County Limerick’s roots are tied up in early Viking conquests, with the first fishing villages planted in this part of Ireland in the 10th century. The county capital is crowned by King John’s Castle. Buses and trains connect to Dublin. In both cases, the local stations are prime car hire locations. It’s also possible to fly into Shannon Airport and pick up your rental car there.
Having hired your car in County Limerick, you’ll probably want to spend a day exploring the Medieval Heritage Precinct before planning a drive across the county. Popular attractions in the city centre include the Georgian House with its ‘Ashes Exhibition’, a tribute to Frank McCourt’s novel, Angela’s Ashes. The Hunt Museum and the 12th century St Mary’s Cathedral are also of interest.
The most popular drive in the county is from Limerick city to Adare. This route sees plenty of tour buses, so it’s a good idea to embark early in the morning or at least on an off-peak day. Adare is located 16 kilometres south of Limerick along the N21, and it’s chock-a-block with medieval architecture and quaint cottages. If you arrive early, you’re more likely to find a free spot in the complimentary car park behind the heritage centre.
King John’s Castle
In the heart of medieval Limerick City lies one of the best preserved Norman Castles: King John’s Castle. It was built by King John in 1200 although the site dates back to 922, when the Vikings lived on the Island. Explore the visitor centre filled with activities and exhibitions that will make you experience what a Norman soldier’s life was like. Children will love the dazzling array of computer generated animations and ghostly projections as they travel back through time. The Education and Activity Room is bustling with tasks to stimulate curious minds.
Desmond Castle Adare
Located on the edge of the village of Adare, on the north bank of the River Maigue, Desmond Castle was an important stronghold of the Earls of Desmond. The castle was erected around the early part of the 13th century. It became a strategic fortress during the following turbulent years. Guided tours of the castle run from June to September each year starting from the Heritage Centre in the village. It is a national monument and managed by the Office of Public Works.
Home to Ireland’s largest and oldest stone circle, Lough Gur is an area of extreme beauty that will allow you to discover ancient Ireland. Explore the prehistoric authentic sites where the earliest settlers once worshiped and lived. There are remnants of Neolithic dwellings, artificial islands (crannógs), ruined castles and churches, immense pillar stones, and a wedge tomb that yielded evidence of a ritual sacrifice. All this closely surrounding a scenic lake reputed to harbour a magical realm beneath it. Take a guide and visit the whole site; don’t miss the lake excursion and the restored Lough Gur Heritage Centre.