Aaron, Lianna, Nate and Maureen
This is the first in a series of essays, exploring Ireland as a family with a disabled child.
Our first stop along the West Coast of Ireland was in County Clare- specifically Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
I had visited Bunratty many years back, during a family trip in the mid- 90s. I didn't have too many memories of that visit, other than the imposing castle itself, where we attended their celebrated Medieval Feast- which I hear is still an absolute blast!
This time around, I was lucky enough to connect with Adrienne O'Flynn, Brand Marketing Manager for Shannon Heritage. Adrienne was an absolute treasure trove of information for various attractions in the Shannon area- family friendly heritage sites that highlight the fascinating history of the Bronze Age. When she learned that I would be visiting Shannon with a 6 year old girl in tow, Adrienne mentioned Bunratty Folk Park's Fairy Trail tends to be a fairly popular attraction for folks of Lianna's size (she was right!).
One of the important things to know about Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is that the castle itself is in no way accessible to wheelchair users. Because my daughter is fairly mobile (and light enough to be carried), we were able to bring her into the castle pretty easily. The narrow, twisty medieval stairways are definitely not for the faint of heart, and we were glad that we'd arrived at the park towards the end of the day, when the crowds had mostly left.
Having said that- the rest of the park we found to be delightfully accessible! Lianna had gotten fairly tuckered out navigating the castle, so she appreciated the chance to take a break in her chair while we pushed her around the remainder of the grounds.
And what a wonderful, leisurely afternoon we had! Meandering through a medieval village, enjoying the scent of peat in the air, shopping for woolen scarves (thankfully- we'd underestimated the temperature along the coast so we stocked up).
A bit of a stroll from the castle, we found the Village Street, a representation of 19th Century urban life. The kids had a wonderful time popping into and out of the shops, and reading the plaques outside each building, detailing the business or family that typically would have been found inside in the 1800s.
The kids were thrilled to find a playground- complete with accessible swings- that they had all to themselves. They played in the sand, climbed on the wooden structures, and swung on the huge swings.
I can't forget to mention the adorable farm animals- cows, sheep, goats, and pigs. If you plan your visit around dinner time, you just may find the animals are a bit more curious and friendly than they normally would be.
You can find more photographs and videos of our travels at FB and Instagram: @BostonIrishTravelability.