By horse racing standards, Limerick Racecourse is still in its infancy. Built in 2001, it was the first purpose-built racecourse Ireland had seen in the preceding five decades. Its introduction meant there was only a brief time County Limerick went without a racecourse following the closure of Greenpark Racecourse in 1999. Despite the troubles the former course faced, there is real hope and expectation that the new racecourse in Limerick will not face the same problems.
Although it may be called Limerick Racecourse, the city centre is around 11km away. As such, there is little else but the countryside and tiny villages nearby. This means there is nowhere to stay overnight within walking distance of the course but some options do exist closer than the city itself.
Close to the Racecourse
To stay as close to the racecourse as possible, you want to be looking at the Great National South Court Hotel. As it primarily serves as a convention centre, it has a large number of clean rooms and a range of extra facilities for guests to enjoy. Not only can you get some tasty food here before/after a race meeting but room prices are very affordable. The hotel itself is just 6km from the racecourse with the journey taking less than 10 minutes by car.
If you were to head for seven or eight minutes in the opposite direction from the racecourse, you would come across the small village of Adare. Incidentally, this largely unknown village is the host site of the 2027 Ryder Cup. There are currently a couple of accommodation options in the area such as the extremely well-rated Adare Country House and the cheaper but still very pleasant Ballycannon Lodge.
For the biggest selection of choice, there is no reason to look any further than Limerick. Even from the middle of the city you are only a 20-minute drive away from the racecourse so it is not a hassle to get to where the horses are. There is no need to stick to the racecourse side (south-west) of the city either as from the north you have easy access to the motorway, meaning the journey takes no extra time. This means options near the Jetland Shopping Centre, such as the Greenhills Hotel and the Travelodge Ennis Road, are well worth considering.
Overall, Limerick has the kind of variety of hotels you would expect from a well-populated city. There are some extremely well-presented four and five star hotels that might cost you in the region of €150 to €200 a night but also some cheaper options closer to €100, such as the Old Quarter Townhouse and the Pier Hotel. If you are travelling by car, we would recommend looking at what parking facilities each has to offer because the cost of on-street parking can quickly add up.
About the Racecourse
Although Limerick used to have a quite centrally located racecourse, the current venue is significantly further away from the city centre. This decision was mainly taken to avoid the major traffic congestion problems that had long plagued the former site. Now, getting in and out of Limerick Racecourse is much less of a hassle and there is much more lovely surrounding countryside. It is still quite accessible via public transport so really nobody has ended up losing out.
There are several bus services running from Limerick that will take you close to the racecourse, dropping you off at Patrickswell to be precise. Depending on where you are travelling from, the journey will take between 40 minutes to an hour. From Patrickswell you then have a 1.5km walk to the racecourse. When doing so, be sure to take a left after you cross over the motorway as you will have access to the footpath the whole way. If you carry straight down the L1407 the footpath quickly disappears. To get into Limerick in the first place via train, you may need to change at Limerick Junction before arriving the main station (Colbert) but direct services to/from Dublin do exist.
Although you will not notice when actually at the racecourse, the venue is very close to the M20 and there is an incredibly conveniently placed exit (4) almost right outside. It is therefore so easy to get in and out of the racecourse with the M20 either taking you right back to Limerick or taking you further to the east coast. Even those arriving via car from the south can simply head up to the N20 as this connects to the N21/M20 close to the racecourse.
If, like many, you do arrive at Limerick Racecourse by car, there is no need to bring money for parking. There is free on-site parking for all visitors with more than enough room to accommodate everyone. Just be mindful that the car parks are primarily grassed so conditions can get muddy in the winter.
Also known as Greenmount Park, races here are run right-handed around an oval circuit featuring something of a ‘dent’ down the back straight. There are a couple of noticeable downhill/uphill sections across the back straight and final bend while races finish on a slight incline. On the steeplechase course, five fences in quick succession on the back straight require a decent rhythm to take smoothly but it is the penultimate two fences that are seen as the trickiest. With the risk of falling greatest here, do not think any race is done-and-dusted until one horse passes the winning post.
Limerick really emphasises the fact that they simply want racegoers to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. Dressing up or dressing down are both perfectly acceptable, as there is no right or wrong way of appearing at the racecourse. They only encourage guests to dress with an eye on the forecast as rain is not unusual. Bringing an emergency umbrella is certainly never a bad idea even if the day starts off gloriously sunny.
If you would like to dress up for the races, be aware that there are prizes for the best-dressed lady at selected meetings. Although this kind of incentive is not required as many people like dressing up for a trip to the races regardless, the chance to win some goodies is certainly not to be sniffed at!
Limerick has one extremely large four-story stand from which many choose to watch the action. Overlooking the winning post, the stand itself is built on top of a small hill so even on the ground floor you already watching the action from an elevated position. Across the bottom of the stand you have rows of standing space which is all covered by a huge overhanging roof. Although there are no seats, there are railings across the entire width so it does give you something to lean on.
Above the standing space are two glass balconies that provide fantastic views of the racecourse. The top floor is however reserved for people with a private suite booking. Although these cost €500, the cost per person starts at a fairly affordable €49 so it can be a tempting upgrade if you can get a group together. Most other parts of the racecourse are open to punters with a standard general admission ticket. These cost €15 for adults and €10 for students/OAPs (ID may be required on the day). The alternative ticket option, which is online-only, is the punters’ package costing €25. Admission is included with this along with a racecard, a €5 bet and a pint of beer or a glass of wine.
Limerick hosts 18 days of racing across the year and like most courses in Ireland, there is a mix of flat and National Hunt action. Predominantly though, this is a National Hunt course and it is this type of racing that forms part of the much-celebrated four-day Christmas Racing Festival.
Starting on Boxing Day and running through to 29th December, this event sees many of Limerick’s top races such as the Faugheen Novice Chase (Grade 1) and the Dorans Pride Novice Hurdle (Grade 2). Each day has a great selection of races and a vibrant crowd that is still very much in the festive spirit.
Although the new home of Limerick Racecourse, also known as Greenmount Park, only started welcoming visitors in 2001, the site it replaced had stood for the previous 130 years. Racing had existed in Limerick long before this mind you. Records indicate it began in the 18th century and over the early years took place across five different sites around the city before settling at Greenpark. This is where most of racing in Limerick has taken place and it was a course that has quite a special history.
JFK’s Presidential Visit
In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy visited Greenpark Racecourse and spoke to an audience of around 6,000 people, many of whom had been waiting for hours to see the man in the flesh. During the relatively short stop on his way to the airport, Limerick mayor, Frances Condell, presented the former president with a Certificate of Freedom and elected him the 42nd Freeman of the City.
Pope John Paul II Blesses the Grounds
Sixteen years later and Pope John Paul II blessed the grounds at Limerick with an incredible 400,000 people in attendance. The racecourse was the site of the Pope’s final mass in Ireland and shortly after he headed to Shannon Airport to end his long-weekend break in the country.
1999: Forced Closure
These are the two most high-profile guests to visits the old Limerick Racecourse but there are others like John Treacy who won the 1979 World Cross Country Championships when held there. Technically, this history purely belongs to the course that eventually shut its doors in 1999 following a series of unsolvable problems. Traffic congestion, mentioned before, was one but flooding was another, as was the limited fixtures list.
2001: Re-Opens with Record Breaking Crowd
Knowing the end was near, an effort for a new location in Limerick was made in the 1990s with land at the current site of Greenmount purchased in 1996. It was considered a prime location as here there were nearly 400 acres of greenbelt farmland with a panoramic setting that has long been used for local point-to-point meetings. Three years later and the old Limerick Racecourse shut for good with the new racecourse effectively replacing it in October 2001. The first meeting at the new home was a major success with a record-breaking crowd of 18,000 people coming down to watch.