You only need to be in Ireland for one day to realise just how much story-telling, a passion for the past and tales of old connects with the country of today. From the ancient architecture to the lively local pub, the past is very much present... And from the legends of battles waged and won, to the memories shared by a friendly local over a pint of ‘the black stuff’, history connects time and place.
And perhaps nowhere is this brought alive more colourfully, set out before you like a rich tapestry of tales – than in County Limerick, much of which is situated within the region known as Ireland’s Ancient East.
“And it’s the people you meet – showing you around, serving you a drink or simply passing the time of day – who hold the key. Connecting past with present. And bringing it all vividly to life.” -www.Irelandsancienteast.com
There really are a wealth of experiences just waiting to be explored – each one a chapter in a fascinating saga. Whether you embark on one of many heritage tours, go off-the-beaten track in the open countryside, or simply take in some of the many local foodie destinations – you’ll discover a story with every stop!
Of course another great thing about Limerick is that you’re just a 25 minute drive from Shannon Airport – so it’s easy to factor in a 24-hour stop here, with time to take in some of the county’s many Ancient East highlights.
A great place to start, and just 21 kms from Limerick city, is the beautiful Lough Gur – a horseshoe-shaped lake at the base of Knockadoon Hill which is one of Ireland's most important archaeological sites.
Humans have lived here since 3000 BC – and its story is brought wonderfully to life at the Lough Gur Visitor Centre – a celebration of the area’s geology, botany, zoology and archaeology.
The centre also houses replicas of famous finds in the area, including Stone Age pottery, the famous Bronze Age Lough Gur Shield and the Countess of Bath chalice and paten.
At the lake, you’ll see the Grange stone circle (the largest stone circle in Ireland), a dolmen and the remains of at least three crannogs. Stone Age houses have also been unearthed here – while other features include a number of ring forts and a hill fort.
A Limerick story more modern in nature can be found just 10 minutes down the road at The Thomas Fitzgerald Centre – named after the great-grandfather of 35th President of the USA, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Thomas emigrated from the area in 1852 and this centre is a tribute to his famous family, with fascinating exhibits such as the Fitzgerald Family Tree Mural, a John F Kennedy 1963 Limerick Visit Photo Exhibition, and an exhibition from the Caroline Kennedy visit of 2013.
If you have the time, why not also make a stop at the fascinating Old Irish Ways Museum – a world of memories in one – then have lunch at the Bruff Community Café or Clancy’s Bar & Istabraq, and enjoy some traditional bacon and cabbage, fresh fish or a succulent steak. Then perhaps a stroll through Morning Star Park to walk it off!
Not too far away too, is the beautiful St. John’s Church in Knockainey. Dating back to 1762 this ancient place of worship is surrounded by an atmospheric graveyard containing some very old graves and interesting mausolea.
Your next stop on your trip could then be Ash Hill House, just down the road in Kilmallock - a classical Georgian House on a well-wooded estate and the family home of the Coote and Evens families.
Many a rural story of a different kind can also be found here in Kilmallock – at the Kilmallock Farmers Market, a great place to stop and sample some local fare for lunch. The market is on every Monday and Friday throughout the year and offers a true bustling rural country market atmosphere, with everything from fruit, vegetables and organic foods to tools, clothes and cattle!
12th Century Style
Afterwards, if you’re heading back towards Limerick City Centre, it’s also really worth making a stop at Glenstal Abbey – a 12th century-style castle built in the 1830s for the Barrington family, featuring a magnificent gate, massive drum tower and seventeenth-century terraced garden.
If you prefer to find your stories in the great outdoors – you’ll find County Limerick has a wealth of walks, tracks and outdoor adventure attractions. You’ll be amazed by the ancient and unspoilt landscape with its abundance of heritage sites, natural beauty and villages just waiting to share their magic.
A total trail of 64 km, The Lough Derg Way comprises 5 key trail heads and each one can be comfortably walked in half a day. Combining countryside, village and harbour beauty, the route begins in Limerick city and follows the River Shannon.
Another popular walk is the Paradise Hill Loop, located in the middle of Ballyhoura country. Starting and finishing in the small village of Anglesboro, the route undulates through green pastures, woodlands, hills and mountains. Other favourite walks in the Ballyhoura region include the Ballyhoura Way, Attychraan Loop and the 7km Castlegale Loop which starts and finishes in the village of Galbally. Equally breathtaking is the Clare Glens Loop – a wooded walk through dense forest, along of the banks of the River Clare.
There really are so many ways to let the ancient stories of Limerick unfold, entice and excite. So why not come and discover? – and make some new stories of your own!