Sunday 25 September 2016

10 Great Reasons to Visit Limerick

#LoveLimerick

Published 17/04/2015 | 02:30

From sizzling food to street art, from rugby legends to luxury stays… Limerick’s time is coming.

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There’s something in the air in Limerick.

Fresh from its stint as Ireland's first City of Culture, boasting revamped quays and riverside walks, spanking new city bikes and casual food scenes, the future is bright.

Sure, it has a reputation for rubbish press. Nowhere in Ireland comes with such stereotypes. But equally so, no place is as capable of blowing those stereotypes apart.

Here are 10 great reasons to visit.

1. The Big Breakfast 

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Green Eggs & Ham at Canteen

Start your day the old-fashioned way with a slap-up breakfast at Canteen.

Chef Paul Williams cut his teeth in Heston Blumenthal’s kitchens, but he’s brought a brilliantly casual edge to Mallow Street. Good food, good coffee, good prices. It’s lo-fi Limerick at its best, and breakfast is a big deal.

Our tip? Try the Green Eggs and Ham (€7.50, above), a crisp and delicious plate of poached eggs, avocado and chilli sauce topped off with bacon from Crowe Farm in Dundrum, Co. Tipperary. There's stand-up Badger & Dodo coffee, too.

Details: 30 Mallow St.; wearecanteen.com

2. You'll be King of the Castle

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King John's Castle

These fat, fortified walls have been a local landmark since 1210, but a €5.7 million refurbishment has kicked them right into the 21st century. Interactive exhibitions, costumed actors, cool models and a spooky undercroft all add up at the city’s anchor attraction.

King John's is a brilliant reboot of a regional heritage treasure, similar in quality to Waterford’s Museum of Treasures, or Mayo’s National Museum of Country Life – with a medieval castle tacked on for good measure. Oh, and you can try on costumes, swoosh Norman swords, shoot squash balls from mini-canons and take in stonking views of the city, too.

Details: Nicholas Street; shannonheritage.com; family tickets from €20.60.

3. Rugby Legends

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Selfies, anyone?

King’s John’s Castle isn’t the only fortress in town.

Limerick is the heartland of Munster Rugby, Thomond Park its legendary venue. But spectators don’t have to stay in the stands. A stadium tour gets you right into the inner sanctum, and a pint-sized museum packs a Paul O’Connell-sized punch.

I like the big hits - the chance to go pitch-side, and check out Munster's changing rooms, but the smaller details are just as memorable. Tony Ward's golden boots? The picture of Padre Pio kept in Paul O’Connell’s sock during the 2006 Heineken Cup Final? Now you're talking.

Plus, you can score with a champion selfie opportunity...

Details: thomondpark.ie; €10/€8

4. Culture Vultures

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The Hunt Museum, Limerick

Limerick was Ireland’s first national City of Culture in 2014, but artistic activity goes way beyond that grandstanding granny. A bid is being prepared for European Capital of Culture 2020, and you’ll find rich repositories of art in the Limerick City Gallery and Hunt Museum in particular.

Limerick City Gallery is located in a slickly refurbished building fronting onto People's Park (look closely, and you'll see tiny bronze figures crawling all over the facade) - it's got a nifty cafe, and afterwards you can take a stroll, or tire the kids out in the playground.

Details: gallery.limerick.ie; huntmuseum.com.

5. Street Smarts

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Street art in Limerick

Not all art sits in galleries.

Limerick’s grittier side makes an ideal canvas for street art, and you’ll find cool pieces in the most unlikely places. Across from King John’s Castle, for example, check out the bearded man gleaming out from a gable end with a Hello Kitty tattoo on his neck. It was painted by Australian artist, Smug.

I really think the city could use a Street Art Trail, and it turns out this is a possibility for the upcoming Make a Move community arts festival, scheduled for July 2-15 of this year. Street art, hip-hop and urban dance are all on the programme.

Sure, graffiti isn't every Limerick local's idea of regeneration. But this is a unique asset in the making, it looks quite beautiful against its backdrop, and the hard work of local artists and musicians is giving the city a most excellent edge.

The spectral child pictured above is the work of Dermot McConaghy (DMC).

Details: makeamove.ie

6. (Faded) Georgian glory

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Limerick, c. 19th century

Think of Georgian architecture in Ireland, and Dublin inevitably springs to mind.

But there’s more to it than that. Limerick’s Georgian grid, known as Newtown Pery, is for the most part a crumbling wreck - but its history, quality (and potential) are mouthwatering. Even in the roughest corners you’ll find echoes of former glory... from set-pieces like the Crescent on O'Connell Street, to the iron balconies and dilapidated fanlights around Mallow Street.

Newtown Pery was established in the late 18th century by the First Viscount Pery in the old medieval quarter. Its demise is lamentable, but surely it can't be a complete lost cause?

This is the largest collection of Georgian townhouses in Ireland outside of Dublin.

Details: limerick.ie; facebook.com/limerickcivictrust

7. This Townhouse Treat

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Period decor at No.1 Pery Square

Limerick’s most famous accommodation is probably in Adare - where Adare Manor and the Dunraven Arms reel in the celeb visitors and awards in equal measure.

But the city is slowly adding layers. The Strand Hotel is a sterling and committed four-star overlooking the Shannon, for instance - it's got a great leisure centre, creative packages, and a dynamic chef (Tom Flavin) is working wonders in the kitchen.

For a treat, however, No.1 Pery Square is the standout boutique accommodation. Overlooking the People's Park, this is a beautifully pitched townhouse hotel with slick rooms and new Sash restaurant… definitely one for your Little Black Book.

Going to press, two nights' B&B, one dinner and a walking tour were available midweek from €149pp.

Details: oneperysquare.com; strandhotellimerick.ie.

8. Food, glorious food!

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Eddie Ong Chok Fong, chef at Aroi

Hungry? Forget fine dining. Casual food is where Limerick’s at.

From Canteen to the Curragower bar and La Cucina in Castletroy, it’s easy to fill the belly without breaking the bank here. One of the newest arrivals is Aroi, cooking up wicked Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese fare on O'Connell Street.

Lots of locals have been to Asia, its owner and chef, Eddie Ong Chok Fong, says. Now he’s bringing Asia to them… 

Chock Fong is no pretender. He worked preparing authentic street food with his mother and granny on the streets of Bangkok, chopping herbs and chillies, mixing curry pastes, zipping through the thronged city streets to fetch the freshest ingredients - and that's exactly what he's doing in Limerick today.

Try the crispy lotus salad (with a beer on hand to cool the taste buds), or the 'drunken noodles'. And with dishes ranging from €3 to €10 for mains, your accountant will approve too.

Details: facebook.com/lacucina; curragower.com; aroi.eu.

9. This Cool Cathedral

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St. Mary's Cathedral, Limerick

The Catherdral Church of St. Mary the Virgin, to give it its full title, is the oldest building in Limerick still in daily use. It’s rarely on the tourist hitlist, but has oodles of atmosphere.

Look out for gorgeous splashes of stained glass once used to teach religious lessons, Misericords carved from Cratloe oak (also found in the roofbeams at Westminster Hall), surprising chandeliers, whispery alcoves and a mosaic triptych carved by James Pearse (father of Padraig).

There's a leper’s squint, too. Tucked away to the left of the organ pipes in the North Wall, you'll find a hole through which lepers watched mass and received communion in medieval times, when they were forbidden from entering churches.

Details: Bridge St.; cathedral.limerick.anglican.org

10. A Parting Glass

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Michael Flannery's Pub, Limerick

Travel can be thirsty work, and there's nowhere better to slake it than Michael Flannery’s Pub, just around the corner from the magnificent Milk Market on Denmark Street.

Michael once bottled his own Jameson and Guinness (look out for the labelled vessels in the cabinets at the back of the pub) - and it tickles me to learn that the building was formerly a soap factory. The clean living continues today, as they say - except that customers now use splashes of Uisce Beatha to cleanse themselves!

Flannery's is on the Irish Whiskey Trail, with over 100 different variations available, so don't miss the chance to take a whiskey tasting... it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Details: flannerysbar.ie; irelandwhiskeytrail.com

For more on Limerick, see limerick.ie and discoverireland.ie.

NB: Many thanks to Limerick City & County Council, Shane MacCurtain, filmmaker and photographer Tony Grehan, Munster Rugby, street artist Eoin Barry, dancer Ashlea Rondozai, artists Godknows and Murli with The Rusangano Family and everyone else who helped us out with this story and video.  You rock! #LoveLimerick

Read more:

Limerick: Georgian soul in a historic Irish city  

City Slickers: Limerick City's charms  

Ireland’s 100 Best Places to Stay – and they're surprisingly affordable  

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