Limerick's surroundings are worth exploring.
At the foot of the Slievefelim Mountains, a good 12mi/20km east of Limerick, is Glenstal Benedictine Abbey, founded in 1927. The extensive complex, including a terraced garden going back to the 17th C., and the modern church are open to visitors.
Lough Gur Prehistoric Site
12.5mi/20km south of Limerick, at Holycross on the bow-shaped Lough Gur, lies a prehistoric site (National Monument) of exceptional interest. During the 19th C. the lough was partly drained, when evidence of occupation going back to the Neolithic period was found. The following features are particularly notable: No. 4, a wedge-shaped passage grave (ca. 2000 B.C.); No. 7, a stone fort (eighth century); No. 8, an oval stone fort (Early Christian period); No. 12, a Neolithic burial place surrounded by a double earthwork, with a standing stone in the middle; No. 16, a burial mound with a circle of standing stones (c. 1500 B.C.); No. 17, a fine double stone circle with an earth rampart and a ditch (age uncertain); No. 22, a small stone circle of large slabs; No. 23, a crannog (originally an artificial islet, now linked to the shore); and No. 28, an imposing stone circle (c. 2000 B.C.), a cult site with an almost monumental entrance.There are also two medieval structures, Bourchier's Castle (16th C.) and Black Castle (14th C.), and the ruined 17th C. New Church.
On the way south from Lough Gur to Kilmallock a detour can be made to Limerick Hospital, lying to the east. The church (National Monument), originally belonging to an establishment of the Knights Hospitallers founded in 1215, contains three very interesting tombs with effigies.
Kilmallock, 21mi/34km south of Limerick on the R512, is an ancient little country town. The Collegiate Church of SS Peter and Paul (15th C., National Monument) incorporates 13th C. work (round tower) and has some fine monuments. King's Castle (14th C., National Monument) and Blossom's Gate in Emmet Street bear witness to the importance of the town in medieval times.
6mi/10km southeast of Kilmallock, to the south of Limerick, lies the little market town of Kilfinane, at the foot of the Ballyhoura Mountains. Its most striking feature is an unusually large motte, surrounded by three earthwalls. It is 130ft/39m high and 50ft/15m in diameter at the base and 20ft/6m at the top. From the summit there is a magnificent view of the great expanse of the "Golden Vale."
In Glenosheen, a beautiful side valley to the southeast of Kilmallock and south of Limerick, stands Castle Oliver.
In Glenosheen, a beautiful side valley to the southeast of Kilmallock, stands Castle Oliver, a 19th C. structure complete with battlements, towers and bastions which is approached by two avenues with curious lodges at the gates. Near the castle is one of the "follies" built to provide employment during a famine. Castle Oliver is said to have been the birthplace of Marie Gilbert, the famous Lola Montez, mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
From Kilmallock, to the south of Limerick, the R518 and R520 lead west to Newcastle West, 20mi/ 32km southwest of Limerick, a busy market town with the ruins of a 12th C. Templar castle.
The Desmond banqueting hall is a two-storey structure that was used by the Earls of Desmond for banqueting and entertainment. The Hall was constructed during the 15th C. The restored medieval features include and oak musicians' gallery and a limestone hooded fireplace.
5mi/8km south of Newcastle West is Glenquin Castle (15th C., National Monument), a well-preserved six-story tower house.
2.5mi/4km from Limerick are the ruins of Mungret Abbey (National Monument), once an important monastic school, which preserves three of its original six churches.
4mi/6km west of Mungret, and to the west of Limerick, stands Carrigogunnell Castle (National Monument), prominently situated on a volcanic crag. It is an imposing structure with two towers (15th and 16th C.), unfortunately in a poor state of preservation. From the castle there are fine views of the Shannon and the surrounding area.
In Kildimo can be seen the remains of a small Templar church (13th C.) and a parish church of 1705. Beyond this, on a hill, is little Killulta Church (12th C.; National Monument), with a triangular window.
Kilcornan - Celtic Theme Park & Gardens
Kilcornan is the starting point for walks in Curraghchase Forest Park where can be seen the ruins of Curraghchase House, an 18th C. mansion.In Celtic Park and Gardens replicas of important Irish monuments are to be seen as well as a rose garden. Children especially will delight to see the many horses, sheep, deer and various birds.
Askeaton lies on the banks of the River Deel. On a rocky islet in the river, near the bridge, rise the ruins of Desmond Castle (15th C.; National Monument), a tower house with a banqueting hall measuring 30x90ft/9mx27m, with fine windows, blind arcading and vaulting.
On the east side of the River Deel near Limerick are the well-preserved remains of a Franciscan abbey (15th C.; National Monument); church with fine windows, beautiful cloister with two fine marble arches and a figure of St Francis, refectory and other conventual buildings.
Foynes - Foynes Flying Boat Museum
7mi/11km beyond the Franciscan abbey, near Limerick, on the east side of the River Deel, we come to Foynes, a small port picturesquely situated on the estuary of the Shannon. From the second half of the 1930s until the end of the Second World War this tiny isolated place was the terminal of the entire passenger air service to and from North America. The GPA Foynes Flying Boat Museum (opening hours given) documents this fact. On view are the first terminal building, the signal and weather station and photographs showing the first flying boats used on the Atlantic crossing.From Knockpatrick Hill (565ft/172m), south of the town, there are extensive views over the Shannon Estuary. On the summit of the hill are a ruined church and a holy well.
Opening hours: Mar 31 to Oct 31: 10am-6pm
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Last admission at 5:30 p.m.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
Powers Irish Coffee Festival
This annual four-day festival takes place in mid-July.
Glin Castle, Glin, Ireland
8mi/13km west of Foynes, beautifully situated on the banks of the Shannon, here 1.25/2km wide, lies Glin. Above the harbor rears Hamilton's Tower (19th C.). Outside the town stands Glin Castle, a ruined tower house, on the estate of the Fitzgeralds, Knights of Glin, who have been established here in uninterrupted succession for 700 years. The modern house (Georgian of 1780, altered in neo-Classic style in 1820) has handsome rooms with good stucco ceilings (staircase, hall, library) and is furnished in period style (Irish, 18th C.) with family portraits of the 18th to 20th C.