As many of you know from last week’s post, my friend Rachel hopped on a plane from Canada and flew 5,000km to join me in Ireland a few days before St. Patrick’s Day. We had planned a major 9-day-tour of Ireland, Scotland and England for her visit. We started off in Ireland after I finished up work on Friday night by driving out to Bunratty to experience their Medieval Banquet.
Now, if you want to experience a Medieval Banquet of your own, there are three places that are known for putting on a great one: Dunguaire, Knappogue and Bunratty castles. But having gone to the one in Bunratty, I would personally recommend it to experience yours as it was the absolute perfect way to start our Irish adventure.
We arrived at the castle around 8:00 PM and were serenaded up the stairs by a man in a kilt playing the bagpipes. With butterflies in our bellies, and excitement for the night’s events boiling over, we were ushered up the stairs to the Great Hall where we were given the chance to look around the castle, listen to the harpist and violinist play a renaissance tune, and start the evening off right with a bit of Honey Mead.
As our beautifully-dressed hosts welcomed us in periodical clothing, they gave us a few interesting facts about the castle as well as the medieval times in Ireland, the most fascinating of which I found to be the story of Honey Mead. Known as the drink of passion, mead was believed to enhance virility and fertility in olden times. Therefore, it was customary for the bride and groom to drink Honey Mead for one full moon after their wedding to reap these benefits, which is where the term “Honeymoon” originated. The mead itself is incredibly delicious, but also quite deadly – to serve us a drink of such strength and then have us climb down steep stone steps for our dinner was not exactly the best game plan here, but was well worth it all the same.
After our Earl and Lady of the evening were crowned, we entered the Banquet Hall. The hall was decorated in authentic cloths from the medieval era, featuring long oak tables, bench seating, goblets, candles, and all the old-timey artifacts you can imagine. As was customary in this time, we were informed that we were to eat our dinner with our hands, and were served four courses accompanied with fine wine, music, and good humour. We were seated with some absolutely incredible people. From young to old, and all over the world, we had such a fantastic time drinking and chatting the night away. The banquet itself was so much fun – much more free-spirited and hysterical than I had imagined it to be – and I could not recommend it enough. It had exceeded our expectations tremendously, and is an absolute must when visiting the Emerald Isle for yourself.
After being served tea and coffee and wrapping up our evening at the castle, we ventured down the way to the original Durty Nelly’s, a pub just across the road from the castle, and continued our own festivities with at least half of the people from the banquet accompanying us. For me, this was a nostalgic list-item, as my favourite Irish pub in Halifax, Canada, where I often went during my university career, is Durty Nelly’s, and so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience Nelly’s in true Irish fashion. The place was abuzz, with so many different rooms featuring live music and everyone singing and chatting away. The thing I love most about Ireland, and the Irish in general, is that they are always so welcoming to newcomers, allowing you to make friends with everyone you meet. This pub was no exception.
From singing along with the lads playing guitar, to getting serenaded with poetry from men at least 50 years our senior and venturing off with a Boston crew to gatecrash a wedding at the castle hotel, our night spent here was one of the best nights of my entire time spent in Ireland. We made so many friends, had amazing conversations, and I was even able to talk some hockey (to a guy from Boston who was somehow a Maple Leafs Fan … Hell officially froze over). I really could not have loved it more. The people and good humour made the experience grand, and is what continues to make my time here in Ireland so wonderfully memorable. I will never forget the night we had singing and drinking until the morning sun shone through in Bunratty. This is how you spend a night in Ireland – and it all started with the medieval banquet.