Ireland is a land filled with true magic. It permeates the earth, promising untold wonders if you will only search just a bit deeper. Lough Gur, in County Limerick, may be the most magical place of all.
Long before Ireland became the ‘Land of Saints and Scholars’, it was the land of Druids and Celts. Stone age, and later Bronze age, peoples who arrived on the verdant shores and found a place that called to them spiritually.
Some of Ireland’s oldest monuments and tombs lie near Lough Gur. As far back as 3000BC, this area has been inhabited by people who left megalithic stone work, great stone circles, early Bronze objects and beaker pottery.
Exploring Lough Gur
The best place to begin your tour of Lough Gur is at the Visitor’s Center on the banks of the lough. Stepping through the door of this low, thatch roof building draws you back in time, thousands of years, when the lough circled the island of Knockadoon. Here you’ll see a diorama of what the area may have looked like when first inhabited, a replica of the Sun Shield of Lough Gur and actual artifacts removed from the marshy ground when the lake was lowered. Take the time to watch a quick video of the area before you explore- it will help you better understand the amazing history you will trod across.
Lough Gur: Enchanting Beauty, Mystical Surroundings
Even if I were to describe, bit by bit, the incredible area of Lough Gur, no words can adequately share the experience of exploring an area with so much history. Just beyond the visitor’s center, as you begin your climb to Carraig Crothera (Hangman’s Rock), you’ll see the outlines of houses built by Neolithic people. From atop the hill you’ll have views of the top of Bouchiers Castle, the hill of Knockadoon and the Red Cellar Cave- a known entrance to faerieland. At the Wishing Seat,make a pledge to your love and know that, no matter what may part you, you will come back together and live happily ever after. If you happen to visit on a moonlit night in a 7th year, you may meet Gearoid Iarla, 3rd Earl of Desmond, who lives beneath the waters of the lake. It is said that “every seven years he rides around the lake margin on his white horse, shod with silver shoes. When the shoes are finally worn, he will regain his mortal form and restore the glory of the Desmonds.” (from Folklore and Literature at Lough Gur)
Just down the road lies the Giant’s Grave, a Megalithic stone structure that was used as a burial site for the people of Knockadoon. The nearby “New Church”- built in 1679- is not far from ‘Mass Rock’, where Catholics would meet secretly to hear the Gospels.
One of Lough Gur’s most mystical places is the Grange Stone Circle. By foot, it is across the lough and over the hill from Knockadoon; a pilgrimage for the lake’s inhabitants, and the many others who came here to worship. Massive entry stones are actually opposite the tourist entry- I recommend a walk around the outside of the circle to enter properly. Directly across from the entry stones is what appears to be an altar, where remnants of broken pottery and small bone fragments have been found. On the ‘offering stone’, which is nearly 5 feet tall, you’ll find flowers and coins. It is dwarfed by Rannach Crom Dubh, the largest stone in the circle.
Touring Lough Gur
With so much to see, it’s very easy to spend a day at Lough Gur and still miss something. I highly recommend planning to join a guided tour, or arranging one of your own. If a tour doesn’t fit into your schedule, or you prefer self-discovery, be sure pick up an i-Trails map at the visitor’s center or download a .pdf or MP3 before your trip. This is one place you don’t want to visit without plenty of information handy!
Lough Gur Heritage Center open daily
Weekdays (Monday through to Friday) 10am – 5pm
Weekends and bank holidays 12 noon to 6pm.
Admission: Adults €3, children €2. Family tickets €10.
Note: Lough Gur is a cash only facility.
Links to i-Trails downloads are available free at LoughGur.com
Plan to spend a full afternoon- if not a day- exploring the wonders of Lough Gur.
Lough Gur is an easy drive from Limerick and Bruff. I recommend lodging at The Old Bank B&B.
© 2012, Jody Halsted. All rights reserved.