In which I meet a sweet little pony, explore an old castle and encounter a couple of bus drivers with only half a brain between them…
It was another early start for me that day with the 8.40am coach to Limerick at the head of the Shannon estuary. Never having been there before I wasn’t sure where to get off the coach when I got there but ‘Arthur’s Quay’ was named on the timetable as the last stop so I figured out that anything with ‘quay’ in its name had to be near water and I was right. The coach pulled in at one of several stops next to a small and pleasant riverside park and at the far side of the park I got my first view of the River Shannon.
Turning to the left I walked a short distance past what looked like a very short section of a canal and a canal basin and up some steps to a road bridge over the river. Looking across to the far side of the bridge I could see what appeared to be a riverside walk ; there was another road bridge further along the river leading in the direction of the castle so I decided to work my way round in a square. The tide must have been coming in and advancing up the estuary as at one point the river seemed to be flowing back on itself and was a seething mass of white-topped waves.
Looking across to the far end of the next bridge I could see a row of brightly painted cottages, good subjects for a photo or two so I went along to check them out. What I found wasn’t what I thought it was but I’ll save that for another post. A narrow road ran between the cottages and the river so I decided to walk along a short distance to see if there was anything of interest ; the road curved round to the right with a footpath to the left which I followed and came across an area of ‘almost countryside’. A vast green space was bordered on one side by the river and riverside path and across the far side by a pleasant-looking small housing estate while on the grass itself a few tethered ponies were grazing peacefully, presumably owned by someone who lived nearby. Away from the main roads it was very quiet and with the hills in the distance I could really have been right in the countryside.
A distance along the path I came across another tethered pony, a bright chestnut-coloured Shetland who seemed to want to follow me though he could only go as far as the length of his rope. Eventually the path turned to the right and there was another bridge up ahead so not knowing where I would end up I turned round there and retraced my steps. The little pony was still there, he’d knocked his bucket of food over and was snuffling along the path with his nose. He was very friendly and again he wanted to follow me so I stopped to stroke him and noticed part of one of the hedgerow plants stuck in his fringe and in danger of going in his eye – so I spent a good five minutes picking it all out while he stood there patiently and let me. He was such a little sweetheart and I would have loved to bring him home.
All the time I’d been walking the weather had been getting better and better ; the clouds were clearing, the sky was becoming a much deeper blue and the warm sunshine was even warmer. By the time I’d got back to the main road I was feeling quite peckish – my early breakfast had worn off so I went back across the bridge to Jack Monday’s Coffee House where I had a nice early lunch on the terrace overlooking the river then retraced my steps again to the castle at the other end of the bridge.
King John’s Castle, next to the River Shannon, was built at the beginning of the 13th century on the orders of King John, brother of Richard the Lionheart, and is one of the best preserved castles in Europe. Between 2011 and 2013 it underwent a massive redevelopment to improve the visitor facilities and now has a new visitor centre and shop, interactive exhibitions and a café with views of the courtyard and river, with a self-guided tour leading through a modern exhibition to the castle itself.
From the castle I had no clear idea of where I was going so I just followed the narrow street from the visitor centre and eventually came to St. Mary’s Cathedral. A short distance from there along a main road was St. Mary’s Catholic Church (very confusing) and these two churches will feature in a following post. Round the corner from the cathedral was a pleasant pedestrianised area leading to the riverside where I found Limerick’s 1916 Commemorative Garden and fountain, then a little way from there I came to Merchants Quay where a handful of colourful dinghies were pulled up on a little beach set back off the river.
From Merchants Quay the main road took me across the River Abbey close to where it joined the Shannon. I was heading into the city centre there and though I wasn’t interested in looking round any shops I thought I’d have a wander round a few of the streets, eventually arriving back at the riverside at the far side of the road bridge where I’d started my walk. Set back in a cobblestone circle was the statue of a man perched on a chair but there didn’t seem to be any indication as to who it was supposed to be ; it was only once I’d got back home that a quick bit of research told me it was a statue of Limerick-born tv and radio presenter Terry Wogan, unveiled in 2017. Well I don’t know who the sculptor was but to my mind it didn’t look much like Terry Wogan at all.
Back at the other side of the bridge, and close to Arthur’s Quay Park, I took my final shot of the Shannon. The tide had crept in further in the five hours I’d been exploring and the river was now calm and level with no sign of the turbulent waves I’d seen before. Through the park I went back to the bus stop where I’d got off the coach that morning – and that’s where the fun began, with two bus drivers who didn’t seem to have much of a clue, however it’s a long story so I’ll save that for another post.
Eventually I arrived back in Roscrea and to a lovely meal which Nellie had made for me. Apart from the coach journey back, which I’d actually found quite amusing, my day out to Limerick had proved to be very interesting ; it was a nice place, and since being back home I’ve found out there are lots more places there which I can explore so no doubt it will be somewhere else I return to in the future when the opportunity arises.