THE bulk of the €5.7 million grant allocated to redevelop King John’s Castle will actually go towards a new visitor centre at the former Castle Lane Tavern, Shannon Development’s Eoghan Prendergast has said.
The agency formerly ran a pub from the premises but Mr Prendergast they did not wish to compete with businesses in the locality but bring in more tourists for their benefit. There will be a coffee shop within the castle grounds, a “basic minimum requirement” for a modern tourist destination and one at which Shannon Development hopes to double visitor numbers to 80,000 within a few years.
A new Castle Lane centre will “use the latest in technology to highlight the story of the River Shannon, the Viking history of Limerick including a longboat and we plan to project water onto the floor to make it look like you’re walking through the Shannon”.
Other elements will include the Siege of Limerick, the city’s Georgian heritage and stories of famous citizens which might include the likes of Richard Harris and Paul O’Connell.
The hope is to create an attraction of “international significance” at Castle Lane and Shannon Development is also working with City Hall to find a new home for the municipal museum currently located on site.
Within the castle walls themselves, Shannon Development plans to “animate” the attraction with medieval jousting tournaments and archery displays. Permanent infrastructure associated with historical re-enactments mean King John’s is being ruled out as a future concert venue. Improving the visitor experience at the castle will not mean a hike in admission prices - currently €9 per adult and €5.50 per child with family rates also available.
“That will not happen. We have the funding to do this and the whole intention is to get people in and get businesses in the city to benefit,” Mr Prendergast said. Up to 17 new jobs will be created at King John’s and Castle Lane as part of the redevelopment plans.