Less than three hours from Dublin, this enchanting Shannon region is straight out of a fairy tale. Boasting cultural and historical treasures, rural villages, traditional Irish pubs and authentic medieval castles, fall truly is a remarkable time to visit.
If you always fancied to be part of the fairy-tale at Shannon Heritage your wishes are granted as you find yourself immersed in the world of Ladies and Lords, gracefully welcoming you to the medieval times where you get to wine and dine at the Medieval Banquets. The experience is so real that when you do leave, you find yourself lusting to be called my Lady or my Lord. Here we reveal our 36-Hours Guide to Shannon Heritage, what to see, where to eat, sleep and become part of the story.
36-Hours Guide to Shannon Heritage
Day 1: Morning
Explore the Bunratty Castle
One of Ireland’s most authentic medieval castles, the Bunratty Castle stands on what was once a Viking camp in 970. In total four castles were built on the site and the last version was built in 1425 and restored in 1954.
Over the course of its life the castle changed owners, was destroyed and restored numerous times until it was added to the Irish Tourist Board and Shannon Development portfolio and opened to the public in 1962.
Inside the castle visitors can experience a real life museum and admire its medieval splendour which dates to the 15th and 16th-century. In the evening guests can enjoy a Medieval Banquet which takes place in the dining room set on the top level of the castle.
For more information on the Bunratty Castle’s opening hours click here.
Walk around the Folk Park
The Folk Park surrounding the Bunratty Castle is a fantastic open-air museum featuring 35 buildings which portray the Irish life and homes dating back to the 19th-century.
We walked through the rural farmhouses, village shops and streets which are examples of what life was like in those days. The buildings have been brought here from all the corners of Ireland.
The fishermen’s houses were painted with vibrant colours so that the men would not loose track of the shore when they went out fishing. They knew how to spot their house from the colours and size.
Along the way we met costumed characters that recreated the lifestyle of the village life. We met a lovely school teacher who taught us the basics of Gaelic.
The one sentence you must remember he said is Cád é Shin translating as What is that — in reply you will get your answer and can improve your knowledge of Gaelic. We also learned how to play the bodhran, a handheld frame drum which can vary in size but is round. Inside the bakery you can learn about the traditional bread and scone making and try a piece – of course.
Enjoy a cup of coffee at Mr O’Regan’s
Lunch at Durty Nelly’s Bar & Restaurant
After a wonderful excursion of the Bunratty Castle and the Folk Park we headed towards the Durty Nelly’s Bar & Restaurant set just off the entrance to the castle and park. This original Irish pub was established in 1620 and for over 400 years it has entertained visitors under its roof.
Ireland is a land of storytellers and over the centuries tales have been told, passing down from generation to generation.
Durty Nelly was a welcoming hostess and a passionate charmer, a keeper of the toll-bridge over the river Owengarey that flowed right past her window on its way to join Shannon.
The door to her house of strange happenings was always open and tales of her hospitality and comfort had found a place in many legends told. She was also renowned for the special corner in the house known as sheen — where she kept her secret jar of whiskey that would bring her fame and fortune one day. Indeed the drink became miraculous as a cure to help men act and feel like the man of every woman’s dreams. With this she gave hope to millions and a new meaning to life.
Durty Nelly’s hospitality has found its immortality and the legend lives on at this cozy bar and restaurant where we enjoyed fantastic lunch. In fact I had the most delicious mussels cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce. The mussels are delivered daily from Kinvara, County Galway and they are treated in a special way until they adjust to the water in which they are transported in. We also learned how to pull the perfect pint of Guinness which pairs perfectly with mussels I must say.
Craggaunowen — Ireland’s Living Past Experience
After a heartfelt lunch at Durty Nelly’s we arrived at Craggaunowen for an amusing afternoon to discover and explore the lives of the Celtic ancestors which is recreated in this award-wining pre-historic park. On the 50 acres of wooded grounds we visited the homesteads and admired the artefacts which dated to over 1,000 years old.
Our hosts, dressed as the early Bronze Age settlers took us around and explained the daily procedures of the Celts, how they hunted, cooked for large numbers and held meetings to discuss the everyday events.
The imposing 16th century Craggaunowen Castle stands proudly on a crag overlooking the lake and if you take a few steps further you can admire the impressive stone creation built in 1550, peeking through the lush green trees.
We also entered inside a Ring Fort which are circular huts that were used as farmhouses where daily activities were performed. To cook for large numbers the hunters would use a method known as the Fulacht Fia — where large quantities of heat shattered stones were used to boil the water and cook the meat.
So who really discovered America long before Columbus reached the land? On the grounds of Craggaunowen you can visit the boat which Timothy Severin, an English explorer and author used to put the old yarn to test as he sailed in this unique vessel to discover the New World.
A legend about St. Brendan and his fellow missionaries has it that they sailed on their curragh — a skin-covered boat as far as the western Atlantic to the “Land Promised to the Saints”. It is believed that this legend guided the early explores towards the western horizon.
For more information on the Craggaunowen’s opening hours click here.
Medieval Banquet at Knappogue Castle
Relive the lifestyle of the medical Ireland by joining one of the banquets held in a real castle — a highlight of the Shannon Region. For our unique evening of entertainment we made our way to the Knappogue Castle. Greeted by the Earl’s Butler and the Ladies of the castle we where escorted to the Dalcassian Hall where we enjoyed a brief introduction and a goblet of mead (honey wine).
An evening of lavish entertainment and warm hospitality included singing, dancing, feasting and Irish craic.
The Earl’s Butler recalled the history of the Castle and the ‘Rules of Chivalry’ practiced at Knappogue Castle meaning that a noble Lord should only look at his lady. In case the rules were breached, dire consequences followed.
For starters we enjoyed smoked salmon which gives wisdom, followed by a tomato and basil soup, chicken cooked in a Veronique sauce served with creamed potatoes and roasted vegetables. To top of the delicious meal we had a fantastic Rastin Apple & Cinnamon Crunch. There was also plenty of free flowing red and white wine.
Day 2: Morning
Breakfast at Limerick Strand Hotel
We stayed at the four star Limerick Strand Hotel situated right in the heart of the city overlooking the River Shannon and the surroundings. Our spacious Superior Family Room was on the Executive floor, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows. There was a double bed and two single beds. The room had a work desk, safe box, tea and coffee making facilities, iron/ironing board and complimentary Wi-Fi.
The bathroom featured a bathtub and a separate shower cabin, including bathrobes and slippers.
Breakfast is served at the river restaurant and the buffet menu features a selection of cereals, hot items including the famous Irish black and white pudding, omelettes made to order, a selection of cheeses, cold cuts and freshly cut fruits.
You can also enjoy a choice of fresh breads baked in the hotel’s in-house bakery.
King John’s Castle
After breakfast we headed towards the heart of Limerick and had an interactive tour of the King John’s Castle.
A 13th-century castle which received a complete makeover was re-opened to the public in 2013. Inside you will find everything from touch-screen technology and 3D models which explain the 800 years of dramatic history.
We had to compete a test by writing down pieces of information that we could find throughout the guided tour.
The outdoor courtyard features scenes from the seventeenth century siege. We also went up to the top from where you can experiences 360 degrees views of the city of Limerick.
After our tour we enjoyed a coffee and croissants at the visitor’s centre cafe.
This was my first time participating in an escape room mission and I loved the experience. Our group was split into two and we had the Pirates Room to escape from a sinking ship (60 minutes to complete). We successfully completed our mission and escaped. Great team work!
Sourdough bread making and lunch at Limerick Strand Hotel
We then enjoyed a soup and sandwiches lunch before we said goodbye to our friends and took the 5:30pm train into Dublin.
Shannon is still one of those off-the-beaten-path places which has not yet been discovered by the masses. Breathtaking scenery, majestic castles, warm hospitality and inspiring stories are just a few of the reasons why you should visit Shannon.
This trip was organized by Shannon Heritage as part of the TBEX Ireland conference.
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