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King John’s Castle Visit

Hello and welcome to this weekend’s walk .

Some say that Limerick is stronger and more beautiful than all the other cities of Ireland, well walled with stout walls of hewn marble…So, come along with me to this ancient city and visit one of its most iconic sites – King John’s castle.

King Johns Castle, also known as Limerick Castle, is a 13th-century castle located on Kings Island on the banks of the river Shannon. The castle is in the care of the nation and several years ago it was extensively refurbished and opened to visitors so we can visit nowadays.

Although the site dates back to 922 when the Vikings lived on the Island, the castle itself was built on the orders of King John around the year 1200. Nowadays the castle is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Europe… the walls, towers and fortifications remain today and we can walk in the same footsteps as our ancestors. The remains of an earlier Viking settlement were uncovered during archaeological excavations at the site in 1900. The Viking king, Tomrair mac Ailchi, built the first permanent Viking stronghold on the site in 922. He used the base to raid the length of the River Shannon, pillaging ecclesiastical settlements.

However , over the years the power of the Vikings diminished and they were reduced to the level of a minor clan, but the arrival of the Anglo-Normans to the area in 1172 changed everything. The Anglo-Normans finally captured the area in 1195 under John , The Lord of Ireland and in 1197 Limerick was given its first charter and its first Mayor, Adam Sarvant .

The castle, built on the orders of King John and bearing his name, was completed around 1210.

Righto, lets pay our admission fee and take a look around. The first rooms that we visit traces the history of the Castle. We learn that castle was built on the boundary of the River Shannon in order to protect the city from the Gaelic kingdoms to the west and from any rebellion by Norman lords to the east and south and acted as a watchdog on any cargo passing through the port of Limerick. By this time the city was divided into an area and became known as “English Town” on King’s Island, while another settlement, named “Irish Town” had grown on the south bank of the river.

The town of Limerick became so wealthy during this era that King John set up a mint in the Northwest corner of the castle, with pennies and half pennies from this time available to see in Limerick museum today.

The castle endured many battles and skirmishes and we are told that the walls of the castle were severely damaged in the 1642 siege of Limerick, the first of five sieges of the city in the 17th century. In 1642, the castle was occupied by Protestants fleeing the Rebellion of 1641 and was besieged by an Irish Confederate force under Garret Barry. Barry undermined the walls of King John’s Castle by digging away their foundations. Those inside surrendered just before Barry collapsed the walls. However, such was the damage done to the wall’s foundations that a section of them had to be pulled down afterward.

Let’s now head out into the keep and take a look from the walls. This gives us a real sense of life in the castle over the centuries and dotted around are several workshops that demonstrate the various skills from long ago. You can try your hand at stone carving, metal smithing and rope making to name a few and there is a bard on hand playing the harp if you want to hear a tune or two !

We could spend all day here exploring the castle, there is so much to see and do and immerse ourselves in the history of the place.

As we can see there is a fine shop – well stocked with Connemara marble items I must add and a lovely tearoom. Its high time for a refreshing cup of tea and a little retail therapy, don’t you think ??

Thanks for coming with me today and see you next weekend .


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