It was almost whimsical, spending Halloween in the country where it all began. Drawing on our American stereotypes, we decided to visit the castle nearest to us, which happened to be Bunratty Castle and Folk Park between Ennis and Limerick.
In what had become routine, we ate breakfast and stopped by the local Centris for some Digestives to snack on before making or way down the street to the bus stop. We settle in, using the on-board WiFi to update our families on life in Ireland.
Digestives are tea biscuits, similar to graham crackers in America. They make an easy-to-pack snack for adventures around town, in the countryside, or any other destination. They come in a variety of flavors including plain, chocolate-covered, and chocolate-and-caramel covered.
A short ride later, a small village popped up around a looming stone structure. Although we had discussed Irish castles in class, I was still shocked by the simplicity of the tall, rectangular shape. Unlike King John’s Castle in Limerick, Bunratty had been built in 1425 with a focus on practical defense, rather than showmanship.
We joined the mass of people as they flowed through the gate and into the mock village. Everywhere we looked were stone walls, thatched roofs, and…costumes. We smiled at each other as we realized that a majority of the visitors today were parents with their kids, all enjoying the many Halloween-themed activities the castle was offering.
Eager to get in on the action, we had our cards read by a fortune teller before plunging into the castle proper. We walked into a great room with a large fireplace and even larger head table. It looked just like in the medieval movies where knights and royal ladies gathered for legendary feasts. The only thing that distracted from the ambiance was the Addams Family who happened to be there for the holiday.
We followed the narrow hallways and staircases, exploring the dim bedrooms, kitchens, dungeons, ornate solars, and more, imagining what it might have been like to live here so many years ago. Eventually, we found ourselves on the roof, overlooking the surrounding woods and river. The wind picked up and unfurled the Irish flag, flying proudly on one of the peaks. It seemed triumphant, that little flag, as if it being there was no small feat.
And that was the feeling I took with me, smiling out the window of the bus as the last of the buildings faded from view. It had been a long day, but one filled with the kind of mystical wonder that is felt the strongest on Halloween. When the ancient practices of the past predict our future.
Even if you do not find yourself in the area during Halloween, Bunratty Castle is not to be missed, offering a variety of activities, shops, and history year round, including world famous banquets!