Limerick has distinctive character – a sense of the past as well as a buzzing new scene that encompasses art, theatre and hip-hop music.
So you want to explore Limerick? The compact city on the west coast of Ireland has its own culture and history. Give yourself time to visit its ancient castle and its iconic rugby stadium but try to venture further out into the countryside. You could spend weeks exploring in detail. Here are our favourite places you simply have to visit.
Limerick’s home to all the locally produced fresh food you could ask for (and a growing number of impressive foodie offerings based upon local farm products, in particular), the iconic Milk Market is full of great finds while its gorgeous surroundings date back more than a century and a half. One of Ireland’s most enticing markets, it can be quiet during the week but really comes to life on bustling Saturdays.
Lakes – or loughs – are at the heart of what’s so particularly beautiful about the Irish countryside, and Lough Gur Heritage Centre is perfectly set is in this very Irish landscape. As well as being a great spot for a stroll, the lakeside is home to an ancient stone circle, with evidence of thousands of years of history, and Lough Gur has given rise to many myths and legends, which you can find out about here. Make sure you check out the ruins too.
The mythical side of Irish life (which is still fairly widely loved, if perhaps seen locally as a little clichéd) is one of the great Irish experiences for many people. Terra Nova is a magical garden that contains an ancient fairy fort dating back thousands of years, though the addition of modern fairy statues and magical touches will probably entice most visitors. Atmospheric, to say the least.
An unspoilt walker’s paradise, Ballyhoura Woods, with extensive trail options, is also a fantastic place to go mountain biking. You’ll find a range of difficulty options for both hikers and riders, and trails that take you under the forest canopies and on to more rugged ground. A sublime taste of rural Ireland.
Just outside the town of Adare (which we recommend in its own right, see below) Adare Desmond Castle is a 13th-century riverside fortress, now in ruins, sat right next to an ancient ring fort. Regular tours during the summer give an insight into the spot’s revolutionary history while an exhibition gives a sense of life at the castle through the Middle Ages.
A picture-postcard, 13th-century village in a rural, riverbank setting, Adare is a vastly underrated spot that rarely gets more than half a page in the guidebooks. With its heritage centre, creamery, manor and abbey you could easily spend a day here, and it will give you a good contrast with the city of Limerick.
An unusual little museum in Bruff, Old Irish Ways is a collection of things from the past hosted by a man with a clear passion for what he does. Curator Dennis’ oddities include an old phone box, countless branded items that have disappeared from Irish shelves, concert posters, road signs and even an entire reconstructed yesteryear pub.
This sprawling forest park lies 20km away from Limerick centre, but it’s a world away from bustling city life. Dense woodland, spanning 313 hectares, with trails for hikers and cyclists, as well as camping sites, Curraghchase is the perfect place to escape from modern life for a day or two. The entrance fee of 5 euros per car is beyond reasonable, considering the well-kept amenities on site. Be sure to check opening hours when you make your visit – gates close at 9pm in summer and 6.30pm in winter.
This 510-seat, state-of-the-art theatre is at the heart of Limerick’s vibrant theatre scene. Situated on a college campus in the far south of the city, the Lime Tree plays host to drama, live music, comedy and film. Since opening in 2012, its eclectic offerings have given a huge boost to Limerick’s cultural scene. It stages both intimate and big-scale shows, and its line-up strikes a balance between local and international talent. Look out for art and crafts workshops if you want to get involved yourself.
Additional reporting by Justin McDonnell