These days, Limerick is still a bit grim, grey and concrete, but it has a vibrant pub-crawling mentality spurred on by Limerick’s surplus of rugby lads and some interesting historical knick-knacks to boot.
Golden vale and Emerald Isle
Historically, Limerick is a medieval city, standing in the spot where the River Shannon becomes tidal. Most of County Limerick is low and undulating in the east, where it becomes part of the rich plain known as the Golden Vale. The east itself is being sold to travellers these days as a top patch for budding golfers. The more rugged areas to the west, south and north-east fringes of the county are good for hiking, while anglers will get off on the south-east Galtee mountains where they reach into County Limerick from neighbouring County Tipperary.
Where the beer flows
In rugby-mad Limerick, it was only a matter of time before Peter Clohessy (‘The Claw’) put his name to a pub. The former Lions lad has opened a heaving pub at Howley’s Quay, facing the Shannon River. No stranger to the Sin Bin himself during his playing days, it’s therefore an appropriate name for the nightclub. You can also find loads of pubs and clubs offering live music especially at weekends. Musicians usually get paid by the owner, but get them a drink at the bar if you want to act like a local. Most bars are in the city centre, so it shouldn’t be a problem finding a taxi going home – but keep your head down and stick with your mates as Limerick can be a bit rough after hours. Most nightclubs belong to hotels and bars and open from 11pm until 2am, with drinks up to 1am.
Feast like a king
If you think of potatoes when you think of Irish cuisine, think again. Ireland does food that wipes the floor with English chefs – great big grain-fed steaks and wild salmon along with some brilliant organic vegetarian options. One experience not to be missed while in the region is the Shannon Heritage Medieval Banquet at Bunratty, Knappogue and Dunguaire Castles. Once home to medieval knights, today you’ll get a night of revelry, top food, wine and mead. Each castle has a distinctive show. The spread will cost you about €50, and to get there just head off the main dual carriageway (N18) between Limerick and Ennis, then follow signs.
Worth a look
This grade-one racetrack opened in 2001 and hosts 18 race days throughout the year. It’s a state-of-the-art venue with top bar facilities for race days and exhibitions. Get down there for the Christmas Festival, which offers four days of National Hunt racing. Check out www.limerick-racecourse.com.
The Hunt Museum
Located at The Custom House, Rutland Street, the Hunt Museum is home to one of Ireland’s most jaw-dropping private collections of art and antiquities. Some generous codger called John Hunt collected pieces from the four corners of the world then dumped the lot with his city folk. The collection has a lot of fascinating Celtic works as well as masterworks by Da Vinci, Yeats and Renoir.
Curraghmore Forest Park
Located at Kilcornan, Curraghchase Forest Park is a 600-acre plantation that is pretty dazzling in its beauty. It features walkways, a lake and garden, a nature trail and the ruins of the 18th century home of the poet Aubrey de Vere.
Lough Gur Stone Age Centre
Like Old Sydney Town, but 5000 years older and featuring stone age tools and gems dug up by archaeologists working around Shannon. It’s located at Ballyneety.
Bonus points for: High spirits while high on spirits
Loses marks for: Concrete and mindless violence
– SEAN MAHER