Nestled on the banks of the Shannon River, Limerick is surrounded by some of the most charming villages you could ever hope to stumble upon. Picturesque Adare, set amidst lovely woodlands in the enchantingly named Golden Vale, is a village of thatch-roofed cottages, climbing flower trellises and atmospheric ancient ruins. Adare may be small, but you’ll be spoilt for choice when lunch time rolls around – the town is bursting with excellent restaurants and gastro-pubs.
Just 21km south-east of Limerick is Lough Gur – a fairytale place of tranquil waters, ancient stone circles and tombs, carnnogs and castles. This natural and historical gem tells a tale of habitation that is over 5500 years old.
Limerick city itself has come a long way since the days of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, offering an intriguing tourist trade. King John’s Castle is top of the list for most visitors. First built by the Normans in the early 1200s, King John’s Castle still bears traces on its north side of a 1691 bombardment. The Hunt Museum, Georgian House and Ashes Exhibition offer hours of delightful diversion as well.
Lough Gur is one of Ireland's most important and mysterious archaeological sites. The site has been inhabited as far back as 3000 BC and contains a number of megalithic structures of note.
The Lough, or Loch, is a horseshoe-shaped lake at the base of Knockadoon Hill. Grange stone circle, Ireland's largest stone circle is located at the site. There are also remains of crannogs (artificial island dwellings built in lakes and rivers), stone houses and ring forts.
There is a heritage centre at the site which contains a modern exhibition detailing over 6000 years of history at Lough Gur, listening points, audio guides, archaeological dig, Neolithic Pot model, AV presentation and interactive touchscreens.
King John's Castle
King John's Castle is located on King's Island. Built by King John in 1200, it is one of the best preserved Norman Castles in Europe. Before King John, though, the Vikings built a stronghold on the island in 922!
The presence of the castle helped Limerick to prosper as a centre of trade in the 13th to 16th centuries. In 1642 the Siege of Limerick resulted in part of the walls being destroyed as they were undermined by Irish confederates trying to get to the protestants seeking refuge. Between 2011 and 2013 the castle underwent a 5.7 million Euro redevelopment and now sports a visitor centre with interactive exhibitions. There are also battlement walks for a great view of the area.
The Hunt Museum
In the Old Customs House on the banks of the Shannon, the Hunt Museum has the finest collection of Celtic and medieval treasures outside the National Museum in Dublin. The Museum holds the personal collection donated by the Hunt family. John and Gertrude Hunt were private collectors and advisors who amassed an amazing collection of artworks that were valued for both cultural as well as commercial reasons. The family found group of public and private institutions that managed to house the collection in an environment suitable for public viewing and preservation. Unfortunately neither Gertrude nor John got to see the realisation of their dream.
The Museum contains works from Picasso and Sybil Connolly as well as artworks of cultural interest from Ireland to Egypt and everywhere in between. Early Christian artwork is particularly well represented in the collection.
The Infinity Experience
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