The gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way, the city of Limerick is just as lush and vibrant as its breathtaking countryside. There’s so much to see and do! From its art galleries and medieval castles to forest walks and mountain bike treks. It’s a place to explore without end. A rich medieval past is the foundation to this riverside city but its culture doesn’t end there; in 2014, the city was named Ireland’s first City of Culture and visitors are spoiled for choice with many galleries and museums to choose from. We were lucky to have the wonderful guidance of Shannon Heritage to show us around some of their favourite spots! Though we were only in town for a short 2 days, we hope to return someday to revisit some spots and explore new spots as well.
Situated in the heart of this medieval city, visitors young and old will find something interesting within the walls of King John’s Castle. The new exhibition brings over 800 years of dramatic local history to life! Take a step into the past to discover how the people of Limerick fought for their land and lived their lives under English rule. Walking through this exhibit before arriving into the castle itself gives great perspective into the types of events that this historic Irish landmark has seen. The exhibit features a wide variety of experiences from trying on historic costumes to playing interactive games, there’s something to stimulate all types of curious minds.
Looking for something a little more modern in this historic city? Why not pick your brain for an hour at Escape Limerick, only a short walk away from King John’s castle. The city’s newest escape room experience takes inspiration from a chapter of the city’s history, from the 1200s up to the 1900s. Take a trip to King John’s Dungeon inspired by the area’s Castle, or perhaps take a seat in McCourt’s Classroom inspired by the Leamy’s School made famous by the novel Angela’s Ashes. As a group, we had a blast spending an afternoon at Escape Limerick, five of us took on the school themed escape room and made it out with only five minutes to spare! I’d tell you more but I wouldn’t want to give anything away…
Are you a fan of a good ol’ dinner and a show? Does medieval song, dance and drama pique your interest? Look no further than to the medieval banquet at Knappogue Castle in Quin, County Clare. A short ride out of Limerick, from the moment you arrive you will feel as though you have stepped back into the medieval age. You’re welcomed with music played on the fiddle and harp and the friendly era-dressed staff serving you a small goblet of mead (honey wine). You can enjoy the story telling by the Earl’s Butler as you’re served a multiple course meal inspired by the tastes of the time.
There involves a certain amount of audience participation as some are chosen to be Lords and Ladies, dressed with crowns and capes, while others still may jump in to the story unprompted (so is the case sometimes when the wine is bottomless). Over a few hours, you can let yourself fall into the world of medieval drama and enjoy a hearty meal. The banquet runs nightly from April to October at 6:30pm. Reservations are necessary.
You can immerse yourself even more into history with a trip to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. Set on 26 acres, the park features over 30 buildings in a village and rural setting. From rural farmhouses to village shops to a quaint school, the park gives an authentic look into Ireland’s past. Homes are furnished as they would have appeared at that time according to their social standing, from the poorest one-roomed dwelling to an example of a Georgian residence for the gentry. Personally, it was fascinating to visit and our guide had us all completely in awe with his history knowledge. If you are a fan of history but prefer the open outdoors to a confined history museum, then this is the spot for you.
Be sure to make a short stop over to Dirty Nelly’s for lunch, they’ve got an excellent selection of local favourites which all, of course, go perfectly with a pint of Guinness. It’s located near the entrance just across from the castle itself.
Our accommodation for the night was at the Limerick Strand hotel and to say the least, we were impressed. The hotel provides some stunning views of the River Shannon and friendly staff who are happy to share their knowledge of the area’s history with anyone who may ask. After a long day of touring around, nothing felt better than a hot shower and a comfy bed and the Limerick Strand Hotel certainly provided! Not to mention, before we were off again in the morning, they offer a lovely buffet style breakfast. I get seriously envious of my past self as I munch on my toast these days, it was so good.
If ever you get the opportunity, make a trip up to the top floor and have a look at the city. The view is great and really gives you some perspective on the structure of the city. Though it was a bit foggy on the day we were there, we still greatly enjoyed looking over the city. It was especially fascinating to see how the river has risen over night and falls through the day from such a perspective. We were also privy to a demonstration of making sourdough bread, a popular bread in the country. Our stay, though short, couldn’t have been much better.
If there was one thing I wish we had done during our stay in Limerick, it would probably have been to go on a Angela’s Ashes Walking tour through the city. You may or may not be familiar with Frank McCourt’s novel, based mostly in the city of Limerick, but to give you an idea; it’s a memoir of the author who was born in Brooklyn but raised in Limerick in the 1930s in a state of poverty. It details the grittiness the city once had and epidemic of alcoholism that once burdened the country. Maybe not the happiest of tales, but I was lucky enough to have read this Pulitzer Prize winner back in high school and I greatly enjoyed it. Locations include Leamy’s School, South’s Pub and other landmarks mentioned throughout the book. An adventure for next time, I suppose!
Limerick is a city filled with centuries of culture and history and the spots mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to see in the city. We thank Shannon Heritage for taking showing us a into their world if only for a short 48 hours. Limerick is a must-see destination while visiting Ireland, that’s for sure. We hope one day we can make our way back and get another taste!
We were guests of Shannon Heritage, King John’s Castle, Escape Limerick, Knappogue Castle, Bunratty Castle and Limerick Strand Hotel . We are grateful for TBEX and the organizers of each pre-conference tours. No other compensation was awarded. All opinions are our own and truthful.
Stay tuned for more Ireland adventures!