Bunratty Castle,
County Clare

The fashion for renovating castles and using them to host "medieval banquets" may be said to have begun at Bunratty, which was restored in the 1950s and filled with Lord Gort's magnificent collection of medieval furniture and tapestries. It is now one of Ireland's main tourist attractions and justifiably so - for no other castle gives a more lasting impression of later medieval life.

The castle once stood on an island in a tidal creek with a view of the water-traffic entering and leaving the port of Limerick. Not surprisingly for such a strategic site, it has had quite a stirring history with a succession of castles from 1251 onwards. The present building was erected between 1450 and 1467 by the Macnamara or MacConmara family. Although of great size, the castle is essentially a tower house. While there are only three storeys in the main body of the castle - with vaulted cellars below the hall - the towers have many floors and small chambers approached by a profusion of winding mural stairs. Many were bedrooms with connecting latrines, the castle having no less than fifteen privies.

The castle's grandeur greatly impressed Archbishop Rinuccini who came here in 1646 and wrote of its great beauty, its ponds and 3,000 head of deer. But the property suffered during the 17th-century wars and towards the end of the 19th century the roof of the great hall was allowed to collapse. It was acquired by Lord Gort in 1954 and since his death the castle and its contents have been held in trust for the nation.

13 km (8 miles) W of Limerick city on the airport road. NGR: R 452610.