Both Galway and Limerick are truly wonderful cities and time spent visiting either can be a delight.
In recent years both cities have been connected by a completed motorway which cuts travelling time down to slightly less than an hour.
This is a great advantage for those in a hurry but unfortunately causes the visitor/traveller to miss out on some of the local gems to be found along the route. These, however, can be reached by taking a slight detour off the motorway.
1. Cratloe Woods
About eleven-kilometres along the N18 travelling from Limerick in the direction of Shannon you can exit the motorway at Portdrine and a very short drive will take you into the well signposted Cratloe Woods state forest.
This is an ideal place to stop and stroll through a unique and in parts ancient woodland.
While unfortunately much of the native oak trees have been trimmed and replaced with soft wood, still some pockets of these magnificent trees remain — trees which have provided the building timbers on both the palaces of Westminster in London and the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.
A children’s play area which utilises the surrounding forest and a simple but attractive lakeside picnic area makes Cratloe Woods an ideal location to take a one or two hours leisurely stroll.
Situated just eight miles outside of Limerick City — you will see it from the motorway — lies the village of Bunratty.
The Medieval castle can easily be seen and recognised from the road, and the village can be accessed by taking less than a one-mile detour.
At Bunratty, there is so much to see and do that you will be spoilt for choice.
The fifteenth-century beautifully restored Norman castle simply has to be seen. Add to this the chance to wander at your leisure through the adjoining Folk Park where you can be transported back in time to glimpse at how our forefathers lived and immerse yourself in Ireland’s social history.
After your visit to the castle a relaxing pint or a spot of lunch can be had in Durty Nellie’s pub — one of Ireland’s oldest — just across the road from the castle or perhaps view and buy some of the country’s finest merchandise at Meadows and Byrne a store complex which specialises in Irish made goods and crafts.
Just thirty-kilometres further along the motorway from Bunratty as you travel towards Galway you will see the signposts for the Clare County Town of Ennis, and you will have the chance to take a quick detour and visit one of Ireland’s most vibrant county capitals.
The home of Irish music, with numerous Ennis pubs and hotels offering the best of food and drink and afternoon music sessions, Ennis is a town worth the visit.
While there try to take in the Glor Irish Music Center, with its exhibitions, restaurants and concert venue Glor is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of Ireland’s best music venues — try to plan in advance to make your visit more interesting.
With the towns narrow medievalist fashioned bustling streets and the famed Franciscan Friary, built in the thirteenth-centaury the town of Ennis should be on everybody’s must-see list.
Of course, if you wish to prolong your stay or perhaps overnight, Ennis is, of course, an ideal place to base yourself while visiting the wonderful Burren and the Wild Atlantic Way.
4. Gort, County Galway
Continuing your motorway journey towards Galway City, again watch out for the signposts leading to the town of Gort.
Gort is your typical Irish market town but what makes it worth the detour off the motorway is the chance to visit Thoor Ballylee Castle once owned by the poet William Butler Yeats.
In the early nineteen-hundreds the castle was owned by the Gregory Family and was part of Coole Estate and of course the family home of Yeat’s muse Lady Gregory and a gathering point for what was termed the Irish Literary Revival.
Thoor Ballylee Castle is truly a beautiful spot to sojourn and it is no wonder that the area inspired Yeat’s to write The Wild Swans at Coole.
“The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swan.”
5. Moran’s the Weir
Continuing your journey towards Galway, you will pass through the village of Kilcolgan where just outside the village you see a sign for Moran’s Seafood Restaurant.
Honestly, the seafood here has to be eaten to be believed, and it is most definitely worth the short mile or two detour along the banks of the Kilolgan River to sample its delights.
Pay particular attention to the house speciality, oysters, and perhaps sample them with a creamy pint of Guinness. A magical experience just to sit outside on a sunny summer’s afternoon as the river slowly meanders by.
The five foregoing diversions are just some of the attractions to be found that can break up the mainly motorway journey between two of Ireland’s major cities. There are so many more; all it takes is a bit of planning. Enjoy your trip.