Like other Munster cities right now, Limerick is on the cusp of a more promising tourism tide. While the city originally seemed a little forlorn on the Wild Atlantic Way marketing map, earlier this month it was announced as an official gateway to the region, marking the area's rightful place along Ireland’s most iconic road-trip route.
And it’s a very welcome news boost with Limerick experiencing one of the lowest hotel booking rates in the country for this summer. That all means some great value right now. So to take advantage of some pretty attractive deals, I booked a room at one of the city’s most popular accommodations, The Strand Hotel to treat myself to a long-awaited return trip to the Treaty City.
I arrive in Limerick during a spate of this gorgeous summer weather and the city has never looked more inviting. Driving down Henry Street — the largest Georgian district outside of Dublin — rows of townhouses and doorway pops of colour almost remind me of the historic brownstones of Boston or Philadelphia (I know, maybe I've been at home too long).
Across the Shannon, The Strand hotel immediately impresses with that enviable riverfront frontage. The four-star property was built in 2007, so it does bear a Celtic Tiger pedigree which initially lends itself to a slightly sterile lobby vibe, but friendly staff and oodles of natural light soon promised a brighter forecast.
After booking a deluxe double online, I was upgraded at check-in to a junior suite located on the hotel’s loftier floors. The room has a plush penthouse apartment feel; a cosy king bed surrounded by floor to ceiling windows, with sofas and swivel chairs in teal and mustard offering splashes of colour along the riverscape.
But what really wows is the room’s wrap-round balcony which allows guests to lounge in luxury and enjoy those panoramic views, from King's John's Castle to the historic Shannon Rowing Club, in all weathers. It must be noted, that all balconies are collectively, rather than individually contained, so gossip and 'confessions' will travel, but it still ranks as one of the most unique hotel rooms I’ve stayed in Ireland and certainly offers one of the most impressive city views.
The Strand puts Limerick and local on the menu. I ate at the hotel's very aesthetically appealing River Bar & Restaurant which has just reopened following a €400K makeover. It has a lively atmosphere; with a mix of couples and families all enjoying a long-awaited meal out (and that Euro 2020 final on the evening I was there).
Beyond the impressive interiors, what strikes me first is that the restaurant’s menu is covered by an actual newsletter about its producers, really showing the culinary team's commitment to local ingredients. It pays off. I enjoyed a super fresh starter of Burren Smokehouse with garden greens followed by grilled Toonsbridge halloumi with marinated new spuds. Breakfast the next morning offered more typical, though local, buffet fare.
As I don’t eat eggs or bacon, sometimes I’d like to see Irish hotels offering a little more variety to their bain-marie offerings — such as potato hashes, breakfast cassoulets or wilted spinach.
The Strand invitingly sits on the banks of Limerick’s very strollable city centre. During my whistle-stop tour, I paid a visit to the always-pleasing Hunt Museum to experience its new (and fortuitously timed) A Wild Atlantic Way exhibition, which showcases the seaboard from Malin to Mizen through art from Jack B Yeats to Paul Henry.
Elsewhere in the medieval centre, King John's Castle surely ranks as one of Ireland’s finest urban attractions while you can pair your visit with a trip to the Treaty City Brewery just around the corner. More active visitors can enjoy kayaking (and even night kayaking) with Nevsail Watersports while coffee buffs should be sure to add Rift Coffee to their itinerary.
The Strand does local, Limerick luxury so well. I found the hotel ticked my top trinity of criteria for a great stay; namely friendly staff, a fine room with a view and tasty dining which supports local producers. Crucially, it joins the growing fold of Irish hotels which really connect you with your surroundings, whether you opt to venture out — or stay in. B&B rates from €148 with those wow-factor suites from €308.
To really feel the heartbeat of historic Limerick, check in to gorgeous No.1 Pery Square in the city’s Georgian quarter. The boutique hotel offers a selection of seductive period rooms while also featuring some of the best dining options in the city with The Long Room and Sash. This summer, the hotel has an attractive Hike & Spa on the Wild Atlantic Way package which offers two nights B&B with dinner on one evening, a picnic of local foods, entry to the Hunt Museum and a massage at the hotel’s Heritage Spa per guest; from €558 per stay with B&B rates from €270
For some five-star finesse in the city centre, consider booking the recently revamped Savoy Hotel on Henry Street. The Summer Breeze deal offers a one-night luxury B&B stay with welcome cocktail in the hotel’s Champagne Garden and a three-course dinner from €281 per couple. Guests can also unwind at the Savoy’s soothing VB Spa while the hotel’s popular Hamptons Bar & Grill is also set to reopen later this summer following a makeover;