County Limerick: A Whimsical Irish Retreat

If you were to ask me to name the place in Ireland that sounds most whimsical, most intriguing, and the most fun, I would have to say County Limerick. Not only is the natural beauty and architecture stunning, but the age and mystery of its landscape adds considerably to its appeal. Some of the best sights you will see are in Adare; among them is the stately Victorian home known as Finnitterstown House. For the right price, you can actually rent this rustic lodge for a certain amount of time; just check their website. Finnitterstown’s setting is pure Ireland; huge open fields and peaceful willows that provide a perfect place to soak in County Limerick’s beauty.

The cottages of Adare are a wonderful sight; the simple architecture will pluck you out of the 21st century and plop you down firmly in centuries past. Many people think of these small thatched homes when they think of Ireland, and Adare’s collection of historical homes certainly won’t disappoint you. Like Finnitterstown, you also stay at some of these cottages periodically. Adare is home to an old crumbling fortress known appropriately as Adare Castle. It dates from medieval times, and though time has not been kind to its walls, it still provides an eerie historical sight. Many are hopeful that the castle will soon be repaired and revitalized to provide a greater experience for locals and travelers alike.

Adare Manor is not to be missed. If you have a picture in your mind of a cold stone castle with sharp turrets, high imposing walls, and gothic architecture, this is the place. Now a great stop for comfortable lodging, Adare Manor is a terrific place from which to enjoy the beauty of Limerick. This hotel was actually named one of the “Great Hotels of the World.” If golf is your thing, you’ll find it mentioned quite a bit here; the attached golf course is truly a wonder, resembling a cluster of manmade lakes and adding to the manor’s intrigue. Adare Manor had its origins in the mid-19th century and is one of the most popular stays in this region of Ireland.

If you like old churches and monasteries, Adare is the place for you. The Black Abbey can be found in the village, and is a great religious attraction. Originally begun in the early 14th century, it has been renovated and is ready to receive a steady stream of tourists. Inside you will find simple but elegant pews, wall coverings, and huge arched doorways that bring the cathedrals of Europe to mind. Unfortunately, the Franciscan Friary of Adare is contrasted sharply; the opposite of Black Abbey’s relative strength, the Friary is old and crumbling, covered with vegetation. It was begun in the 1400s. Despite its poor condition, a walk through the Friary gives you a sense of adventure; the beautiful stone arches and walls rising above the carpet of grass look like something out of a medieval tale.

Still haven’t had your fill of castles? Try Fanningstown Castle. Though not located in Adare, it can be found in County Limerick and it should be easy to get transportation. Like most old castles, it had its birth pangs in the times when Englishmen tried to fortify their foreign lands. In this case, the Fitzgerald family was responsible for Fanningstown’s origins. Over the years as it changed and grew, it became an icon of the region. There was actually a Fanning family connected with the castle, thus giving it the name it now holds. Fanningstown Castle is now an inn of sorts and offers many quiet places to sit and relax. Since this *is* Ireland, it will probably rain considerably during your visit, so it’s nice to know there are places like Fanningstown where you can relax until the weather relents.

For a castle that seems unhindered by the passing of centuries, don’t forget to check out King John’s Castle. The huge round towers and soaring walls seem to fit our fantasies of medieval fortresses. It was built in the 13th century and completed throughout the 14th, but it doesn’t look a day over two hundred! If you like stunning views, remember to see the River Shannon meandering lazily beside the castle. The fortress itself is not the only attraction: You can also see ruins of medieval homes, old walls and fortifications, and much more.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer

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