As a travel director with trafalgar tours, I had the pleasure of experiencing the banquet in Kinvara six times during the Summer. I also got to know the team of performers at Dunguire banquet who are lovely people as well as excellent professionals.
The banquet itself starts with a welcome drink of honeyed wine known as meade, accompanied by a fun musical performance of singing and harp music. The meade is an unusual and to my taste delicious drink. It is composed of white wine sweetened with honey. The music is very pleasant and the performance is playfull. The history of the castle is gently retold in singing verse and guests are introduced along with a King and Queen for the evening chosen from amongst the guests.
After this the guests are brought up the stairs. Do be aware that there is no lift; all guests must ascend the spiral staircase which consists of two flights of stairs. Having said this, I never had any guest who was unable to ascend the stairs. But do be aware that if you do have mobility issues with a stairs, you will not be able to partake.
Having ascended the stairs, there is some more castle history along with some traditional and locally flavoured toasts before the meal is served. The meal is in four courses and while dietary restrictions can be accomodated with notice prior to the event, for obvious reasons, the castle uses outside caterers and there is no menu choice. The first course is smoked salmon ( with melon as an alternative), the next course is potato and leak soup, the main course is chicken and vegetables and the desert is apple tart ( apple pie). While there is little choice regards the food; it is good wholesome, healthy fare and consistently of good quality. The performers themselves act as waiters/waitresses so the main performance begins once the meal is ended. Of course, the meal is accompanied by generous jugs of white and red wine that will be refilled as neccessary. Wine is the only drink available, probably due to our licensing laws here in Ireland.
The performance has a literary theme and traces the literary heritage of both Ireland and the local area with references to the last great Gaelic poet – Raftery and the Irish language writer Padraig O Conaire as well as more well known names such as James Joyce, William Butler Yeates, Synge and Gogerty. St Kevin, associated with Glendalough is also references in the early part of the show along with Colman Mac Duath, a local saint with associations in the area.
The show aims towards fun and humour and there is plenty of fun audience interaction. While many of the writers referenced would be unknown to foreign audiences, they are introduced in simple and interesting terms and there is no doubt the audience member would be left with an enriching sense that they have been familiarised with our literary heritage in a fun, playful manner. Musically, the show is carried by excellent harp playing and the voices which carry very well in the castle accoustics. The castle is small and intimate and can accomodate between 50-80 guests I would estimate. The audience is always a mix of individuals and groups and the atmosphere is always very good.
I would highly recommend this banquet as a fun evening if you are in the area. It is a fun and enriching experience and the food is decent and wholesome.
A final word on the castle
The castle itself was built as a Gaelic Castle by the O Hynes in the 16th century but was subsequently taken over by the Martyns. It was the residence of the mayor of Galway, Richard Martyn in the early 17th century.
It makes for an intimate concert venue with outstanding accoustics negating the need for amplification, a welcome relief in our modern world ! The banquet runs from April to October every year.