VISITOR numbers at an Irish castle increased significantly this year due to the success of its medieval banquet offering.
More than 344,000 people have visited Bunratty Castle and Folk Park so far in 2023, marking a 14 per cent increase on the overall visitor count for 2022.
Within that number the county Clare attraction also saw a 30 per cent increase in people attending its Bunratty Medieval Banquet.
One of Ireland’s oldest running evening entertainment shows, the banquet offers guests fine dining and themed entertainment featuring Irish medieval and traditional songs and music.
This year some 43,000 people have attended the 65-year-old event, which takes place twice nightly throughout the year.
Built in the 15th century by the Earl of Thomond, Bunratty Castle stands on the banks of the Rathy River.
The jump in visitor numbers it experienced this year coincides with an ongoing programme of investment in the Castle as part of a €10.5million capital investment in some of Clare’s best known visitor attractions.
“It has been a hugely successful year for one of Clare’s signature visitor attractions,” stated Stephen Hanley, General Manager of Clare Tourism East.
“Staff and management are delivering a world class tourism product, and we are committed to achieving double digit growth in visitor numbers for the next three years,” he added.
Clare County Council, supported by government, has invested more than €4million in Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Craggaunowen, Knappogue Castle and the retail unit at the Cliffs of Moher since the management of the Shannon Heritage properties was transferred from The Shannon Airport Group in April.
An additional €6.5m has been earmarked for investment during the first six months of 2024 in the Clare County Council owned Shannon Heritage DAC portfolio of attractions, which also includes Inis Cealtra (Holy Island Visitor Experience) in Mountshannon.
Meanwhile, in the twelve months from May 2023, 40 new positions will have been generated across Operations, Finance, HR, ICT, Administration and Sales and Marketing services at Inis Cealtra, Bunratty, Craggaunowen, Cliffs of Moher, Knappogue and Vandeleur Walled Gardens, and in Shared Services.
“A comprehensive and much needed programme of investment in the sites is happening at a very exciting time for Clare tourism with significant investment also being made in the Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) Visitor Experience in Mountshannon and the Vandeleur Walled Garden and Visitor Centre in West Clare,” added Mr. Hanley.
“This investment is based on creating a tourism product that benefits the wider Clare economy and reinforces Clare’s reputation as a quality destination with domestic and international appeal.”
Leonard Cleary, Director of Tourism Development with Clare County Council said: “2023 has been a landmark year for Clare tourism with the transfer of the management of four Shannon Heritage properties to Clare County Council.
"The Local Authority is committed to investing in the future development of these sites for the benefit of the tourism sector and the wider economy, as well as the communities in which they are situated.”