Worth a Trip: Limerick City to Tarbert Via the Scenic N69
The narrow, peaceful N69 road follows the Shannon Estuary along the Wild Atlantic Way west from Limerick for 58km to Tarbert in northern County Kerry. There are some fantastic views of the broadening estuary and seemingly endless rolling green hills laced with stone walls.
At the small village of Clarina, west of Mungret on the N69, hang a right to head north for around 1.5km to a crossroads, then turn left and you'll see the haunting ruin of Carrigogunnell Castle high up on a ridge. You'll soon see a road to your right that heads past the castle, beyond the hedgerow and the fields. The 15th-century castle was blown up with gunpowder in 1691 and the fabulous wreck famously adorns the back cover of the U2 album The Unforgettable Fire.
Further along off the N69 is the village of Askeaton, with evocative ruins including the mid-1300s Desmond Castle, perched dramatically on an island in the River Deel next to the Hellfire Gentlemen's club, once home to an 18th-century brothel and drinking club. Restoration of the ruins started in 2007 and is ongoing, with no public access to the site. On the edge of town is the atmospheric 1389-built Franciscan friary, with a beautifully preserved cloister. The Askeaton Tourist Office has details of the town's historic sites that you can freely wander (depending on restoration works) and can arrange eye-opening free guided tours lasting about one hour, led by the very knowledgeable Anthony Sheehy.
At Foynes is the fascinating Foynes Flying Boat Museum. From 1939 to 1945 this was the landing place for the flying boats that linked North America with the British Isles. Big Pan Am clippers – there's a replica here – would set down in the estuary and refuel.