Nestled at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary, Limerick is most widely known for its impressive castle (neither the city nor the county of Limerick have anything to do with the poems of the same name) and is ideally suited for exploring Counties Clare and Galway to the north, as well as County Kerry to the southwest.
Below is a suggested itinerary for making the most of your stay in Limerick, which is just 20 minutes from Shannon Airport and an ideal gateway to the beauty of Ireland’s west coast.
Day One: Exploring the City
Limerick is a small city, but save yourself the effort of exploring it on foot by taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Highlights along the route include St. Mary’s Cathedral and King John’s Castle. The castle was built in 1200, but the island it stands on was first occupied by the Vikings in 922. While the English monarch never visited the city, he ordered the castle built and this sizable fortress has been extensively overhauled in recent years with the addition of an impressive museum and state-of-the-art interactive displays, as well as live historical re-enactments.
You’ll also see the Treaty Stone, erected to mark the end of the Williamite War in 1691 after the city was besieged for two years. The tour is a great way to familiarise yourself with the city and discover Limerick’s fascinating history from the commentary.
Day Two: North to Clare
County Clare is a treasure throve of attractions to visit, with picturesque Bunratty Castle, ancient Stone Age tombs, beautiful beaches, world famous golf courses, spectacular caves, the famous village of Doolin, unique landscapes such as the lunar-like Burren, and of course, the Cliffs of Moher.
You won’t see it all in a day, but a tour can introduce you to the greatest sites. Travel to the Cliffs, which span more than 10 kilometres along the edge of the Atlantic and discover the history and geology of the region at the impressive Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre. Walk near the edge or climb O’Brien’s Tower to enjoy spectacular coastal views. The Cliffs have appeared in movies such as The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, while surfers may recognise it from the celebrated documentary Waveriders. This iconic location is a “must-see” on a visit to Ireland.
From the Cliffs, your tour will continue to the celebrated village of Doolin, an ideal stop for lunch. There are three famous pubs in the hamlet, and each of them is famous for good food, traditional Irish music, and plenty of ‘craic’ (Irish for fun). After lunch, continue to the Burren, a fascinating Karst Limestone landscape where three quarters of Ireland’s plant species can be found, and perhaps the only place on Earth where Mediterranean, alpine, and Arctic flowers grow side-by-side.
Make one final stop at Bunratty Castle for some photographs with this beautiful riverside fortress before returning to Limerick.
Day Three: South to Kerry
Pass through the village of Adare, one of the prettiest in Ireland where the thatched roof homes and shops have changed little over the year and leave Limerick for County Kerry, home of the Ring of Kerry, the Lakes of Killarney, and the Dingle Peninsula.
Make your way around the famous Ring, passing through towns such as Waterville, a favoured vacation spot for Charlie Chaplin back in the day, and see Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the monastery at its peak. The island grabbed headlines in 2014 when it became a filming location for Star Wars The Force Awakens, but the beehive huts which have remained remarkably preserved since the monastery was abandoned 800 years ago are the real attraction.
Continue to the quaint village of Sneem and the town of Kenmare, which has developed quite the reputation for the quality of its restaurants, before arriving in Killarney. See the stunning lakes from the Ladies View area and stop at Torc Waterfall for a chance to stretch your legs and immerse yourself in the stunning scenery of the region.
Another option is to tour the Dingle Peninsula instead. Dingle is at the heartland of the Irish speaking ‘Gaeltacht’ area and is an ideal destination if you’re looking to experience traditional Irish culture and breath-taking scenery. Follow the coast road to Slea Head, passing dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches making sure to take plenty of photographs along the way.