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King John’s Castle In Limerick: History, Tours + Unique Features

King John’s Castle In Limerick: History, Tours + Unique Features

King John’s Castle in Limerick truly is a sight to behold.

Arguably one of the most impressive castles in Ireland, you’ll find it finely perched on a site overlooking the River Shannon.

Dating back to the 13th-century, King John’s has seen it’s fair share of action. The result? An immersive tour and plenty of unique features to explore!

Some quick need-to-knows about King John’s Castle

king john's Limerick

Photo via Shutterstock

Although a visit to King John’s Castle is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

King John’s Castle is located in the heart of Limerick, on the bank of the River Shannon, on Nicholas Street. 

2. Opening hours

King John’s Castle is open 7 days a week and opening hours vary depending on the season. There’s also, at the time of typing, time slots that you can book into.

3. Admission

Prices for the castle vary a little bit. Here’s how much entry will set you back (accurate at the time of typing):

  • Adult: €13.00
  • Child (0-3): €0.00
  • Child (4-18): €9.50
  • Family ( 2 Adult + 2 Kids): €35.50
  • Family (2 Adult + 4 Kids): €45.00
  • Family (2 Adult + Up to 6 Kids): €54.50
  • Senior + student: €9.50

A speedy history of King John’s Castle

king john's castle

Photos via Shutterstock

The history of King John’s Castle (not to be confused with the castle of the same name in Carlingford) is an interesting one.

And, although we’ll give you a speedy overview below, you’ll be fully immersed in its past during your visit.

The Vikings

The story of King John’s Castle, as is the case with many Irish castles, all begins with the Vikings…. kind of!

Although Viking raiders arrived into the waters of the Shannon Estuary during the early 9th-century, setting up a temporary camp in 861, it wasn’t until around 922 that they really set-up shop.

The location for their permanent base was King’s Island – where King John’s Castle now proudly stands. Soon after, in 937, the Vikings in Limerick were defeated by Vikings from Dublin.

They were humbled again when a number of local clans joined forces to face them and they were eventually reduced to a minor clan.

The Normans

The Anglo-Normans arrived into Limerick many years later, in 1172, marking the beginning of a turbulent time in Limerick’s history.

Two years later, in 1174, Domnall Mór, the King of Munster, had the city burned to the ground to stop it falling into the hands of the Normans. When he died in 1194 the area was eventually seized.

In 1210 a caste was constructed on the boundary of the Shannon on the orders of King John. It’s purpose was clear – to protect Limerick City from attacks launched by Irish clans and rebellious Norman Lords.

Siege of Limerick and present day

King John’s Castle kept a watchful eye over the comings and going through the port of Limerick for many years. Then the Siege of Limerick in 1642 took place.

This resulted in considerable damage being done to the walls of King John’s Castle. What made it worse was that this was the first of 5 (yes, 5!) sieges that took place.

Fast forward to the early 2000s and King John’s Castle received a wide-scale €5.7 million redevelopment. A visit here is now one of the most popular things to do in Limerick.

Things to do at King John’s Castle

There’s plenty of things to see and do in and around King John’s Castle.

Below, you’ll find info on the exhibits and the abseiling experience to games and more.

1. The Interactive Exhibition

The castle’s Interactive Exhibition immerses you in 800 years of history, from the origins of the castle to the present day.

This is done via everything from 3D models and touch screen technology to computer generated animations and more.

There’s also an activity room where kids can try on 18th-century costumes, from stunning dresses to chainmail tunics.

2. The Courtyard

After visiting the castle, make sure to also take a stroll around its spacious courtyard. This is the heart of King John’s Castle and, in medieval times, it was there where most of the castle activities took place.

Here you’ll find a blacksmith’s workshop, equipped with ancient tools and weapons, as well as siege shelters. There’s also a gatehouse where, in the past, goods of all sorts used to be delivered. 

3. Discover Castle Life

Throughout your visit to King John’s Castle, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the lives of the many people that inhabited it over the years.

Along the way, you’ll meet colourful characters like Nicholas the Master Mason and the grim Constable Roger De Lees.

They will tell you all sorts of anecdotes related to the castle life and share valuable secrets with you! 

4. Courtyard Games

During the summer months, a variety of courtyard games take place at the castle. These are games that would have been played by those living at King John’s during the Middle Ages.

Games include archery, ring toss, tug o war, horseshoe throwing, storytelling and much more.

5. The Abseiling Experience

The Abseiling Experience is one of the more unique things to do in Limerick. Yes, you can abseil down the castle’s gatehouse turret!

As you descend, you’ll be able to admire a glorious view out over the city while the Shannon flows beneath you.

Now, this experience is only on a couple of times a year so it’s worth checking their website in advance of your visit.

Things to do near King John’s Castle

One of the beauties of the castle is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Limerick.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from King John’s (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Saint Mary’s Cathedral (4-minute walk)

St Mary’s Cathedral

Photos via Shutterstock

Saint Mary’s Cathedral is the oldest building in Limerick that is still in use to this day. Over the last 850 years it has witnessed sieges, invasions, wars and famines. It’s well worth exploring.

2. Grab food in the Milk Market (12-minute walk)

There’s plenty of great restaurants in Limerick (there’s some mighty trad pubs in Limerick, too!). However, few corners of the city offer culinary delights (and history!) like the city’s beloved Milk Market.

3. Head for a ramble around the People’s Park (20-minute walk)

People's Park Limerick

Photos via Shutterstock

If you fancy escaping the hustle and bustle for a bit, take a little detour into the People’s Park. This is a gorgeous green space at the heart of the city that’s perfect for a saunter.

4. The Hunt Museum (5-minute walk)

Hunt Museum

Photos by Brian Morrison via Ireland’s Content Pool

The Hunt Museum is located in Rutland Street, in the very centre of Limerick. This museum is home to a variety of works of art, from Picasso, Renoir and Gauguin’s paintings to Celtic tools and weapons and precious ancient jewellery.

FAQs about visiting King John’s Castle

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How much is it in?’ to ‘Is it worth visiting?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is King John’s Castle worth visiting?

Yes. There’s a wealth of history to uncover here and it’s delivered via an immersive experience that’ll live on in your mind long after you leave.

What is there to see at King John’s?

There’s a surprising amount on offer from Courtyard Games and the Abseiling Experience to the Interactive Exhibition and plenty more.

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