Bunratty: For the indigenous Irish in 1275, a disaster. For the Normans, who displaced them thanks to the Earl of Clare, it was a bonanza. But the O'Briens and the MacNamaras fought back against the Clares, winning the area back and rebuilding Bunratty for themselves. See http://www.travelsinireland.com/castle/bunratty.htm; and http://www.guide-to-castles-of-europe.com/bunratty-castle.html
Plan to fly into Shannon Airport at Limerick early in the morning, so there will be a full day available ahead. Early also means a better choice of the rental cars - even if supposedly reserved in advance. Bunratty is on the route north, just past the airport area.
Bunratty Castle, Limerick, Ireland
It is a perfect first stop, and a breather from driving on the left.
See http://shannonheritage.com/Bunratty_Day.htm/. There had been an older Viking site there.
It is reconstructed and furnished, with guides and an outside village "folk park" area with the cottages and peat fires.
There are medieval banquets at Bunratty if you are there at the right time. You can see huge pieces of furniture salvaged from the wrecked Spanish armada, see http://bunrattycollection.com/search.php?r=7". There are elk horns as wide as a small room. See them at http://tourismireland.igougo.com/photogallery/displayFeaturePhoto.asp?ID=200159. See shades of animals gone.
We were there before it opened, and a guide took us through anyway. His comment: Fairst oop, baist draist, meaning, "First up, best dressed". That is an old cottage saying -- the one first up gets first choice of the closet.
First up, best dressed. First come, first served.