Without really meaning to, our 20th dativersary weekend turned into a bit of a castlepalooza. We started out by visiting Castle Cahir, stayed at Dromoland Castle, and spent some additional time wandering around King John’s Castle in Limerick. This was a total spur of the moment decision as we were looking for something to do. We had initially thought to visit a farmer’s market but when the rain started falling decided to adjust the itinerary.
Going into this jaunt we knew absolutely nothing about this castle. Once we were there though, I’m so glad we put it on the list. King John’s Castle is quite the important place in the history of Ireland, especially in regard to the settlement of Ireland by the Norse, and then the eventual battle between the Gaelic citizens of the area and the English under King Henry. A handful of years back a heritage trust organization invested several million euro into putting together a top quality visitor center at the castle and you can see every dollar that was spent. It’s truly one of the top visitor centers we’ve ever been to. The artwork alone would have been worth the visit!
About King John’s Castle:
King John was the brother of Richard the Lionheart, associated with legends such as Robin Hood and the Knights’ of the Round Table. John, Lord of Ireland, though not as popular as his brother, was a formidable force in battle and when he set about claiming territory in Ireland, he certainly made his mark in Limerick. Not only was the site used for defensive purposes, King John, as “Lord of Ireland” minted his own coins and the Royal moneyer would have struck the coins in the Castle mint. Before 1200 there were large earthen defences erected on high ground to defend the river crossing. Between 1200 and 1212 King John’s Castle was planned and built. In the following centuries it was repaired and extended many times. In 1642 the Great Siege devastated Limerick and the castle. Siege mines weakened the front wall (East curtain wall) of the castle and counter-siege mines carried out during the later and subsequent sieges. To date over 1,000 objects were excavated including skeletal remains of the siege period. You can view the remains of a medieval garrison and soldiers quarters recently discovered close to the sallyport area of the castle. 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. You can clearly view the Treaty Stone, said to be the site of the signing of the document on the far shore of the river from the battlements of the castle. The Pre-Norman features discovered are both defensive and settlement. Extensive evidence of an early defense system and of a strong earthen rampart, held together with limestone boulders and protected by a deep ditch, show that King John’s Castle was built on an existing fortification. (See more at Shannon Heritage)
All told we spent about two hours roaming the visitors center, the castle grounds, and the battlements, before moving on to our next destination for the day. It was a great way to spend some time in Limerick and if you’re ever in the area, I definitely recommend you schedule a visit. At €10/adult, I felt like the cost of admission was totally worth it.