How to Spend 24 Hours in Limerick, Ireland

River Shannon in Limerick
River Shannon in Limerick | © William Murphy/Flickr
The city known semi-jokingly in Ireland as ‘stab city’ is, contrary to popular belief, a fast-rising charmer of a place for which the nickname, fortunately, is not reflective. Limerick has a dubious reputation, but the city itself is an increasingly elegant and entertaining spot, and its surrounds offer plenty to explore in the west coast countryside, too.

If you just have a day to drop in, you should kick it off in the slightly hipster and absolutely gorgeous Hook and Ladder. A spot that prides itself on its personal connection with ample repeat customers, they do a slightly healthier twist on the full Irish breakfast (bacon, eggs, sausages, blood sausage, potatoes and a small vat of tea), as well as a classy eggs florentine option, and an enticing coffee.

You’ll need to walk off such a hefty start, and Limerick offers no shortage of chances to do so. Head for the 13th-century King John’s Castle, where you can gaze over the River Shannon and uncover 800 years of city history. The insides of the castle were reopened in 2013 after a hugely expensive refurbishment, and feature lots of interactive exhibits explaining anything from the history to the tactics behind the castle’s 17th-century siege, to how a blacksmith’s forge worked.

King John's Castle, Limerick © William Murphy/ Flickr

Stroll back down through the city centre and grab a light lunch on the way at the Milk Market. This place dates back to 1852 and you can snap up a host of locally produced cuisine, ranging from cheese to crêpes, all housed in an atmospheric building which is also home to lots of bric-a-brac and crafts. It’s especially lively on a Saturday, when half the city seem to drop by. The People’s Park (home to sculptures and a bandstand), as well as a stop off in the city’s heart, O’Connell Street, are also worthy asides.

For the afternoon, head for County Limerick. There are a host of fantastic spots to explore around the county, including Lough Gur, where you can take an audio guide to learn about the standing stones and ancient folklore of a tumble-down village on the lakeside, learning about life 6,000 years ago as you go.

Alternatively, the Ballyhoura Mountains (which are only mountains by Irish standards, peaking at 528 metres) offer pacey mountain biking opportunities, with the Munster Vales home to the largest trails on Ireland. Some loops are over 50kms in length (head here to read up on bike hire).

There are also plenty of options involving the Shannon (the longest river in the UK and Ireland), including kayaking, paddle boarding or boating on the river, or trotting over the picturesque city bridges aboard a traditional horse and trap.

Crumbling buildings on the shores of Lough Gur, County Limerick © Ballyhoura Failte/ Flickr

While Limerick has plenty of enticing foodie options, we’d still stick to the locals’ favourite, the pub grub, specifically in gastropub Locke’s Bar. The chunky old-school boozer is a seafood loving spot on the riverside, with gentle wood paneling and an open fire (dig into the oysters, if you can stomach them!)

After dinner, there’s a definite stand out stop-off for any evening in Limerick: iconic music venue Dolan’s, the city’s indie and rock heartland. This part of Ireland has made impressive and surprising inroads into the hip-hop scene in recent years, but the average night here is still most likely to be a lively blend of local and touring guitar acts whipping up a storm (it’s wild at the weekends).

Other attractive evening interludes include greyhound racing or delving into the local trad music scene in the aforementioned Locke’s Bar, where musicians strum in the corner every night of the week. You’ll find a more intimate trad experience in petite and super-traditional Nancy Blakes.

One last thing: on the off chance you happen to be in the city on the same day as the local rugby team, Munster, are in action, make space to go. The provincial side are a powerhouse in the sport, former European champions, and a team that famously once beat the legendary New Zealand All Blacks national team, a generation before the Irish national team managed to do the same. If you don’t land here on the right day, a stadium tour of their home in Thomond Park gives a taste.

A trad session in Dolan's, Limerick © Lynn F/ Flickr