Built in the 1200's on King John's orders, the castle is well preserved. Right on the banks of the Shannon, it was designed to defend the river crossing, and the views of Limerick and the river from the ramparts make it worth the visit. A museum is attached and several archaeological digs are underway in main courtyard. The museum and the castle won't take more than a few hours to explore and then you can take the 5 minute walk over to St Mary's Cathedral, the other must see sight in Limerick.
I had a personal connection I wasn't aware of until recently. My grandfather was housed in the temporary city built within the courtyard during the potato famine.
Note: A cousin just emailed me that I have been calling the castle St. John's rather than King John's. Talk about Ugly Americans! Sorry Seamus - never my intent to deify anyone, especially old King John!
King John's Castle was built in the 1200s to guard the bridge over the River Shannon and town of Limerick, but was heavily damaged during the Great Siege of 1642. It has been extensively rebuilt and is now a museum and interpretive center. There are numerous historical reinactors in the castle demonstrating trades and traditions from the 1500s.
This was my first castle. Ever! Yes, till I came to Limerick, I've never been to a real castle before, the hodgepodge that Dublin Castle is today nonewithstanding. I was surprised by how small it really was, for some reason I always expected a castle to be bigger. I was still enthralled by it. Just walking around it, and realizing that people walked, ate, slept, and died on these very same stones 800 years prior is mind-boggling.
The castle was originally built around 1210, on orders from England's King John. While some of it has deteriorated over the years, a large portion of the castle and its walls still remains and is open for tours. There are also several archaeological digs that are ongoing and can be visited, unearthing huts that actually predate the castle that were buried when it was being built.
Before 1200 there were large earthen defences erected on high ground to defend the river crossing. Between 1200 – 1212 King John’s Castle was planned and built. It was repaired and extended many times in the following centuries. In 1642 the Great Siege devastated Limerick and the castle. Siege mines weakened the front wall (East curtain wall) of the castle and countersiege mines carried out during the later and subsequent sieges. To date over 1,000 objects have been excavated including skeletal remains of the siege period. On show are pieces of jewellery, pottery cannon and musket balls dating to the period. A replica of a 750 year old gold stirrup ring, (the original of which will be on display in the neighbouring Civic Museum and is in mint condition) is also on display.
These passageways were apparently located beneath the castle's courtyard. In the back you can barely see a partially collapsed passageway that supposedly led to the hidden back door at the water's edge - the river Shannon is just outside the right wall in this photo.
King's Island is the original Viking settlement, it used to be known as Englishtown. King Johns Castle and St Mary's Cathedral is located on this little island in the Shannon in the heart of Limerick.
Trust me, they are so into rugby in that part of town!! :) You can follow the Medieval walks signposted around the Island. The Island isnt big but it's an integral part of Limerick city and it's history. Thomond Bridge is the bridge you see in the photo, connecting the Island to the north side of the city
King John's Castle was built in 1200-1212. The visitor's center sort of sticks out like a sore thumb from this magnificent site, but it is interesting to hear of the history of the area, and the role the castle played in it. The views from the castle walls are magnificent.
Entry is through the Visitors Centre. First you walk though a static display explaining about the castle's history, then a slide show and up to the second floor to hear a story and see some wooden carved figures (with cracks in them). Then onto a 5 min film where actors are placed in front of drawings and act out certain parts of the war against the Jacobites. Unfortunately when we watched it the picture kept sticking and the voiceover kept going.
Out to the courtyard where there are the obligitory stocks for photos and several other 'props'. Other than the brochure we were given, there were no signs to say what was what. We entered one area where a dusty figure of the king was being interviewed re the Magnacarta. Best not to look too closely as the feature was tired and cobwebby. Next we went down to the mint where similar old, tired and cobwebby props were placed. A voice recording was tripped when we entered. Sadly, this was stuck like a broken record and just stuttered over the same word, over and over and over....until we left before we went mad. We saw the diggings at the end of the courtyard, where the archiologists had been. We were so disgusted that we didn't bother with the last part. We reported the audio to the front desk, but they didn't seem very interested. Would we go again? No. Would we recommend it? No. Is it worth the 9 Euro each? NO.