County Limerick in the west of Ireland is often one of Ireland’s most overlooked tourist destinations. But as the birthplace of one of Ireland’s most famous writers, the home of arguably its best-preserved medieval town, and the location where the first Irish coffee was made, it has more to offer than a passing glance might suggest. Limerick lies at the heart of the Shannon estuary region and its surrounding countryside is dotted with ancient stone circles and remnants of more than 6,000 years of history that shouldn’t be missed. Below are our top five places you have to see in this historic county.
5. FRANK MCCOURT MUSEUM
Opened by Malachy McCourt, brother of the famed Frank McCourt whose Angela’s Ashes rocked the Irish literary world upon its release in 1996, the Frank McCourt Museum in Limerick offers visitors an immersive experience in the lives of the McCourt brothers in Limerick that Frank so vividly described in his debut memoir. See a recreation of the tiny bedroom he slept in, his school house, and other tributes to 1930s Limerick.
4. LOUGH GUR
Lough Gur, a remarkable horseshoe-shaped lake in the Limerick countryside wedged between the towns of Herbertstown and Bruff, is more than just a pretty setting for a casual stroll or romantic getaway — though it is that as well! The real treasure of the lake is its interpretive visitor center that takes you on a 6,000-year journey of human settlement and archeology. The center contains Bronze and Iron Age artefacts, including household items, as well as older Neolithic finds and more recent medieval pieces. The surrounding landscape is littered with remnants of ancient humans, including a megalithic stone circle and dolmen portal tombs you won’t want to miss.
3. FOYNES FLYING BOAT AND MARITIME MUSEUM
A must-see in Limerick is Foynes, a seaport village near the Shannon Estuary. Its highlight is the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum, which details the village’s global mark in aviation in the 1930s to 1940s. The first international airport in the world was built in Foynes, which used flying boats to transport passengers across the Atlantic during World War II. Foynes is a pioneer in coffee too, since Chef Joe Sheridan’s Irish coffee originated here and was initially served to Foynes passengers. Enjoy it in a classical setting at the Foynes Irish Coffee Centre, which is found inside the museum, and learn more about its timeline through a 3D hologram.
2. ADARE VILLAGE
If you’re looking to visit a postcard-perfect Irish town off the beaten path, look no further than the village of Adare. First settled in the 13th century, Adare retains a remarkable collection of traditional thatched cottages scattered throughout the grounds of Adare manor and the surrounding land. Some cottages, like those on the manor grounds, have been converted to gift shops and restaurants, while others are even available for a romantic rural getaway.
Desmond Castle, near the town center, is an architectural marvel of a different sort, and well worth a visit. Built in the 12th century adjacent to an older ring fort, the castle is preserved in a state of arrested ruin and is one of the most popular sites in the county.
1. KING JOHN’S CASTLE
Built in the year 1210, King John’s Castle comes as a striking sight for anyone following the course of the River Shannon through Co. Limerick. This structure is one of the best preserved Norman castles in all of Europe, and the land it was built upon has even more recently been revealed as a Viking landing site from much earlier, in 922.
King John of England chose this location as his seat in Ireland because of its plentiful natural resources and visual prowess. Limerick prospered under Norman rule, as evidenced by a 1574 letter to a Spanish ambassador that attested to its wealth. It read: “Limerick is stronger and more beautiful than all of the other cities in Ireland, well-walled with stout walls of hewn marble.” Later, in 1620, the English-born judge Luke Gernon called it “so magnificent that at [his] first entrance it did amaze [him].”
Between the years 2012 and 2013, King John’s Castle was treated to a massive redevelopment, with $6.5 million being spent on improving the location’s visitor facilities. It’s now home to many interactive exhibitions, museum wings, and a cafe with an impressive view of the river outside, making it the ideal destination for any family day out in the wonderful county of Limerick.
Have you visited any of these famous County Limerick sites? Let us know in the comments below!