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Limerick City Situated at the mouth of the river Shannon, Limerick (Luimneach) stands as a dynamic educational, economic, social and recreational base serving the mid western region of Ireland. Limerick’s central location and range of travel and accommodation facilities provides an ideal base for both the prospective tourist and eager entrepreneur contributing greatly to the region’s success. With breath-taking views of the river Shannon and Lough Gur, coupled with Limerick’s many historic landmarks e.g. King John’s Castle, the Treaty Stone and St. Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick boasts a strong and varied past. With a population of 54,023, 49% of which ranges from the age of 0-29, Limerick is a young, vibrant city with a changing face focusing primarily on education, better road networks and infrastructure and better social and leisure activities. In addition, Limerick is home to some of Ireland’s most reputed third level institutions e.g. the University of Limerick which turns out thousands of quality graduates each year to meet the growing demand for professionals in the Mid-West region. When it comes to sports, Limerick has a wide array of sporting facilities, including a 50m swimming pool, a new racecourse and many fine golf courses. Limerick city’s shopping, art, food, nightlife and cultural centres are a stroll away from the fresh air and charming views of the magnificent River Shannon, one of Europe’s finest waterways. Celebrated in song as a lady, Limerick has matured with sophistication and class. The culture of Limerick is a fusion of many diverse influences and interests and includes practitioners and organisations active in all forms and levels, heritage, crafts, education, food, fashion, the natural and built environment, leisure and sport, social and community interests and economic and commercial activities. The culture of Limerick is to be valued as a unique, dynamic, worthy entity that its citizens are proud of and wish to share with those who visit. History: Viking adventurers established a settlement on an island in the River Shannon in the 9th century. They fought with the native Irish for control of the site until Brian Boru’s forces drove them out in 968 and established Limerick as the royal seat of the O’Brien kings. Brian Boru finally destroyed Viking power and presence in Ireland at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. By the late 12th century invading Normans had supplanted the Irish. The two remained divided and throughout the Middle Ages the repressed Irish clustered to the south of the Abbey River in Irishtown while the Anglo-Normans fortified themselves to the north in Englishtown. From 1690-91, Limerick acquired heroic status in the endless saga of Ireland’s struggle against occupation by the English. After their defeat in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, Jacobite forces withdrew west behind the famously strong walls of Limerick town. Months of bombardment followed and eventually the Irish Jacobite leader Patrick Sarsfield sued for peace. The terms of the Treaty of Limerick, 1691 were then agreed and Sarsfield and 14,000 soldiers were allowed to leave the city for France. The Treaty of Limerick guaranteed religious freedom for Catholics, but the English later reneged on it and enforced fierce anti- Catholic legislation, an act of betrayal that came to symbolise the injustice of British rule. During the 18th century, the old walls of Limerick were demolished and a well-planned and prosperous Georgian town developed. Such prosperity had waned by the early 20th century, however the city is now meeting the challenges of the 21st century with optimism. Technological industries have supplanted traditional food processing and clothing manufacture, while tourism and service industries are encouraging a growing pride in the modern city of Limerick. Sights: Hunt Museum Housed in the Palladian Custom House on the banks of the Shannon, this splendid museum contains probably the finest collection of Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval treasures outside Dublin. All items are from the private collection of the late John and Gertrude Hunt, antique dealers and consultant, who gifted their collection to the nation in the 1970s. Exhibits are displayed in a succession of elegant galleries. Look out for the tiny, but exquisite bronze horse by da Vinci and a Syracusan coin thought to have been one of the ’30 pieces of silver’ paid to Judas for his betrayal of Christ. Cycladic sculptures, a Giacometti drawing and paintings by Renoir, Picasso and Jack B. Yeats are also on display. The Hunt Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m., Sunday 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m., it is closed Monday. King John’s Castle: King John’s Castle is a fortified 13th century Castle on ‘King’s Island’ in the heart of medieval Limerick. Archaeological excavations unearthed Norman houses, which predate the castle by 100 years, as well as siege mines, garrison and soldiers’ quarters and sallyport all found under the level of the present courtyard. The castle itself features an imaginative exhibition spanning the castle’s history. Features of a visit to King John’s Castle include: Imaginative historical exhibition Multi-Vision Show Excavated pre-Norman houses, fortifications and siege mines Battlement Walks Reconstruction of medieval courtyard Panoramic views of Limerick city, the River Shannon and countryside King John’s mint where visitors can collect a replica of the original coin. As part of the exhibition, the unique work of artist Fergus Costello is being showcased. He has carved from solid blocks of wood; a series of six life sized characters associated with the history of the castle. The exterior of the castle and its forecourt area has also been redesigned. The front and back of the exhibition centre is draped with heraldic banners depicting scenes and characters from medieval times including the castle’s namesake King John. History: Before 1200 there were large earthen defences erected on high ground to defend the river crossing. Between 1200 – 1212 King John’s Castle was planned and built. It was repaired and extended many times in the following centuries. In 1642 the Great Siege devastated Limerick and the castle. Siege mines weakened the front wall (East curtain wall) of the castle and countersiege mines carried out during the later and subsequent sieges. To date over 1,000 objects have been excavated including skeletal remains of the siege period. On show are pieces of jewellery, pottery, cannon and musket balls dating to the period. A replica of a 750-year-old gold stirrup ring (the original of which will be on display in the neighbouring Civic Museum and is in mint condition) is also on display. The remains of a medieval garrison and soldiers quarters was recently discovered close to the sallyport area of the castle and will be available for viewing when all the walls, doorways and paths have been restored. A number of houses believed to be Viking in origin were unearthed during earlier restoration of the castle are also worth seeing. Between 1690 and 1691 the Williamite sieges led to the signing of the Treaty of Limerick. The Treaty Stone said to be the site of the signing of the document can be clearly seen on the far shore of the river from the battlements. The pre-Norman Limerick features discovered are both defensive and settlement. Extensive evidence of an early defence system and of a strong earthen rampart riveted with limestone boulders and protected by a deep ditch, show that King John’s Castle was built on an existing fortification. King John’s Castle retains many of the pioneering features, which made its construction unique for the day. Its massive gatehouse, battlements and corner towers await exploration by the visitor while the armoury and its contents remain as evidence of its turbulent history. St. Mary’s Cathedral: St. Mary’s Cathedral was founded in 1168 by Domhnall Mór O’Brien, king of Munster, on the site where his palace had stood. Parts of the 12th century Romanesque western doorway, the nave and aisles survive and there are splendid 15th century black oak misericords (mercy – seats: support ledges for choristers), unique examples of their kind in Ireland. The Ffox Memorial and the Budstone Sedilia also date back more than 500 years, and in the Sanctuary can be seen the stone effigies of the Fourth Earl of Thomond and his wife. Also in the Sanctuary is the massive stone coffin lid of the founder of the Cathedral, Donal Mor O'Brien, who died in 1194. Elsewhere can be seen the grave of Morrough of the Burnings, so called because of his penchant for burning churches. Indeed, legend has it that he was so hated by the people of Limerick that they dug up his body and threw it into the Shannon River. Limerick City Museum: This small award – winning museum is beside King John’s Castle. Exhibits include Stone Age and Bronze Age artefacts, the civic swords, samples of Limerick silver and examples of Limerick’s lace and glove manufacturing, as well as a collection of paintings. Limerick City Gallery of Art: The Limerick City Gallery of Art is beside the peaceful People’s Park at the heart of Georgian Limerick. The permanent collection features work by Sean Keating and Jack B. Yeats. It is worth checking out Keating’s atmospheric ‘Kelp Burners’ and Harry Kernoff’s ‘The Turf Girl’. The gallery also stages changing exhibitions of some fairly adventurous and contemporary artwork. Limerick County Lough Gur: Lough Gur is one of Ireland’s most famous archaeological sites. The visitor centre tells the story of Pre-Celtic Ireland dating back to 3000 BC. Highlights of a visit to Lough Gur include: The remains of a small farmstead, which was built on this natural platform about 900 AD. Replicas of Stone Age Pottery and other artefacts depicting life- styles of the first inhabitants of the area. Replica of the Bronze Age Lough Gur Shield now on exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland. Replicas of the Chalice and Paten of the Countess of Bath. Historical information on the geology, botany and social history of Lough Gur. The visitor centre was built in 1980 and uses two of the excavated Stone Age houses as its floor plan: House site A, rectangular and house site C, circular. Its roofs are thatched and wattle hurdle fences surround the building. The centre houses a number of display cases telling the story of the manufacture and use of flint and bronze material and their eventual deposition in the area as well as their recovery. Adare: Adare, Ireland’s prettiest village owes its reputation to its setting in the woods among rich, quiet farmlands by the River Maigue that runs through Ireland’s Golden Vale. With thatched cottages, quality restaurants, ruined abbeys and plentiful fishing, Adare is a veritable melting pot for tourists. It is also a favoured wedding location for couples from all over the world. Adare Heritage Centre traces the development of Adare from the 13th century. The site dates from the time of the Norman conquest of Ireland and the village owes its current streetscape to its status as a model estate village developed by the third Earl of Dunraven in the mid 19th century. Tourists can visit the ruins of three important church centres, the Augustinian Priory (1315), the Trinitarian Priory (1230) and the Franciscan Friary (1202). The present Earl of Dunraven still resides in the village with his family. Adare Manor Hotel, the ancestral home of the Dunravens was transformed into an impressive and romantic Tudor-Gothic building between 1832 and 1862. It has a magnificent Grand Gallery and fine staircase, and is set in 850 acres of beautiful, rolling countryside by the banks of the River Maigue. It is now a luxurious hotel where former US president Bill Clinton stayed on a visit to Ireland in 1998. Desmond Castle is a large square tower, close to the main road and bridge over the River Maigue. It is a surrounded by a strong battlemented rampart with semicircular bastions. A gate to the south has a drawbridge. The castle is currently undergoing restoration; consequently there is limited access to the public. It is hoped that once the initial restoration works are completed that the castle will be open to the public. Clare Bunratty Castle The site on which Bunratty Castle stands was in origin a Viking Trading Camp in 970. The present structure is the last of four castles to be built on the site. Robert De Muscegros, a Norman, built the first defensive fortress (an earthen mound with a strong wooden tower on top) in 1250. His lands were later granted the Thomas De Clare who built the first stone castle on the site. About this time, Bunratty became a large town of 1,000 inhabitants. In 1318 Richard De Clare son of Thomas was killed in a battle between the Irish and the Normans. His followers were completely routed and the castle and town were completely destroyed. The castle was restored for the King of England but was laid waste in 1332 by the Irish Chieftains of Thomond under the O’Briens and MacNamaras. It lay in ruins for 21 years until it was rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby but was once again attacked by the Irish and the castle remained in Irish hands thereafter. The powerful MacNamara family built the present structure around 1425 but by 1475 it had become the stronghold of the O’Briens, the largest clan in North Munster. They ruled the territory of North Munster and lived in great splendour. The castle was surrounded by beautiful gardens and it was reputed to have a herd of 3,000 deer. Under Henry VIII’s ‘surrender and re-grant scheme’, the O’Briens were granted the title ‘Earls of Thomond’ and they agreed to profess loyalty to the King of England. The reign of the O’Briens came to an end with the arrival of the Cromwellian troops and the castle and its grounds were surrendered. The O’Briens never returned to Bunratty but later they built a beautiful residence at Dromoland Castle, now a luxury 5 star hotel. Bunratty Castle and its lands were granted to various Plantation families, the last of whom was the Studdart family. They left the castle in 1804 (allowing it to fall into disrepair), to reside in the more comfortable and modern Bunratty House, which is open to the public in the grounds of the Folk Park. Bunratty was to return to its former splendour when Viscount Lord Gort purchased it in 1954. The extensive restoration work began in 1945 with the help of the Office of Public Works, the Irish Tourist Board and Shannon Development. It was then opened to the public in 1960 as a National Monument and is open to visitors year round. It is the most complete and authentically restored and furnished castle in Ireland. An interesting feature of the castle is that it contains a number of ‘murder holes’, which were used as a method of defending the castle in time of attack. The attackers were met with a barrage of boiling oil or water, which was pitched upon them delaying their onslaught on the castle. Bunratty Folk Park Bunratty Folk Park, recreates rural and urban life in 19th century Victorian Ireland. There is an extensive array of vernacular buildings, indicative of all social classes from the poorest one roomed dwelling to Bunratty House, a fine example of a Georgian residence for the gentry. Traditional jobs and crafts are also represented, milling, the forge, pottery, printing, baking and farming. Costumed characters that recreate the traditions and lifestyle of a bygone age animate the Folk Park. The characters include the Bean a Tí (woman of the house), R.I.C policeman, Schoolteacher, Blacksmith and so on. The latest addition to Bunratty Folk Park includes Hazelbrook House (rebuilt in the Folk Park in 2001). The original building was built in 1898 and was home to the Hughes brothers who produced HB ice cream, which became a household name in Ireland. The restoration of Bunratty Walled garden was completed in 2000. Ardcroney Church, another original building was unveiled to the public in 1998. There are 10 farmhouses in the Folk Park together with the schoolhouse, Doctor’s house and the various merchant buildings and shops on the Village Street. Each exhibit is numbered and described as they appear on the Bunratty Folk Park Visitor Map, which is issued free to visitors. Bunratty Folk Park Features: 1. Loop Head Farmhouse The house of small fisher-farming folk. The thatch is roped down to protect it against Atlantic Gales. Bean a Tí is baking bread, milk separating and butter making in high season. A traditional sweetbread known as ‘spotted dick’ is baked here and is very popular. 2. Shannon Farmhouse The first farmhouse to be reconstructed on the site and which marked the beginning of Bunratty Folk Park. The house was removed from where it originally stood on the current site of a runway at Shannon Airport. 3. Golden Vale A prosperous farmers home, from the rich lands in the Golden Vale of Counties Limerick and Tipperary. It has stables, byres and a corn barn. The Bean a Tí here bakes brown bread, porter cake, apple tart and griddle bread all year round. Slices of hot griddle bread with melting butter are a great favourite in this house. 4. Mac’s Pub Be sure to drop into Mac’s for a pint! The pub is furnished to reflect the lifestyle of the time and the fact that the publican not only sold drink in former times but also traded in groceries and hardware. 5. Bunratty House A late Georgian dwelling (built 1804) of the type occupied by the gentry in the late 19th century. It was the home of the Studdarts, the last family to occupy Bunratty Castle. 6. Byre Dwelling An example from Co. Mayo of a dwelling occupied by both a family and their livestock. The pigsty is located nearby. 7. Vertical Mill It is a classic example of a rural undershot watermill. 8. Ardcroney Church Another recent addition to the Folk Park. A Church of Ireland church: the entire structure was moved stone by stone from Ardcroney, Co. Tipperary and rebuilt here. 9. Living Gardens Museum The gardens at Bunratty Folk Park have recently been restored with the assistance of an ERDF grant through the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration programme. The project includes the environs of the Folk Park as well as the formal walled Regency Garden adjacent to Bunratty House. Each of the gardens has also been restored, with special attention to the planting and land use of the period. The concept creates a product, which is unique in Ireland and the rest of Europe. Its uniqueness is in the fact that the gardens and environs form part of the history of the everyday lives of the inhabitants of the houses as well as depicting horticulture heritage. 10. The Village Street The village houses and shops have been chosen from many different areas, to form a collection of typical 19th century urban Irish buildings. The Cliffs of Moher The majestic Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights and overlook the Atlantic Ocean on the West Clare. Located just north of Lahinch they are 8km long and 214m high, it is here that one can most easily get a feel for the wildness of the terrain over which the Celts wandered, for although they built imposing castles, very often they preferred the outdoor, nomadic life and enjoyed the hunt. The Cliffs claim one of the most astonishing views in Ireland, on a clear day the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara. The Cliffs of Moher rise from Hag’s Head to the south and reach their highest point (214 metres) just north of O’Brien’s Tower. The sea-stack, covered with seabirds, just below the tower is called Bréanán Mor and is over 70 metres high. During springtime the cliffs are a bird-watchers delight with guillemots, kittiwakes, shags, choughs and puffins. Layers of siltstone, shale and sandstone form the cliffs with the oldest rocks at the bottom of the cliff. O’Brien’s Tower O’Brien’s Tower was built in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland and the O’Briens of Bunratty Castle, Kings of Thomond as an observation point for the hundreds of tourists who even then, visited the Cliffs. It is the best location from which to view the cliffs, from this vantage point one can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay as well as The Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk Mountains to the north in Connemara and Loop Head to the south. O’Brien’s Tower stands proudly on a headland of the majestic Cliffs of Moher. Here again we see the extent of the O’Brien’s influence on the history of the Celtic tribes. Cornelius O’Brien built the Tower in 1835. He was a man ahead of his time, believing that the development of tourism would benefit the local economy and bring people out of poverty. He also built a wall of Moher flagstones along the Cliffs and it was said in the locality that ‘he built everything around here except the Cliffs’. He died in 1857 and his remains lie in the O’Brien vault in the graveyard adjoining ST. Brigid’s Well. O’Brien’s Tower is located a short distance from the village of Liscannor- famous for its stone ‘flagstones’ which were used at the time for fencing purposes. In fact the story goes that Cornelius O’Brien, one time member of the parliament for County Clare won a bet with his English counterparts that he could build a fence ‘a mile long, a yard high and an inch thick’. These were the dimensions of the flagstones and they were quickly adapted as building material as well as floor covering in farmhouses throughout the 19th century. This is evidenced in Bunratty Folk Park at Mac’s Pub. The flagstones bear the remarkable feature of the imprint of fossilised eels compacted over thousands of years. The area around O’Brien’s Tower and the Tower itself will be closed for works throughout the 2006 season. It will reopen when the Full Visitor Experience opens in the first quarter of 2007. The Burren The name Burren is from the Irish ‘bhoireann’ meaning a ‘stony place.’ Its formation has lain unspoiled since the ice age and is composed of karstic limestone, the largest area of such in Western Europe. It is a place of surprise and delight to botanists, archaeologists and ecologists alike and occupies an area of approximately 300 square kilometres. The area itself is very bleak in appearance with glacial soil loss at a maximum. However it does have sufficient soil to row a wide variety of the most unusual and rarest of plants, many of them strange bedfellows. A fine collection of alpines and Mediterranean species grow together in this limestone area with strangely some of them being lime hating plants. The Burren is bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and Galway Bay and is tucked in the northwest corner of Clare. This area has some of the finest archaeological megalithic tombs in Ireland, if not in Western Europe. There are relics of human habitation dating back almost 6000 years and the most famous is the portal tomb, or portal dolmen at Poulnabrone. In this area alone there are more than 60 wedge tombs, the densest concentration in Ireland. There are also numerous examples of raths (earthen ring forts) and stone cashels. This area is also rich in historical, ecclesiastical sites. The Ailwee Caves The Ailwee Caves were discovered in the 1940’s by a local farmer while out flocking sheep. His dog had disappeared and was then found inside the cave entrance which must have been covered for millennia. Remains of brown bears and indentations of the bear pits were discovered not far from the entrance. Bears have been in extinct in Ireland for thousands of years so this find caused some excitement. The caves were eventually taken over by a business consortium and excavated extensively to allow safe passage through them. They now extend into the mountain for over one third of a mile and the journey shows some magnificent stalagmite and stalactite formations, one of which is an impression of the ‘praying hands’. Waterfalls appear along the route and the temperature remains a constant 40 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. The Ailwee Caves attract a huge number of visitors each year.
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