Big up the fun in castles, crannogs and cool play centres...
When it comes to family fun, kids of all ages will find Limerick and its surrounding waterways are an ideal place to be based for the holidays, with plenty of things to do, especially in the great outdoors. There are off-road cycle routes along sun-dappled towpaths in the heart of the city, folk villages that fire the imagination, and even a Flying Boat Museum. Kids can let off steam on kayaking trips along the River Shannon, channel their inner Norman in a chainmail tunic at 800-year-old King John’s Castle, or see how our ancient ancestors lived in a Celtic homestead. With so much nature around and the endless flow of the river, Limerick and the Shannon are a joy to explore for everyone.
The first thing that strikes you about
Bunratty is its size. The second? Well, it’s got to be the history. Just 20
minutes’ drive from Limerick city, this huge tower house in County Clare dates
back to the 15th century, but its past stretches back even further
as a defensive fortress was first erected here in 1250. Once you’ve explored
the castle itself, spend some time pottering around the huge folk park, with
its rural farmhouses, village shops and recreated streets. You can hang out
with baby lambs and fluffy rabbits at the pet farm, follow the scenic woodland
fairy trail, and enjoy tasty treats at the super-colourful Mr O’Regan’s Café. You
can even stick around for the medieval banquet that takes place here at night,
and includes a four-course feast in the Great Hall, plus a post-dinner
spectacle of Irish and medieval song and music.
Dreamland Fun Centre
A perfect choice for a rainy day, the
Dreamland Fun Centre is a fantastic purpose built, all-inclusive play centre.
The idea behind Dreamland is that it’s open to all, so that no sick or disabled
child feels different or left out. Since it first opened 25 years ago, children
up to age nine have been able to relax, laugh and play here, and the theme of
it being a “child’s idea of a magical place” gives it a special atmosphere.
Thomond Park Museum
Rugby fans of all ages should hotfoot it
to the Thomond Park Museum, where a fun tour whisks you behind the scenes to
places the players only usually get access to. There’s nothing quite like the
excitement of sitting in the home dressing room, before taking a trip down the
tunnel and into the stadium, just like the players themselves. As well as
hearing about the history of Munster rugby, the tour lets you test your own
skills in the interactive game zone.
Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum
Put on your flying scarf and grab a pair of goggles for a trip into a
fascinating era of transatlantic passenger flights. The Foynes Flying Boat and
Maritime Museum is full of compelling stories, intriguing characters and some
truly exceptional flying machines. Most impressive is the B314 flying boat
replica, which once would have boasted a 14-seat dining room, a honeymoon
suite, a flight deck that held seven crew members, and sleeping berths for all
passengers. The museum is about a 40-minute drive from Limerick.
So, it’s hard to get kids excited about
crannogs, especially from a text book. But a visit to Craggaunowen changes all
that as it brings these historic lake dwellings to life. Centred around a 16th
century tower house, this excellent open-air museum allows children to uncover
what it was really like to live in the Bronze Age. As well as the reconstructed
crannogs, and 50 acres of woodland and lake, Craggaunowen is also home to The
Brendan Boat – a leather-hulled boat that sailed across the Atlantic in 1976 in
a re-enactment of the route St Brendan was thought to have taken on his journey
to America 1500 years ago. It’s fascinating stuff.
King John’s Castle
You literally cannot miss King John’s Castle in
Limerick – this huge hulk of a castle sits right at the edge of the Shannon and
has been a central feature in the city’s story since the 13th
century. From outside, it looks suitably imposing but step inside and the
excellent interactive exhibition brings you seamlessly through a history filled
with curious characters, dramatic sieges and bloody warfare. The exhibition
opens up into the vast courtyard, where you can explore inside the towers, see
the remains of the Great Hall and climb to the top of the battlements for
incredible views over the city and the river Shannon.