Planning a trip to Limerick and want to experience the real Limerick without any tourists? We’ve got you covered. Local expert Ger Leddin highlights five places you need to check out.
1. The University of Limerick Campus
Limerick has a beautiful university campus and it is possible to either hop a bus from the city centre or take a leisurely walk along the river/canal bank out to Plassy, where the university is located. Once there, well, your choices are many; a stroll along the river bank is very pleasant at any time of the year. You could have a coffee or lunch at any of the restaurants; I’d particularly recommend the sports pavilion which lies on the Clare side of the Living Bridge — well worth seeing as it is one of Europe’s longest — while you lunch look out at the array of sports being played on the pitches below you. You might also catch a glimpse of the world-famous Munster Rugby Team training or for that matter a multitude of International sportsmen and women who avail of these top class facilities.
Additionally UL is home to not only the Irish Chamber Orchestra but also houses the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance – an internationally acclaimed centre for innovation and research in music and dance performance and scholarship. Do what I do and loiter outside while rehearsals are going on. You won’t regret it; just don’t tell them I sent you.
The University all houses many permanent art collections and also benefits from the ambience created by numerous outdoor sculptures by international artists including Michael Warren, Peter Logan, Alexandra Wejchert, James McKenna, Tom Fitzpatrick, Antony Gormley and Sean Scully. Of course, while you are out in UL don’t forget to check out the University Concert Hall, where national and international acts perform there regularly.
2. A stroll around Old Limerick
An Interesting and fun way to spend a morning or an afternoon is to take a leisurely stroll around the compact area that is old and historic Limerick. Now, I’m not talking about the tourist attractions that you will pass along the way but I am talking about getting to know the real Limerick and its people.
Start at the fairly recently build Shannon Bridge and begin your walk at Howley’s Quay keeping the river on your left. Take a few bits of bread with you and you can feed the bevvy of swans that make their home here. Pause and take a look at the life-size bronze statue by Limerick-born artist Michael Duhan which was cast and erected in tribute to Limerick’s dockers.
Continuing your walk and in a moment you will notice the tiny peninsula referred to by locals as Poor Man’s Kilkee. Locals refer to the area as simply Poor Man’s, the name given as in days gone by a person or family who couldn’t afford to travel to the coastal resort of Kilkee would spend the fine summers days here. At Poor Man’s you will find the rather recent and rather controversial statue of Limerick-born broadcaster Terry Wogan.
If you’re interested in public sculpture you might take a detour away from the river at this stage and walk up the shopping street Bedford Row for a few hundred yards and also take in the equally controversial statue of Limerick-born actor and wild-boy Richard Harris.
Retracing your steps back to the river continue around and under Sarsfield Bridge and pass the tourist attraction that is the Hunt Museum. Here you may cross the Abbey River, turning right you might sit outside the Locke Bar and sip a coffee or something stronger. Continue your stroll down George’s Quay recrossing the river at the next bridge. This will take you into the heart of Old Limerick, Broad Street and then into John’s Street. A tiny diversion off John’s Street will allow you to glimpse some of the remains of Limerick’s ancient city walls.
At the top of John’s Street, you will find the slightly ignoble fish and chip shop that is Donkey Fords. A better place to find the traditional takeaway meal you won’t find. Despite its humble appearance and presentation, the fish and chips here are simply to die for.
While you’re eating your takeaway fish and chips, stroll around St John’s Square to take in the splendid architecture of the seventeen-hundred Bindon designed buildings. Also, you might hop across the road and enter St. John’s Cathedral — obviously finish your fish and chips first. St John’s Cathedral was built in 1861 and is reputed to have the tallest spire in Ireland.
Walking from St. John’s square southwards will shortly bring you to William Street where a right turn will bring you back to the city centre. An enjoyable way to spend a few hours, don’t forget to stop into one of the many pubs along the way and spend a bit of time chatting to the Limerick folk, they’re a nice bunch, really.
3. The Milk Market
While it is listed on most of the must-do places to visit in Limerick guides, the Limerick Milk Market isn’t really that touristy. In fact, on a Saturday morning, it’s a great place to visit and meet “the natives” who come here to buy the magnificent artisan and locally produced products and fresh food. Stroll around, take-in that special aroma of fresh food, sample a bit, take a coffee and relax and listen to friendly and excited conversations going on around you. Join in if you want; it’s free.
4. A trip just outside the city
This might seem a strange thing to add to a list of non-touristy things to do and I am not being in any way derogatory to Limerick by saying get out of the city, just for a little while. But Limerick has a tremendous advantage in been ideally situated as a base for occasional day trips. It is after all the largest urban area in the Mid-West and as such is blessed with a good infrastructure such as roads, bus and train routes and the city is literally only an hour away from the magnificent Atlantic.
Take Kilkee for example, a quick drive down the M18 will bring you into the County Clare seaside town of Kilkee. Now, while Kilkee is actually in Clare, but is considered — especially in the summer — by Limerick people to be a suburb of the Treaty City. The town itself is not a bit touristy, populated as it is mainly by Limerick citizens who either own properties there or caravan or rent for the summer and who consider Kilkee a second home. Honestly, you will feel like you’re in Limerick but with the added attraction of: the cliff walks, a fantastic horse-shoe beach, safe swimming and water sports, great pubs and restaurants, all topped off with the friendliness of the Limerick people that you will meet. Oh yeah, the Clare natives are fairly friendly too.
5. Visit a local pub
Limerick is famous worldwide as a great sporting city. In fact, a sculpture to two of its better-known sports, rugby and hurling takes pride of place on the city’s main street.
Now, what better place to meet the locals and have a great afternoon, but in one of the many sporting bars dotted around the city. Jerry Flannery’s, Nancy Blake’s, South’s, The White House, the list is endless. Both a friendly staff, along with informed locals will guide you through the intricacies of any and all sports which the bar may be showing on any given day. Go on try it; a great experience.
Well’ that’s it my humble guide to five non-touristy things to do in Limerick (or in the case of Kilkee, very close by.) Limerick is an often wrongly maligned city but take the time to discover its people and true character; honestly, you won’t be disappointed