This post was most recently updated on January 13th, 2020
Sometimes, a city warrants much more time than you have to visit. That was certainly the case with Limerick, Ireland. We had just flown into the Shannon airport and were making our way to Tralee to catch a performance of the National Folk Theatre of Ireland. Certainly we could at least spare a few hours looking around Limerick.
So that’s just what we did. With just a general idea of what we hoped to see, we found a place to park our rental car and set out on foot, exploring everything within about a 1-mile radius. Interested in what we found looking around Limerick? Great! Because I’m anxious to share it with you!
And to make it even better, this article has been converted to a GPS-embedded guide on GPSmyCity. Use it without internet or data to follow our footsteps! (I will receive a small commission if you purchase the guide — thank you!)
First things first
Of course that means our first priority was finding lunch. We had heard about the famous Limerick Milk Market, the giant “circus tent” of a pavillion filled with nearly 50 food vendors. Trying to find a place to park near it was a challenge, especially on a Saturday. We finally found the Charlotte’s Quay Euro Park, about a 5-minute walk away. It was pretty cool that one of the first things we saw after exiting our car was a section of the medieval Limerick city wall, right there in the parking lot.
As we walked, we continued to see more sections of the old city wall. I don’t know why that is so fascinating to me. I guess it’s because I like to think about all the things that have happened here and all the people who have been affected (or protected) by these ancient city walls. What if they could tell us what they’ve seen?!
I also saw a few buildings that caught my eye — with pretty flowers or boldly painted facades!
Looking Around Limerick and Getting sidetracked
Yes, we wanted to eat. But hey, what was that beautiful church spire I saw a little ways off? Knowing that I love to explore old churches, my husband was willing to humor me long enough to see what the really tall spire was attached to. Within a few short blocks we were staring at this sight:
This is St. John’s Cathedral. It was a challenge to get all of the cathedral in one photo. That’s because the spire is the tallest spire in Ireland! It’s 265 feet tall. The Roman Catholic cathedral was built from 1856-1859,and the tower was completed in 1882
On a lot adjacent to the cathedral was another church and graveyard, known as St. John’s Church, of the Church of Ireland. It was interesting to learn that Limerick has many churches with the same name, with one serving the Roman Catholic community and the other serving the Protestant community. While the walls around the graveyard were built in 1693, the present church building was built in 1852. Many prominent Limerick residents are buried in this graveyard, and I liked the slightly creepy graveyard vibe. The church no longer accommodates a congregation but has been remodeled and now houses Dance Limerick.
Back to the Milk Market
By now, our stomachs were growling and I had gotten my “church fix” taken care of, so off we went to the Milk Market. You can tell when you’re getting close because you can see the top of the pavillion rising above surrounding buildings. Another Ireland record being set here — the Milk Market sports the largest single column support canopy in the country. The market appears to spill out into surrounding streets as many various vendors set up tables to sell their wares, right on the sidewalks.
When we walked into the Milk Market, we were pleasantly surprised by a busy, but very welcoming armosphere. Most of the vendors are producers who grow, rear, or bake the food they sell. They are knowledgeable, friendly, and very accommodating. And prices seemed very reasonable to us. There were musicians, too, and the atmosphere was lively!
Not only did we buy a delicious lunch at the Happy Food booth (mezzanine level), but we purchased several items for a picnic lunch the following day as we would be driving the Ring of Kerry. Tip: bring cash because most vendors do not accept credit cards.
Here’s a 15-second video clip so you can get an idea of what it looks like inside the pavillion:
With our stomachs appeased, we could now fully enjoy looking around Limerick to find more treasures. We left the Milk Market and headed for the canal.
Rivers, Canals, and Bridges
The River Shannon runs through Limerick, along with canals connecting portions of the river. Where the River Shannon joins River Abbey, an island is carved out, called King’s Island. This is where we headed next.
All along the canal are pretty flower baskets and various statues or pieces of art. We even saw swans swimming in the canal! This is a beautiful area in which to walk, and in fact, it is part of a 3.2 km route called the Riverside Walk. Bridge Street, Mary Street, and Island Road all have pretty bridges crossing the canal to King’s Island. We crossed the canal on Bridge Street, as we could see another old church and signs pointing to a castle.
St. Mary’s Church and King John’s Castle
The first thing we saw was the steeple of St. Mary’s Church, of the Church of Ireland. There’s also a beautiful carved stone gate at the entrance. This church was built in 1178 AD and is the oldest building still used for its original purpose, in Ireland. The graveyard here is interesting because of the carved headstones and intricate designs. There are even some graves belonging to Roman Catholics (Shanny’s, Clancy’s, and Haye’s) — their plots were bequeathed to them by the king of Munster. This is unusual because typically the Roman Catholic and the Church of Ireland members kept things separate.
What we didn’t realize while we were walking around St. Mary’s Church was just how close King John’s castle was. This is the King John who was brother of Richard the Lionhearted, and associated with legends such as Robin Hood and the Kinghts of the Round Table. If we had known the castle was just on the other side of the church, I’m sure we would have gone to see it, at least to take a few photos.
But our time was growing short for looking around Limerick, and we needed to be on our way. Because I’m sad we didn’t get to see it, I hope your visit to Limerick allows you to see and maybe even explore this amazing medieval castle.
Street Art in Limerick
As we made our way back to our rental car, we noticed several buildings painted with quite attractive murals, even an entire alley filled with art. I’m guessing there’s a lot more art than we saw, and a tour of Limerick should include at least some of it. Here’s a sampling:
Considering we only had a few hours, I was actually surprised at all we were able to see of Limerick. I do wish we’d had more time, but isn’t that the case anywhere you go? There’s always more to explore. But that was no reason to bypass Limerick altogether. Looking around Limerick proved to be a very enjoyable use of our time. I hope you make it there, too.