Five million dine at Bunratty in 50 years

Reunion: Jim Queally, Joan Sheehy, Marie Walsh, Paula Condon, Ann Carroll and Maeve Howard
The world’s first commercial medieval banquet took place in 1963 at Bunratty Castle, and official figures for the 50 years show that five million visitors, including tourists from the US and Europe, have dined there in that timeframe.

The world’s first commercial medieval banquet took place in 1963 at Bunratty Castle, and official figures for the 50 years show that five million visitors, including tourists from the US and Europe, have dined there in that timeframe.

And as part of The Gathering, many who have performed over the years at Bunratty Castle turned up for a big reunion bash. Shannon Heritage, the tourism and heritage subsidiary of Shannon Development, invited the Castle Entertainers, both past and present, from the four corners of the world, to a celebratory gathering at the castle. Many of the Shannon Castle Entertainers have gone on to become well known figures in the music and television industry, among them actor Seamus Power who plays Dermot Fahy in Fair City, and Jim Bartley who plays Bella in the series. Actress Ann Marie Horan also trod the boards at Bunratty, as have singers such as Anthony Kearns of the three Irish Tenors fame, and well known Irish singer Maura O’Connell. Among the TV personalities who have been former Shannon Castle Entertainers are; RTE presenter Eileen Whelan , TV3 presenter Alan Hughes, Emma O’Driscoll presenter of the The Den, and Barbara McMahon – former RTE Head to Toe presenter.

“To date almost five million visitors, many from North America and Europe, have enjoyed our unique medieval banqueting experience and evening entertainments. We are delighted that the banquets are proving popular with Irish audiences too, who attend for corporate parties and special family occasions,” said John Ruddle, CEO of Shannon Heritage.

Bunratty Medieval Banquet has been a winner over the years at the CIE Tours National Awards of Excellence for the best dinner entertainment in Ireland.

“Our aim for the future is to maintain the high standards which have secured its reputation worldwide, and to add some new innovations which will enhance the visitor experience,” added Mr Ruddle. Shannon Heritage is one of the largest and longest operating tourism companies of its type in Ireland employing almost 300 people at the height of the season.

The world’s first commercial medieval banquet took place in 1963 at the 15th century castle, the idea having been test-marketed the previous year as a way of attracting overseas visitors to the Region. Dr Brendan O’Regan, the Shannon Development Company chairman, was the tourism supremo who pioneered and drove the concept at the time.

Who could have predicted how big it would turn out to be?