King John’s Castle, County Limerick, Ireland
Experience 800 years of history at King John’s Castle in the heart of medieval Limerick City in the southwest of Ireland. This site has a very colourful history and has recently become one of the most popular tourist spots in Munster.
The Vikings settled there in the tenth century and used the site as a base to raid and pillage the many churches dotted along the banks of the River Shannon. Then in 1195 the Anglo-Normans, under Prince John, captured Limerick City and built a fine castle on the site. John later became King of England. His brother, Richard the Lionheart, was associated with the legends of Robin Hood! A mint was established within the grounds of the castle and old coins from this mint are displayed in the nearby Limerick City Museum. It’s also well worth a visit!
Five sieges occurred in Limerick City during the seventeenth century and these had devastating effects on the castle. In 1642 its walls and foundations were undermined by digging and severely damaged. In spite of this, the castle is one of the best preserved Norman castles in Europe.
What To See
Explore the great hall, castellated corner towers, triumphant battlements and large gate house. Recent archaeological excavations there revealed over 1000 artefacts, as well as skeletons, some of which can be viewed in the visitor centre. The castle was first opened to the public in 1989; however, between 2011 and 2013 it underwent massive restoration to the tune of €5.7 million. It was reopened and it boasts a brand new children-friendly state-of-the-art visitor centre. While the kids can interact with the exciting computer-generated animations, touch screen technology and discovery drawers, the adults can take the time to appreciate the detailed 3D models and audio visual displays. Watch out for those ghostly projections!
And that’s not all … the castle courtyard also offers many delights including a medieval tent and a blacksmith’s forge. Here the kids will spend hours re-enacting the 1642 Great Siege of Limerick and learning all the tales and scandals of local warfare. You can almost touch the past! Even the employees are dressed in the authentic clothing of the Norman era. While the centre encourages education and learning, the kids learn in a fun, exciting and stimulating environment. King John’s Castle is self-guided but guide booklets are available in various European languages.
A lovely café, in the grounds, offers breath-taking views of the castle and the magnificent River Shannon, and a souvenir shop displays all the local Limerick crafts. Facilities are of the highest standard and include car parking and disabled access/parking. The castle is open all year round (except Christmas!) but a summer trip would be advisable and make sure you get there before 3pm to make the most of your visit. Tickets are reasonably priced at €8 for an adult and €4.50 for a child aged 5–16 years (under-5s go free!). Reduced rates are available for senior citizens, families and larger groups.
How to Reach
Limerick City is just a 25 minute drive from Shannon Airport but is about a two hour drive from Dublin; Bus Éireann runs buses regularly between the two cities for just over €20 adult return. Iarnród Éireann also runs regular trains but prices vary.
Take the time to visit one of Ireland’s treasures … you won’t be disappointed!