greets me and my two accompanying wenches — Carol and Mary — at gate of Bunratty Castle. He points overhead: “If you misbehave hot oil will scald thee!” The Earl points down: “and you will fall through trap door never to be heard from again!”
The medieval ages have returned to Ireland as Earl of Thomond guides us up a serpentine stairway tunnel carved in entrails of limestone fortress, debouching into Great Hall, or clan gathering place in center of Castle. The Ladies of Castle await with warm medieval mugs of mead. A fire burns in Great Hall pit. The Great Hall served as gathering place for great Celtic clans for over five hundred years. A harpist and violinist perform traditional Irish ballads as ladies sing in cherubic synchrony. Each lady is replete with period costume, heavy purple, indigo, russet, burgundy, or maroon velvet gowns that move as gracefully as their lithe bodies.
Overhead hangs a huge ancient Great Irish Elk antler, extinct long before Castle was built in 1425, but found in local peat bogs, preserved because of bog’s lack of oxygen.
A King and Queen of medieval banquet are pulled from visiting tourist crowd (maximum group during each banquet is 140) and they are seated on royal throne. This hails “More Mead M' Lord!”, fermented drink of choice, and only fermented drink of choice, of medieval ages. One of Ladies of Castle informs us that mead, made from honey, is served to newlyweds for a month, from one moon to next, hence name, “honeymoon!”
The Earl shouts, “More Mead!” The peasants respond: “Yes, More Mead M’ Lord.”
Thus begins a night of medieval debauchery, lecherous behavior, and gluttony.
The Clans gathered in Great Hall.
The Castle Bunratty, often called Bunraite in ancient times, is jewel of west of Ireland, and 26 acres surrounding crenellated rectangular Keep, finest of its type in Eire, includes a reconstructed Folk Park village. Such villages sprang up around castles, where merchants, serfs, farmers, and peasants lived and supported nobility with their wares and labors.
The Castle has two nightly banquets year around, but if you arrive in summer you can take in Ceili or traditional gathering with Irish music of people that is as old as time. Ceili is a 18th/19th century Gaelic word meaning a gathering, coming together in biggest barn in district to sing, dance, and tell stories. At Bunratty Folk Park a Ceili is held every night from May to October. This is an evening of wild entertainment with a difference, no where else can you experience fun of what Irish do best — enjoy themselves.