Castles, Classes and Craic

First of all, I should explain that in Ireland, the word “craic” (pronounced ‘crack’) is used to mean good times and fun. NUIG staff explained this to us during our international student orientation. I’m glad they did, otherwise I would have been very concerned if I heard other students saying “let’s go have some craic”.

A Sunday in Limerick

After spending over a week exploring Galway, I figured that it was time to venture out further into Ireland. Along with some other students from Linfield, I decided to go to Limerick for the day.

A rainy street in Limerick

King John’s Castle

The trip started out rainy and wet but got better when we were able to get indoors and tour King John’s Castle. This castle was built in 1210 on the orders of King John. Even though the castle is named after him, we learned that he never actually visited it in person because he died 6 years after construction began.

The tour of the castle began with a museum area for the history of the castle including lots of graphics and videos and artifacts. Then, we were able to enter the castle courtyard and climb narrow stone steps up to the top of one of the towers. From the top of the tower we could see the rest of the castle looking in one direction, and the river Shannon and part of Limerick in the other direction.

A view of King John’s Castle from one of the towers


Preston and I as knights in the castle photo area


Limerick’s cathedrals

While in Limerick we also got to see two cathedrals. We arrived at the first, The Cathedral of St. Mary, right as a service was about to start and so we didn’t get to stay for too long. However, we did get to hear the ringing of the church bells. According to the cathedral’s webiste, it was built in 1168 AD and will be celebrating its 850th year during 2018.

The second cathedral that we visited was St John’s cathedral. This cathedral is much younger than the first one we visited and was built in the 1850’s. When we arrived there it was not open and so we only got to view it from the outside.


St Marys Cathedral and St Johns Cathedral


The Hunt Museum

The last place that we visited before leaving Limerick was The Hunt Museum. It was formed by art collectors John and Gertrude Hunt and includes artifacts from places including Greece, Rome, Egypt and medieval Ireland. The artifacts are dated from the stone age to the 20th century, and the museum website lists a few objects that are particularly notable:

  • Bronze Age cauldron and shield
  • Coin reputed to be one of the thirty pieces of silver
  • Gold cross owned by Mary, Queen of Scots
  • Paintings by Jack B. Yeats
  • A menu card by Pablo Picasso

We explored the museum for around an hour and my favorite part was looking at the various paintings on the walls. Overall, there were so many different and exciting artifacts that it was hard to take it all in during such a short visit.


Preston with the painted horses outside the museum


Classes and Societies at NUIG

At the beginning of our second week of classes the university held a societies fair with many different groups that students can join. Societies are the same as what we would call clubs in America. There were major-specific societies for most different majors, but there were also many other types. I signed up to be a part of the gardening society and the environmental society.

I have also been looking for volunteer opportunities because my study abroad program requires me to volunteer at least 20 hours during my time in Galway. I have a lot of options to choose from, but so far I am considering doing volunteer work involving conservation or the environment.

On NUIG Campus

What I have learned about castles

Before beginning my class about castles in Ireland, I always thought of castles as buildings that had to be made out of stone. However, on the first day of class I quickly learned that there is a whole other classification of castles that are actually made out of earthwork and timber. These castles are called motte-and-bailey castles and were much more common in Ireland that masonry castles.

Castle Tump, a motte castle in Great Britain

The large man-made earth mound that the timber castle would be  built on was called a motte, and nowadays it is all that is left of this type of castle. If I didn’t know any better I would think that this mound was just a natural hill and not a man-made object.

What an earthwork and timber motte castle may have looked like

Our professor showed us recreations of what a motte castle may have looked like. He explained that some sketches (like the one above) depict these castles as very simple, but that it is now thought that they were more complicated and contained many more buildings.


So far I am enjoying all of my classes and learning lots of new information about Irish language and history. My next post will be a gallery of miscellaneous photos from the trip that I think are worth seeing but do not warrant a whole post to themselves.


Thanks for reading!