29 September: We tend to take pictures of thatched-roof farmhouses and castles and quaint village streets, but modern Ireland is quite prosperous. There were lots of new homes built during the time of the “Celtic Tiger,” and even now coming out of the recession, homes are well maintained and freshly painted. Modern motorways have few billboards except those on vans or flatbed wagons (some loophole in the law allows billboards that are not in a fixed location).
When we stopped at “Bunratty Castle and Folk Park,” our reaction was somewhere between “Oh, another castle” and “Disneyland Ireland.” But we soon discovered we were wrong. The 1425 castle was lovingly restored and filled with a great collection of medieval furnishings and artifacts including a couple very long dining tables made from single pieces of wood and one table reputed to have come from a wrecked ship from the Spanish Armada.
The Folk Park has actual farm houses, a village, manor houses, and a church moved from various places in Ireland in order to save them. One house had been on what is now a runway for Shannon Airport.
Moving on, we had lunch in Adare in a 200 year old building that had once housed the village priest, the only one in the village with a horse and carriage. Then we drove a bit of the Ring of Kerry to see the “Ladies’ Viewpoint,” named for Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting who visited it at the time of the Queens visit, and the Torc Waterfall.