Ireland: Day Four

Day three ended with Micheal dropping us off where he picked us up. He had mentioned to us that he was from Tipperary, and as the next place we were trying to get to was in Tipperary, and the details of getting there were discouraging, we asked his advice about getting there. To drive there, it would take, at most, an hour. By bus? More than two to get there, and almost three to get back. He told us he knew of no better way to get there, and that over 2 hours was more than ridiculous.

We also mentioned that we were going to go to the train station to check out transport to Dublin on Tuesday, and he offered another tidbit, which was that the Limerick to Dublin Express (a bus) only cost 10 Euros, and left from right where we were.  That seemed a good solution to us, so we filed that away.

Monday dawned, and we decided to just see the sights in Limerick.  King John’s Castle, which we saw pretty much every time we stopped at the tourist office, seemed pretty obvious, and there were a few other places to see in that area.  We decided to start at the castle, as it was the furthest point out from the hotel, and work our way back.

King John's Castle, on the River Shannon.

King John’s Castle, on the River Shannon.

What I hadn’t really known, until we got there, was that the King John in question was the King John of Robin Hood fame. Which is interesting for another data point, which is that there is a possibility that the line from the ancestor we came to Ireland to investigate goes back to King John’s uncle, the illegitimate son of King John’s grandfather, Geoffrey V. And we made the mistake of telling dad this little possibility.

He then decided the castle was, technically, *our* castle. He kept wanting to measure rooms to see if our furniture would fit, and asking if we could get part of the gift shop proceeds, or maybe just be able to put up a lemonade stand right near the exit.

He finally stopped saying this sort of thing when someone, on hearing his pronouncement of ownership exclaimed, “Ah, a pretender to the throne!” That line met with a flabbergasted look and silence from he who had kissed the Blarney stone. Clearly, there are limits even to that magic.

The castle just added a bunch of exhibits and new spaces, including some interactive video and some things for kids. There were costumes, and some nifty scale models of the castle and its surroundings in the early 13th century. The exhibits talked about how it was built, and the history of Limerick with the castle as the centerpiece. In fact, the castle was built on top of the Viking’s original settlement. It’s a strategic point, an island in the middle of the Shannon, with good views, and easy defense from the mainland.

The castle declined some, and then was damaged and declined some more during a series of sieges in the 17th century.

Surprisingly, the castle took more time to visit than I expected, but, it had some great views form the top of its many towers, and a nice glimpse into Anglo-Norman Ireland.  I was somewhat surprised at how few people were there when we were. We practically had the castle to ourselves, which did limit the number of people who dad could annoy with tales of our distant connection with the place’s namesake.

From the top we noticed the treaty stone on its plinth across the river. Getting tired from the castle, with several other places on our list for the day, we decided there was no way cared enough to go see it up close. This would suffice. If you’re scouring the picture to the left, the stone is just to the left of the church, just in front of the really green tree in the church yard. It looks like a black blob on top of an almost triangular blob, just on the edge of the river.

View of the Treaty Stone from King John's Castle

View from King John’s castle looking at the Treaty Stone

We moved on from the castle to St. Mary’s church, which is also a construction of the Anglo-Normans, and it is the oldest continuously used building in Limerick. Yes, it’s still a church. And, if you’ve heard of the “Bells of St. Mary’s,” this is the St. Mary’s in question. Ironically, we never really heard the bells.

Sister and father admire their handy work.

Dad and sister together completed the masonry puzzle designed for children.

However, the church itself was worth the visit. It’s a very strange hodgepodge, clearly its primary purpose is as a church, and while they are glad of visitors, and there are some interpretational signs about, there’s also stuff just shoved in a corner and covered with tarps, that give this sense of a college dorm where the tenants have hidden stuff just before mom and dad came to visit. The dust on the cover just tell you that they didn’t need to get anything there, it was mostly stuff that no one quite knew what to do with, and were glad it was out of the way and not bothering anyone on a daily basis.

Dad did not seem particularly impressed with the place, and I’m not sure why. I figured a church would be right p his alley.

We spent some time puttering about in the church yard, which has a graveyard which is still in use. The older parts of the church yard are in the front, and, naturally, within the church itself.

St. Mary's Church, with a really inconvenient tree.

St. Mary’s Church, with a really inconvenient tree.

After St. Mary’s, we were heading to the Hunt Museum, which had a convenient cafe, which we’d agreed would be a place to rest a bit, and have a bite to eat, and then we’d tour the place.

Only a few steps from the church, but back onto the mainland from King’s Island, we arrived at The Hunt Museum. A place at which I took absolutely zero pictures. So, I’ll use one from the public domain.

Picture by Roland Czaczyk

The Hunt Museum. Home to one of the most eclectic collections I’ve seen.

The exhibits were the private collection of the Hunt family. John and Gertrude Hunt were prominent art and antique dealers, and not wanting their unique collection to be broken up, donated it to the city.

As we arrived, we bought our tickets, and were offered a guide to give us a free, personal tour. Forgetting that we’d all agreed we wanted to sit a bit, and get some food, suddenly, we had a guide, and we weren’t slowing down. For the next hour or so, we followed our very knowledgeable guide, who really added to our experience of the collection, but, by the end, my feet wanted to fall off.

We headed back to the hotel, stopping at Tesco’s for some necessary items, and had dinner from the Hotel’s restaurant, which was actually a very good way to spend our last night in Limerick. Well, until we would return before returning home. But, that’s another story.