Pack it all in with a city that delivers huge helpings of history, heritage and art…
You’re best to give Limerick a few days! It’s the kind of place that will keep you busy, whether you’re peering at ancient antiquities in the Hunt Museum, or uncovering medieval history in King John’s Castle. The city is certainly having a moment right now in terms of things to see and do, and the resurgent cultural scene is bringing a real sense of energy to the streets. You’ll see it in the bright, light-filled rooms of the Limerick City Gallery of Art; you’ll see it in the high-ceilinged drawing rooms of the People’s Museum, where contemporary paintings line the walls and local art groups get together in the old kitchen; and you’ll see it in the Limerick Museum, with its collection of old black and white photographs of Limerick superstars, such as Terry Wogan and Richard Harris. The history of this city surprises at every turn, but go beyond the urban buzz and you’ll find yourself in a countryside packed with castles and crannogs, folk parks and great family fun.
The Hunt Museum
An essential when it comes to visiting the Hunt Museum? Take the tour. It will
totally change your experience of this small but astonishing collection, which
has been compiled by antique dealers and collectors, John and Gertrude Hunt. As
you stroll from the light-filled, high-ceiling rooms where art lines the walls
to the small, plush carpeted spaces in this 18th century Palladian
house, you’ll discover a phenomenal array of antiquities. Open drawers, peer
into the glass cases and hear incredible stories, including about how the Hunts
kept a Picasso in their kitchen and the tale behind the unusual Roman trinkets.
St Mary’s Cathedral
Occupying a hill on King’s Island
overlooking the old Potato Market, St Mary’s Cathedral is one of Limerick’s
many historic gems. Founded in 1168, the cathedral has stood strong through
years of battles, sieges, famine and hardship. There are sublime stained glass
windows, 12th century arcaded arches and even a “leper’s squint” –
an opening in the cathedral wall where lepers could hear mass and receive
communion. The cathedral can be enjoyed daily all year round, but for something
special try one of the lunchtime concerts on Wednesdays.
The People’s Museum
There are so many things that will
capture your attention at 2 Pery Square: the dark, sienna-coloured
marble-effect of the walls, the magnificent light-strewn drawing room with its
pretty views of Limerick’s People’s Park, and the staff rooms that were
designed to overlook the kitchen so that work and rest were interlinked. This
is a delightful building filled with surprises and representing the very best
architectural details of the Georgian era in Limerick. Built in 1838 and now
owned by the Limerick Civic Trust, the museum contains an interesting
collection that is still a work in progress and is being added to all the time.
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.
Limerick City Gallery of Art
Set within the beautiful Carnegie Building on the grounds of Limerick’s
People’s Park, the city gallery is a nicely designed, bright space that hosts a
small permanent collection, as well as a larger area upstairs for visiting
national and international exhibitions. It’s the biggest contemporary art
gallery in the Mid-Western Region, and has free entry, too!
There’s plenty of stuff to grab your
attention at the Limerick Museum, which contains over 60,000 artefacts spread
over several rooms. Set within a former Franciscan church on Henry Street, the
collection brings you from the Bronze Age right up to life in 20th
century Limerick, evoked in an engaging exhibition of black and white
photographs of the city and its people. There’s beautiful lace, sports
memorabilia and a local touch, with many of the items having been bequeathed by
Limerick people themselves. limerick.ie
It took just four years to build, it cost one fifth of the Irish state’s annual
budget and it was, for a time, the largest hydroelectric power station in the
world. Ardnacrusha occupies a powerful place in Ireland’s imagination – a Seán
Keating painting of its construction hangs in the Hunt Museum – and it’s well
worth going on a tour of this huge river hydroelectric scheme. Guided tours
bring you deep into the heart of this plant, which include a tour of the
visitor centre, views of the turbine hall and engine room, as well as a visit
outside to see the Headrace Canal, locks and tailrace.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
Driving around the countryside outside Limerick city, it feels like there are castles
everywhere. One you can’t fail to notice is the enormous Bunratty Castle.
Famous for its lavish medieval banquets, Bunratty dates back to 1250 when a wooden
fortress stood here. This is now part of a wider folk park, which is filled
with recreated streets, a pet farm, walled garden and fairy trail.