Limerick: the not-so-gritty city is one of Ireland’s overlooked gems

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This handsome city on the west coast has atmospheric waterside pubs, medieval architecture, and a passion for sport and the performing arts

A fresh Atlantic breeze blows up the estuary and rustles through a thicket of young lime trees by the Treaty Stone, the rock that witnessed the end of the Williamite war in the autumn of 1691. Just ahead, a seven-arch limestone bridge spans the Shannon River as far as the thick barrel towers of King John’s Castle. To the right, Limerick City’s quays and avenues bustle with new bars, hotels and restaurants. It’s a scene that contrasts starkly with the damp, smoky cityscape depicted in Frank McCourt’s book Angela’s Ashes.

Yet McCourt’s 1996 Pulitzer prize-winning memoir is not the only printed word out of touch with the 21st-century Treaty City. In 2021, the business magazine Forbes retracted an article that failed to meet its own editorial standards when it published a profile piece about John and Patrick Collison, founders of financial software company Stripe, who grew up near the city. The article described Limerick as some sort of gritty, gun-slinging frontier town. To some extent, this was understandable: the city is often treated as a whipping boy for urban felonies in Irish media, decades after a criminal family feud had ended.

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