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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part III. History of the County of Clare
Chapter 21. Catholic Confederation

Importance of Bunratty as a strategical position; Description of the Palace and park of Lord Thomond at Bunratty; its noble herd of deer

Lieut.-Colonel MacAdam, “a stout officer,” in the meanwhile was not idle. He lost no time in making preparations for the defence of the castle. On the east it was protected by the river, on the south by a marsh, but on the other sides it became necessary to raise defences. A trench was dug round, from the river at the north side of the building, and carried on so as to enclose the rising ground upon which stood the church. An earthwork was raised at the place where now exists the mound between the garden and castle, and four pieces of cannon placed upon it. At some distance from this platform, stood a small bastion, and behind this the church, the remains of which yet exist. Around that part of the park, now called the church field, a trench deep and well flanked was dug as above stated, and into this fosse it was the intention of the English that the water from the river should be made to flow.

In 1646, Bunratty and its surroundings presented an aspect such as few places in Europe could rival. With a feudal castle of enormous size and strength, girt round by offices capable of affording accommodation to a thousand men, and surrounded by a park of several thousand acres, it had been the principal residence of successive Kings and Earls of Thomond for many generations. From the hill above, a view of the Shannon and surrounding country for fifty miles around, every acre of which was the property of the O’Brien, was to be obtained. [3] The herd of deer was the finest in Ireland. Rinuccini is enthusiastic in his praises of the place. In a letter to his brother he says, “I have no hesitation in asserting that Bunratty is the most beautiful spot I have ever seen. In Italy there is nothing like the palace and grounds of Lord Thomond, nothing like its ponds and park, with its three thousand head of deer.” His secretary, Massari, in a letter to the same nobleman, speaks of the castle and its site as the most delightful place he had seen in Ireland. “Nothing,” he says, “could be more beautiful, and the palace is fit for an emperor.” [4]