A limerick is a five-line verse, either smart or silly, popularised by Edward Lear in the 19th century – but there’s nothing silly about County Limerick. It contains variety, humour and history all in the same place.
Sitting at the mouth of the River Shannon, Limerick city is the third largest urban centre on the island. It’s also the hardest to pin down – it formed a bleak backdrop to Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, but nowadays it’s a revitalised city full of art galleries, slick new hotels and the legendary Thomond Park, the home of Munster’s passionate rugby union team.
One moment, you find yourself wandering through the Middle Ages at King John’s Castle. The next, you’re in the Milk Market, a rejuvenated bazaar of fresh, local produce that comes direct from the producer. You’ll explore old Georgian townhouses, then sip cocktails in the glamorous Marcopolo. There’s no way to put Limerick in a box, and the locals wouldn’t have it any other way.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
Beyond the city, the Shannon Estuary takes you past the 18th century Curragh Chase Forest Park and House, before you come across a most unusual flying machine at Foynes. It’s not a boat, nor is it a plane – it’s actually a bit of both. The Foynes Flying Boat Museum features a full-scale Boeing 314 replica, complete with a purpose-built honeymoon suite. It’s a fitting tribute to the golden age of air travel, when a small port on the Shannon served as a mini Casablanca for passengers like JFK, Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart.
It’s also where Brendan O’Regan invented something very special back in 1943. On a dreadful night, the coffee-shop owner welcomed a weary captain and passengers in – their flight to Newfoundland had been delayed. In an effort to warm his visitors, Brendan served them a cup of coffee, with a surprise glug of whiskey added in – and in doing so, invented the Irish Coffee!
Limerick's hidden treasures
But that’s not the only surprise in Limerick’s history. The Hunt Museum holds paintings by Renoir and Picasso, amongst other treasures. In picturesque Adare you can explore the magnificent 19th century manor (closed until Autumn 2017). And at Lough Gur, you can’t throw out a picnic rug without hitting an ancient stone circle, hill fort or mass rock of some kind – this ancient lake has settlers dating back over 5,000 years, and to this day the wind sounds like their whispers...
Speaking of wind, you’ll have plenty of it at your back heading down from the Ballyhoura Mountains. And when it comes to adventure sports, Ireland is the New Zealand of the Northern Hemisphere, featuring 95km of stacked mountain bike trails as one of the jewels in its crown.