A Visit to an Irish Castle: King John's Castle Limerick

Looking for something to do with your child in Limerick? Jill tells us why you should visit King John’s Castle Limerick, one of the great Irish castles.

King John’s Castle re-opened on Friday June 28th 2013 after a €5.7 million redevelopment programme with the same company that created the Titanic Experience in Belfast. We took our daughters aged 11 and 8 to visit the Castle and to see for ourselves what it is like.


What is it?

King John’s Castle is located on King’s Island in Limerick, Ireland, next to the River Shannon. The walls, towers and fortifications remain today, and are a visitor attraction run by Shannon Heritage. King John, the brother of Richard I of England (aka “Richard the Lionheart” famous from Robin Hood and the crusades), ordered the castle to be built but never in fact visited it.

How Shannon Heritage Describe the Castle

“The brand new tourist attraction at King John’s Castle delivers a modern visitor experience with a dramatic history of over 800 years of stories, all brought to life in a stunning new exhibition.

Touch-screen technology connect you to tales of siege and warfare. A dazzling array of computer generated imagery, animations and ghostly projections are all part of the experience. Try on historic costumes including 18th century dresses or chainmail tunics. 3D models, discovery drawers and audio visuals help you to delve into the Castle’s history.”

What did Jill and her family think of it?

king-johns-castle-exhibit1Everyone in our family thoroughly enjoyed the whole Castle visit. The exhibits are so well done, there is so much to look at, watch and read.

The exhibits take you from early Anglo-Norman times to the Siege of Limerick Castle in 1642.

On your journey there are the usual information posters to read, but the great thing about the ones at King John’s Castle is that there is text catering for younger kids printed down below.

So often museums forget that children are smaller and find it harder to read up above them!

There are touch screens to learn more about aspects of the history and there are drawers to pull out and items to look at in them with more information.

I liked the fact that there were 3 short films to watch on the way spread out throughout the exhibits so that you could take a breather listen to some history then move on to look at some more things.

king-johns-castle-please-touchThere’s plenty to cater for younger children: they can try on costumes, play games, build things, touch replica items (nice to see a Please touch! sign for a change) and run in and out of corners and even crawl through a “siege tunnel”.

We all absolutely loved the full length video screens with actors who speak to you as if you were conversing with them and share some of their story with you. These are really amazing and a great use of technology to bring history to life.

You then proceed outside to the archaeology section where you can see an original Viking house outline followed by a visit to the Great Hall foundations and then up into the towers. There are buildings and tents in the courtyard with more exhibits and people dressed in costume who can answer questions and tell you more about their lives.

Our final stop was to the nicely decorated cafe and gift shop.

If there was one quibble we had, it was that the gift shop was too full of tourist gifts, you know the type of thing that makes your heart sink. There was very little in the gift shop linked to the castle or to history or even Limerick. With the popularity of Horrible Histories amongst kids, there’s no reason why history books and cards and games wouldn’t generate just as much revenue for the shop than Guinness t-shirts and ye olde Irish shamrocke teatowels. But that really is a minor quibble for what is a resounding success.

Tell us in 5 words why we should go

True history brought to life!

Have you visited Limerick Castle lately? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below.

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