LIMERICK, Ireland – Today was rainy, cold and often too windy for any outdoor activities, but as teachers and hardy travelers, we found some interesting and amazing sights only minutes from where we are staying in Adare. Best of all, in my mind, the place we planned to see was directly connected to writing and history.
In Maine, we live only a few minutes from the small town of Limerick. Adare, by car, is no more that 20-30 minutes from Limerick, Ireland. But best of all, we were going to visit a castle that dated back to the 13th century and along the way, I hoped to visit the streets and alleys that Frank McCourt described so eloquently in his book, Angela’s Ashes. We were not disappointed in either case.
The castle grounds is part archaeology dig, part museum, and part classroom. Indoors, out of the rain, cold, and wind, we learned about the history of the River Shannon and the people who settled here. It’s amazing to imagine coming up the river in nothing more than an open longboat and working to create a settlement on the rocky and barren shoreline. According to the museum, the first settlers came ashore in 845 a.d. and continued to expand their foothold on the land until the castle was built in the early part of the 13th century. The castle is named after King John, the Lord of Ireland who in 1200 ordered the construction of the castle and the fortification of the nearby settlement. Strangely, the castle was never finished in his lifetime, but it still bears his name.
We spent at least three or four hours at the castle and the adjacent grounds and then walked directly into the heart of the old part of Limerick. One look at the stone and timber tenement houses and I could just imagine Frank McCourt scrambling through the streets as he and his family worked to survive.
Many of the areas where he lived have now been renovated and as with other cities throughout the world, this part of the Limerick is home to small shops, restaurants, and stores catering to tourists.
We had a late lunch along the shores of the River Shannon and before long, we piled back into the car and were driving on the left-hand side of the road back to Adare. Another successful adventure.