We have a joke in Ireland about summer being our favourite day of the year. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it has to be said that Ireland isn’t the driest or sunniest place in the world. So when that blue sky rolls along, the sun shines bright and the temperatures hit the high teens (yes, you read that right), you can bet your ass the pasty brigade will be out in force.
Every good weather day in Ireland has to be taken advantage of. And that means…
It was time to finally check out Lough Gur, a little place not too far away that I’d been hearing about for years, but never got around to. Being a short drive from Limerick City, it’s perfect for a day trip. Picnic in hand, off we headed.
It’s crazy how quickly the city of Limerick turns into lush green countryside. Within half an hour, we were already pulling over at our first destination:
Grange Stone Circle
I was so surprised when I found out that Western Europe’s largest and oldest stone circle was so close to where I live. Sitting right next to the road on the western side of Lough Gur, the stone circle is on private property, but the landowner is more than happy to show it to the growing number of tourists that rock up. Timothy Casey rambles on in a barely-intelligible drawl (even to other Irish people), but his passion for the history of the land is clear. He only asks for a small donation to help with the upkeep of the fencing and the circle itself. His disbelief at my offer of a fiver goes to show that he really doesn’t get much from the other visitors. As a way of thanks, he gave us a postcard of the summer solstice taken at the circle. I really wanted to offer to take a better picture to replace the blurry mess he has, but it was really sweet of him, so I kept quiet!
The Grange Stone Circle is around 4000 years old – that’s older that the later portions of Stonehenge, for reference. Neolithic pottery has been found inside it and it’s believed that it is aligned with the festival of Samhain, the ancient Irish start of winter (and the precursor to Hallowe’en!). Apparently, locals don’t like to go there at night because of the spirits that still live there. Nothing spooky about it in the bright sunlight!
The circle is also home to some seriously cute calves.
Spring flowers, warm sunshine and a dose of incredible Irish history = major photo shoot ops.
Another 15 minutes drive around the lake takes you to stop number 2:
Lough Gur & Knockadoon Hill
Lough Gur is a really popular hang-out spot for locals and tourists alike, so it’s no surprise it was pretty busy on such a nice day. The small lake is surrounded by rolling green hills and a whole lot more history. The Heritage Centre has displays on the story of pre-Celtic settlers in the area dating back 6000 years, as well as reconstructions of dwellings from that era. While we didn’t visit the Centre, the stroll around the lake and up Knockadoon Hill was more than enough to keep us occupied for a few hours.
While the walk up the hill by the lake might only take 20 minutes, you’ll feel the burn in your legs (Just us? Okay…). But that’ll be completely forgotten the moment you crest the summit and see Lough Gur lying below. The many shades of the Irish countryside stretch out for miles and miles, right up to the blue mountains sitting on the distant horizon. It’s simply breathtaking.
I love how Ireland keeps reminding me how gorgeous it is, something I often forget when I’m exploring abroad.
Love to get great Instagrammable shots? Lough Gur’s got you covered. Lake shores, wizened trees and crumbling stone walls abound…it’s paradise for photographers of any level.
On your way home, make sure to check out the small wedge tomb, graveyard and church ruin, all along that windy country road before the lake.
Lough Gur is only ~20km from Limerick City. Head straight out the R512. Signs for Lough Gur can be seen while still in the city limits, so just follow these and they’ll take you the whole way.
Stay on the R512 if you want to visit the Grange Stone Circle first. There’s a small area to park on the left of the road, with signs marking the spot. The farmer who owns the land asks for a small donation towards the upkeep of the site.
The Heritage Centre is open 7 days a week. Hours vary depending on the time of year: in summer it’s open 10am-5pm Monday to Friday and 12-6pm Saturday-Sunday. Tickets are 5euro for an adult, 4 for seniors or students, and 3 for children. The grounds around the lake are free to walk around.
What do you think of Lough Gur? Looks like a gorgeous road trip destination on a sunny day, doesn’t it? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.
I'm a traveller and zoologist who is passionate about seeing the world and the incredible creatures who inhabit it. I love planning new adventures, working with wildlife around the world and promoting ethical animal encounters and volunteer opportunities.
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