Two history geeks traveling with a reluctant scholar want to visit one folk life/heritage/living history museum in Ireland this summer. Last trip in Hungary, we picked the wrong one, though it looked good in guidebooks. Recent travelers, help us out - should we go to Craggaunowen, Brian Boru, Bunratty, Irish National Heritage Park, or some other??
There are three that come to mind but two are in Northern Ireland. The Ulster American Folk Park a few miles north of Omagh in,I think, County Tyrone. It describes the emigration of people from Ulster to the USA. The other, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, is located a few miles northeast of Belfast.
There is also one at Glencolmcille in County Donegal. Donegal is a great part of Ireland that few Americans ever see but should.
Bunratty was large and a very pleasant place to wander. Watching roof thatching, listening to the people explain what they were doing, sitting on a wall people watching...it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
I too am a totally history geek and Ireland is just dripping w/history.
The Craggaunowen Project as definately come a very long way and is very interesting. If you really want to pack a lot of history you could do the Craggaunowen Project, Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park in one day - it has been done. :)
***they are all w/short drives of each other on the Galway Road (N17/N18 the road from shannon to Galway City).
I agree w/Patrice on Bunratty Folk Park. My mam grew up in Co. Clare and Co. Galway and she totally freaked us out at Bunratty showing us what the houses were like on her Da's farm in Co. Clare and her grand-da's farm in Co. Galway. It is so incredible to realize how stuck in time Ireland was in the 30's 40's & 50's. It could take you the whole day if you are like me and like to 'absorbe' everything and not just rush thru. Bunratty is always adding new items each year. It is SO much better than 'Muckross Farm Expierence' on the Ring of Kerry.
Also, the Brian Boru Ctr in Cashel, Co. Tipperary is awesome. I finally was able to actually be in Cashel in 2006 on a night that they were having their show & thanks to the connections of our B&B hostess she was able to secure tickets for my group of 10. I had been to Cashel many times and always either they were sold out or I was their a night that they weren't performing. After the show the artists invite you to the pub attached to have a ceili. Oh my it was fantastic!! It was even worth being late to a family gathering the next day. If you are lucky to get tickets to their show you should.
Finally, go to Cobh (pronounced Cove) to the Emmigration Ctr. This is where my mam took boat to U.S. w/her family. They have a wonderful mus. My mam was transported in time and cried at the Titanic exhibit telling a story connecting my grand'da to the boat and the horror her town in Co. Clare expierenced and its impact. We never knew this and now have it written down for our family history
http://www.walkinginireland.org/glendalough/ try this out - it is Glendalough a great place to visit in Ireland.
I've been to Bunratty. I'm not a big fan of the living history museums because they are so obviously built for tourists, but I enjoyed Bunratty. I think all the homes were transported and rebuilt on site so tourists could see how different people lived.
Although there is history everywhere in Ireland. My top two history visits are Newgrange (from before the Egyptian pyramids) and one of the monastic settlements (from before 900AD).
I liked the way one person described the difference between Ireland and the U.S., "In the U.S. a hundred years is a long time, in Ireland a hundred miles is a long way."
When I was in Ireland the first time, we visited Bunratty before going on to our first B&B in Liscannor. We mentioned to our hostess that we had been there, and she said, "Oh, isn't it a lovely place? My children always loved to go there." And I have since heard from other locals that Bunratty is a favorite even among the Irish.
Newgrange (one of my favorites, too) isn't a living-history type of place like you are looking for, nor is Glendalough (again, one of my favorite places).
Rick's Ireland 2008 tour includes Blasket Heritage Center near Dingle. You might want to read about it.
I have been living in Ireland for a while now and one of the quirkiest and best folk-life museums I have encountered is the Greenan Farm Museum in Co. Wicklow. It is off the beaten path, but paints a vivd picture of Irish farm life through the years. There is also a bottle museum which sounds odd, but contian a large collection of everything from milk bottles to medicine bottles to baby bottles. The website, if you are interested, is www.greenanmaze.com