Celtic Discovery

Day 4 - March 27, 2004 - Hunt Museum and Bunratty Castle

We were up at 7 AM and had a smarter, lighter breakfast - just fruit, juice and toast. We returned to our room to finish yesterday’s log and then went outside to talk to the early morning group and stand in the sun waiting for the others.

Five minutes later it started to drizzle! But DeeDee promised us that it was just a brief shower and she was right.

On the way to Limerick, Jerry and DeeDee told us about the Irish national game of hurling which is a cross between lacrosse and field hockey. Today is also the European Rugby Championship and Ireland is playing for their first triple crown win in 19 years.

Today’s history lesson was a review of the three King Georges and their reigns when all the structural improvements were made in Irish roads, bridges, and canals. She told us about the penal codes of 1695 that were passed and stripped all the rights from the Irish Catholics.

They were no longer able to educate their children, own land and were relegated to a servant/tenant class. This is important because it led to the problems associated with the great famine of the 1840's. She also talked about the Irish war of independence and the division of Ireland.

Our first stop today was in Limerick, which was founded in 922 by the Vikings as a trading settlement. Today it is a bustling city where we first visited the Hunt Museum located in the old customs house on the Shannon River. We had a great docent who told us about the museum and its treasures.

At 12:15 we were on our way to the Bunratty Castle and stopped for a light lunch at the small Blarney Woolen Mills center. People had a chance to shop and look around before entering the Castle facility.

We are discovering that we do not have many shoppers in this group so DeeDee has had to adjust our schedule. I AM SO GRATEFUL!!!

As we were back early, we started our tour of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. The grounds surrounding the handsome 15th-century castle are a living museum, celebrating everyday Irish life of a century ago.

The buildings appear just as they might have around 1900 and are furnished with authentic period furniture and filled with the typical clutter of ordinary life. Chickens wander in and out of the kitchens, peat fires burn in the grate, cows get milked, and peacocks wander down from the lawns of the big house to forage with the humbler fowl.

Bread is baked, butter churned, and the local pub offers comfort and sociability. Wandering in and out of the homes and workplaces, we can observe the full range of life from the simple existence of the farm laborer in his mud-walled cottage to the privileged lifestyle of the local landowner in his grand manor.

We spent three hours touring the Castle and grounds and then at 5:30 we returned to the castle for a traditional medieval Irish ceilidh with Mead (honey and wine) and then all the wine we could drink. There were singers, an exceptional violinist, and typical Irish harpist. We had a great night together.

The bus ride home was loud with singing and laughter and we found out that our driver Jerry is quite the Irish tenor. It did help that the Irish national team defeated to Scots 37-16 in their late afternoon game. Tonight the Irish go on Daylight Savings Time so I bet it will be a quiet morning as we leave Ennis and travel on to Cork.

Breakfast, Dinner - Fountain Court Hotel

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