News and Events

King John’s Castle is a visitor magnet for Limerick and Shannon Region

Press Release

Castle revamp doubles visitor numbers and exceeds all expectations

King John’s Castle in Limerick recorded a major growth surge, doubling its visitor numbers since reopening its doors following a €6 million revamp. The results were revealed today (Friday 29th November 2013) at the official opening of King John’s Castle in Limerick by Michael Noonan TD., Minister for Finance.

King John’s Castle a ‘Jewel in the Crown’
Funding of €4.7 million for the revamp of the Castle was provided by Fáilte Ireland with the remainder coming from Shannon Development. Acknowledging the phenomenal success
of the attraction Minister Noonan said: “In the newly redeveloped King John’s Castle we have an iconic visitor attraction to rival any around the world. It is the jewel in Limerick’s portfolio of visitor attractions and a fitting testament to the versatility and resilience of the people of Limerick, and captures their story in a new and imaginative way. Limerick is experiencing a renaissance with the city’s future clearly mapped in the Limerick 2030 Vision Plan and an exciting programme launched for Limerick’s reign as Ireland’s first City of Culture. I am confident that together these complementary initiatives will create a lasting legacy by stimulating additional tourist numbers and revenue and generating new growth opportunities into the future.”

Doubling of Visitor Numbers
In the first four months since reopening its doors on the 28th June this year, the revamped visitor attraction has welcomed over 40,000 visitors from Ireland and overseas.
When compared to the same period in previous years this represents a doubling of visitor numbers.

Commenting on the positive results, John Ruddle, Chief Executive, Shannon Heritage, Ireland’s largest operator of tourist attractions, said: “We are delighted with visitor numbers to-date at King John’s Castle which have exceeded our expectations. We have had more visitors in the first four months since reopening than we would normally have in a full year. We see this as only the start and are very ambitious about growing the visitor numbers to both the Castle and Limerick city generally. Growth indications are very strong for 2014, with international tour operators showing a keen interest in the Castle and we will be working closely with Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to maximise this potential.”

Job Creation
Over 100 construction jobs were created during the redevelopment of the Castle and 27 jobs thereafter at the visitor attraction.

Speaking at the event Aidan Pender Director of Strategic Development, Fáilte Ireland said: “We were very happy to make this significant investment in King John’s Castle. Our history and heritage are particularly appealing to overseas visitors and already the refurbished site here is proving to be a big draw. This refurbished building is the bricks and mortar manifestation of the fact that tourism is recovering in the Mid-West and represents Fáilte Ireland’s commitment to ensuring that there are plenty of reasons for visitors to come, and indeed return to Limerick this year, and into the future.” 

National and international visitors will enjoy a brand new Castle experience that brings together the Castle’s remarkable history and archaeology through 21st century
technology to create a new journey of discovery into the history of Limerick and King John’s Castle. Colour, pageantry and spectacle marked the Castle’s reopening event with costumed characters in the courtyard depicting what life was like in the Castle during its turbulent history. Stilt walkers medieval musicians and a jester added to the celebrations.

The new Castle attraction provides a time-travel experience which uses the latest technology to give people a unique opportunity to explore Limerick and the Castle as never before.

It is an exciting ultra modern visitor experience with a dramatic history of over 800 years of stories. There is a stunning ‘looking glass’ exhibition area which provides a window to the past. Here people can walk through the historical exhibitions with people outside able to look in and people inside will be able to look out.

The Castle will be open all year round (closing for 3 days over the Christmas period).  Admission prices are being held at 2012 rates - adults €9.00; seniors €6.65; children under 5 will have free admission; family rate (2 adults and 2 children) €20.60; (2 adults and up to 6 children) €23.50. Tickets can be purchased at the site or booked online at the newly revamped Shannon Heritage website www.shannonheritage.com

 

Notes to Editor

About the Redevelopment:
The King John’s Castle redevelopment project is being supported by Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport through a grant of €4.7 million, with the balance of the funding being met by Shannon Development.

About the Visitor Experience at King John’s Castle:
Touch screen technology connects visitors to exciting tales of siege and warfare. A dazzling array of computer generated imagery, animations and ghostly projections are all part of this remarkable experience. Its cutting-edge audio visuals and 3D models all combine to help visitors delve into the Castle’s history. Discovery drawers unveiling Castle treasure,  a cannon game, a treasure hunt and a Siege street in the Castle courtyard are just a few of the surprises which visitors can expect. They can try on historic costumes - 18th century dresses or chainmail tunics. There is something here for everyone to enjoy!

Costumed characters will roam the site bringing history to life. On their journey through the exhibition, visitors will meet Nicholas the Master Mason, a lively character who may even share some of the valuable secrets of his trade, or indeed set you to work! Among the other array of colourful characters are Willem the cheerful Moneyer (King John’s Castle had its own mint), and the grim Constable Roger De Lees.

In the Castle courtyard visitors will get a sense of the bustling activity that took place here including the blacksmith’s workshop complete with tools and weapons. Visitors can explore the Norman medieval campaign tent and the walkway in the remains of the Great Hall of the Castle built circa 1280. They can step into the sanctuary of the chapel to take a quiet moment. Each of the Castle towers has been dressed to re-create the daily operation of a busy military castle, complete with armoury and mint.

Treasures uncovered at the Castle during a series of archaeological digs, which began in early 1990, will be on display. Among these is a pistol dating from the famous 1642 siege period at the Castle. It was dropped and left behind during hand to hand combat at the Castle and a written record from the time has allowed archaeologists to accurately date the event to the 17th June 1642.

Another prized find is a gold stirrup ring dating from the mid to late 13th century, found during excavations of the Great Hall under the Castle courtyard and thought to have ecclesiastical connections. The Great Hall has been made accessible to the public for the first time, with a specially constructed stairway leading people down into the chamber with spectacular views of the river from its windows.

The Castle’s rich archaeology has been brought to life and people can explore the pre-Norman houses built by the Ostman-Viking settlers who intermarried with the local Irish population. All the archaeology has been sensitively preserved for future generations.

New areas of the Castle, previously inaccessible to the public, have been opened up. These include a tower which affords the highest observation point in Limerick of the majestic Shannon and reveals breathtaking panoramic views of Limerick and its surrounding counties. The Castle also contains a specially designed education room complete with AV to allow school groups to experience and learn. 

About the King John’s Castle Building and Design Team:
The redevelopment project was undertaken by L & M Keating Ltd, Kilmihil, Co Clare, the main contractor for the construction element of the project. Tandem Design, from Co Down created the exciting interactive exhibition.  Tandem Design has considerable experience in this field and was part of the design team for the acclaimed Titanic Centre in Belfast.

Main Contractor:
• L & M Keating Ltd, Kilmihil, Co Clare, main contractor for the construction element of the project.

Design Team:
• Tandem Design, Holywood, Co Down, (interpretive and exhibition display designers)
• Lawlor Burns & Associates (project management & quantity surveying)
• Michael Healy & Assoc (Architects)
• Malachy Walsh & Partners (Mechanical & Electrical consulting engineers)

About Shannon Heritage:
Shannon Heritage is one of the largest operators of heritage products in Europe and was one of the first companies in Ireland to develop and run heritage attractions and evening
entertainments. The Company has been in the tourism business since 1963, and has been a market leader since that time. The Shannon Heritage portfolio has developed from one
product, the Medieval Banquet at Bunratty Castle – which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary - to a total of seven day visitor sites and four evening dinner entertainments.
Among the new editions to the portfolio is Malahide Castle and Gardens in Dublin.

The Shannon Heritage operation employs over 320 people in peak season and is vitally important to tourism in the Shannon region as it continues to contribute an estimated
€15 million annually to the local economy in resulting revenue. It indirectly supports many more jobs in the wider Region in terms of spin-off business in the accommodation, and tourism services sector. People coming to a banquet will usually stay overnight in the area, visit other local tourism attractions, use local car hire, etc. Visit www.shannonheritage.com