ArticleA Walk In The Park
The word “castle” quickens the pulse of history buffs and hopeless romantics. For the former, it's where most of the medieval elite lived, where crucial battles were fought, important decisions and, eventually, history itself were made. For the latter, it's where knights (some of them in shining armor) were courting and occasionally saving damsels (many of them in distress); where young heroes kept their faith even in - and found their way out of - dungeons, as Sir Walter Scott would keep reminding everybody who was willing to listen/read… In reality, castles weren't built to provide writers with attractive settings, or to let architects exercise their creativity and sense of aesthetics - but rather to protect the inhabitants from belligerent neighbours and roaming gangs. In other words, castles started as regular abodes erected with safety in mind, first and foremost. Hence moats, narrow and winding staircases, dungeons for unwelcome guests, and similar features. While safety came first, comfort and privacy came fourth, firth and sixth - if at all. Consequently, castles could be cold (unless very close to an open fire) and rather gloomy (apart from those occasions when multiple torches would serve big gatherings) - not always much to write home about. That's why, as time passed, and safety gradually became less of an issue, many castle owners preferred to move to more comfortable homes - and try to turn their castles into tourist attractions. Since not every castle can claim a legendary stone, attracting tourists proved to be not exactly a walk in the park. To meet the challenge, the owners of Bunratty Castle decided to create another magnet by building a…park. To be precise, a Folk Park.
“Folk Park” is another name for “Open-Air Museum”. This concept first appeared towards the end of the 19th century, and it quickly spread over Northern Europe, eventually reaching all over the continent and even across the Atlantic. The idea of such a museum is to preserve historical buildings from all over the country and transfer them to a particular location where they would recreate a village typical of a certain age - or to build exact copies of such buildings on an actual historical site. Bunratty Folk Park is of the former type, and it has an added value of being attached to an actual historical castle. It's the combination of the two that makes Bunratty unique. There are 32 structures scattered throughout the Park, 12 of them - a pub, a post-office, a grocery store, and such - forming the Village Street.
All the street buildings are fully functional, and that helps to boost the Castle&Park's revenue - as do Bunratty Medieval Banquets. For the merely exorbitant price of 165 Euro, visitors can sate their hunger and quench their thirst in the authentic banquet hall, while using authentic medieval cutlery and being served by waiters in authentic medieval attire. Kitschy as such an experience might feel, Bunratty's blend of business acumen and historicism is genuinely remarkable