There are several villages a short drive from Limerick which have historic attractions - Adare, Foynes, Bunratty, Croagh and Rathkeale, which is home to the Irish Palatine Heritage Centre. This is a must visit if you want to know more about the colonisation and settlement of immigrants who came from Germany. Budget B&Bs, guesthouses and three to five star accommodation is available in Adare (nine miles away), Limerick city (16 miles) and in Rathkeale, where you’ll find cheaper accommodation and a three star hotel. Rathkeale is just 30 minutes’ drive from Limerick city along the N21.
History of Irish Palatine Culture
The Irish Palatine Museum is set in an old railway station in Rathkeale, 16 miles from Limerick city. It’s a small exhibition but offers a fascinating account of the journey made by Palatine immigrants from Germany in the 1700s. In 1709 there was a mass exodus of Protestants from Germany seeking a better life abroad. Many were heading to America but became stranded in Ireland and were encouraged to stay by landlords of Irish estates to boost the Protestant population. Around 3,000 moved to rural Ireland and their descendants are still around today.
The exhibition is focused on the people of the time and is history brought to life through personal stories, anecdotes, artefacts, photographs and illustrations. The aim is to foster a sense of self among the Irish Palatine culture and their descendants, and to preserve their heritage and links to their homeland, the Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) in Germany. It is recognition for what they have contributed to Irish heritage, including farming techniques and their work helping to develop world Methodism.
The Irish Palatine Museum was set up in 1989 and is also where the archives of the Irish Palatine Association are kept. As well as the exhibitions, the museum runs tours and lectures and publishes an annual journal. It has a tea room, gift shop and parking facilities and is open to the public from May to mid-September.
Walking Breaks in Limerick County
One of the landlords who managed to get the Irish Palatine immigrants to stay in the rural area was Sir Thomas Southwell, who came from Castle Matrix near Rathkeale. He put his own money into supporting the families to stay and lobbied the government to help. By 1714 he had around 130 families living on his lands, and the regions around this area remain home to most of the Irish Palatine descendants today. If you’d like to explore their history on foot and get a sense of how they lived go to Killeheen, Ballingrane and Courtmatrix.
The Irish Palatine Museum itself is in landscaped surroundings next to an old railway track which opens out into a lovely walking area so you can explore this once you’ve seen the exhibition.
Family-Friendly Hotels in Limerick County
There is a good choice of family-friendly and adventure sports hotels in Limerick city and surrounding towns and villages like Adare, which is just nine miles away and famous for its heritage walks, golfing, thatched cottages and surrounding areas of natural beauty like Lough Gur. They can help you book trips and tours, restaurants, sporting activities and provide maps for walking/hiking tours as well as in-room comforts and additional services like a crèche or babysitting facilities to make it easier for parents to take time out.