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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan

Part 5: Sites of later historical interest (post 1580 AD)
Chapter 51: Bridge at Bunratty


Location Nat. Grid Ref. R452608; ½” Sheet 17.

Townland : Bunratty West
Parish (R.C.) : Newmarket-on-Fergus
Civil Parish : Bunratty
6” O.S. Sheet number : 62, Co. Clare
Reference : 10.0 cm North; 2.6 cm West
1” O.S. Sheet number : 143 (Limerick)

A view of Bunratty Castle, from the South, with the river Ratty in the foreground
A view of Bunratty Castle, from the South, with the river Ratty in the foreground

One may ask why include the Bridge at Bunratty? It is in a good state of preservation and certainly not endangered. In fact, quite the opposite. To increase traffic flow and safeguard this bridge it was decided, in the 1960’s, to build a new, wider bridge immediately downstream of it. This new bridge has been in use some eight years already with the result that the old bridge at Bunratty is now only used for parking cars while people visit Bunratty Castle and Durty Nelly’s nearby.

The reason I include this early nineteenth century structure is precisely because of the new bridge! It is now no longer possible to get a photograph of the old bridge, looking north from the mouth of the river Ratty. However, at present, one can purchase a postcard showing this view (see over). Out of fear of this postcard becoming unavailable I include a copy of it and a second one, in this section, thereby preserving a view of the bridge and castle as they appeared in the 1960’s. A view which can never be retaken.

When the old bridge at Bunratty was built in the early nineteenth century an inscription was inserted to commemorate this undertaking:- (see Photograph 1).
                                         BUNRATTY BRIDGE
                                         BUILT BY
                     THO. STUDDERT ESQ.
                     AT HIS OWN EXPENSE
                     FINISHED A.D. 1804
                                                              JOHN SMYTH ARCH.
                                                               JOHN CROWE MASON

To cover the cost involved Studdert set up a toll gate, or turnpike, on this bridge and the toll keeper’s house, now the internationally known “Durty Nelly’s” public house, is still known locally as “The Pike”.

(Durty Nelly’s is the yellow two storey structure in both postcards).


Murphy (Ed.),
1974, page 73.

(Page 73 has what is supposed to be a copy of the inscription on Bunratty Bridge. However this is a very poor copy as it has left out some of the words).

Inscription on Bunratty Bridge, dated to 1804
Inscription on Bunratty Bridge, dated to 1804