22 November 2017
The drive from Tralee to Limerick was only 101km and we were back on double lane highway so it went really quickly.
We routed through the little town of Adare, renowned to be one of Ireland’s prettiest towns – and we could see why. If we hadn’t just stopped for refreshments in Tralee, we’d have stopped in Adare for something just for the sake of soaking in some of the prettiness!
But we soldiered on and went to Limerick, where we’d be spending the night.
Our hotel was in a prime location, right alongside the wide River Shannon and had we had a room on the other side of the building, we would have had a view of some of the most famous sites in the town: St Mary’s Cathedral, St John’s Castle and the row of Georgian houses in between.
Even though it was still early when we arrived, it was already dark, so we took a whirl around the Medieval Quarter to get a lay of the land, but left the formal sight-seeing and picture-taking for the morning.
Not yet hungry (again) either, we made our way through the modern shopping streets on our way to the more quaint Market District.
The roads were busy with people finishing work and doing their shopping. The town’s Christmas lights and decorations were already live, combining with the dark and crisp evening to make for quite a festive feel – probably more Christmassy than we’ll feel in a month’s time in sunny South Africa when it really is Christmas!
The Market District was a little quieter; being mostly restaurants and pubs, probably a bit early for its main trade. We’d consulted online for recommendations on where to try – there are way too many pubs in every Irish town to take chances! – and started at Nancy Blake’s.
We settled on the barstools in the little passage that connected the two main bar areas, but soon moved because it was too warm – hardly something we’d suspected would be said on this holiday! – from the effective fireplace in the smaller bar.
Our second stop was quite the opposite. Flannery’s was dark and a bit chilly and lacked the warmth in both temperature and atmosphere that Nancy Blake’s had had, not helped by the indifferent bartender who was playing his own (dreary) music and smoking on the doorstep. By that point it was dinner time anyway, so we chalked it up to experience and moved on.
We pinpointed The Locke as our final destination since it was accoladed for its menu, had traditional music and dancing every night and was just across the bridge (over the mighty Shannon) from home.
We had a Limerick local serving our table, so took his advice on dinner orders and were soon enjoying a seafood pie (like a cottage pie but with a creamy fishy mix instead of mince) and a traditional Irish stew that complemented perfectly, cutting the creamy pie with its simple stocky broth.
Our dinnertime conversation was logistics-intensive. We were, not unusually, planning a meal ahead like they were going out of fashion and thus, in this spirit, planned get up and have breakfast at the very earliest possible instant (rather than lazing and languishing in bed as we’d been doing the previous days) so we could do our self-guided Limerick tour and make space for a seafood lunch when we were back on the Wild Atlantic Way. Only we could decide at dinner that we best hurry up and have an early night so we can have breakfast early enough to be hungry enough by lunch to appreciate it!
With this ‘early to bed; early to rise (for a fuller-than-Full Irish)’ in mind, we were soon headed back to our hotel, happy as little larks with our preliminary sightseeing done, a great evening behind us and another exciting day ahead of us.
We could have done with an organised walking tour of Limerick as it seems there’s more detail to the story of this city than can be cobbled together through the handful of sites and bitty historical overviews on the internet.
Unfortunately, the local walking tour guide, Declan, has a day job at the tourist office so can only accommodate during his lunch hour – and this was obviously too late as we a) had breakfast to move and b) had our own lunch plans. So, we made the most of it and did a quick loop around the Medieval Quarter on our own.
From what we can tell, the area of Limerick has been occupied since the Stone Age, succumbed to the Vikings in the 800s and 900s and then got its signatures architecture (St John’s Castle and St Mary’s Cathedral) around 1200. The Castle was sieged several times between the English/Irish issues, Cromwell and William of Orange, which was pretty typical of the 1600s which seem to be quite a tiring time in Irish history in general. All sorts of people invading and marauding and fighting battles to back and forth bits of Ireland inch by inch.
We wanted to end off our tour with the McCourt Museum, a tribute to the Frank McCourt book “Angela’s Ashes”, a copy of which my Grandpappy had given to me as a teenager. The story is an anecdotal memoir of Frank’s impoverished childhood in Limerick and the museum is said to be small but very tangible of life in the time the book was set.
Unfortunately, the museum only opened at 11 and wasn’t worth waiting almost an hour for, so we hit the road in search of the next wonderous experience.