In my last post from Ireland I promised you another little gem that you probably haven’t heard of, but is so worth the visit, and today I’m here to share it with you- Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum in County Limerick.
What? A flying boat?? Who ever heard of such a thing? At least if you’re like me that’s what you’re thinking because that’s certainly what I thought when L suggested this for our Ireland road trip. My goodness though, you have got to see these things. They are so neat! And this museum is the only one in the world when you can see one- well at least a replica of the Boeing B314 because, although there were 12 made, unfortunately none of the originals are still around.
Flying Boat Museum
Beginning your visit at the museum one of the first things you’ll come to is a 1940’s cinema that plays a film about the history of flying boats and early transatlantic air travel. We initially thought we’d skip this but I’m so glad we stayed to watch. It was very interesting and informative, especially as I really knew absolutely nothing about these prior to our visit. The film, and the museum, really do a great job of capturing that era of transatlantic flights when flying was still glamourous and luxurious and people actually dressed up for the occasion and what an occasion it would have been to fly on an aircraft such as this.
The airfare was high but the level of service was also high. Said to be more like an ocean liner, up to 36 passengers were treated to a formal table with a freshly prepared meal, and then everyone had their own bunk for sleeping. While they slept some of the 10 crew members would even clean and polish their shoes! You don’t get that kind of service on airlines today…well at least I don’t back in economy seats! :-) To top it all off there was even a private honeymoon suite in the back. Ooh la la!
The museum showcases the original terminal building including the radio and weather room with transmitters, receivers, and Morse code machines, but the real show-stealer is the full-sized replica of Pan Am’s first flying boat – the ‘Yankee Clipper‘. It first landed in Foynes, Ireland in 1939 with its 2000 mile flights taking just over 25 hours. This was much better than the 8-9 days crossings by sea took at that time, plus it was 25 hours in comfort as you saw in the photos above.
Foynes was chosen as the site to handle these aircraft to meet the need for an airport in Ireland for all transatlantic flights, east or west bound. It is right on the West coast, has a sheltered harbour with a long stretch of calm water, and a rail connection to Limerick and beyond. Little did they likely realise that it would become one of the largest commercial airports in Europe (since it was the most Westerly point) and would be called upon in WWII to handle flights in and out of Europe with high ranking Allied military personnel and diplomats. For more information about it’s role in WWII click here.
The River Shannon plays a huge part in the history and mythology of Ireland and the Maritime Museum now features a new exhibit to let visitors learn all about it with information such as:
- Charts, maps, tidal information, and the geology of the river.
- Stories of the pilots in row boats who used to guide the large ships up the estuary.
- The development of the Foynes Port.
- Transportation and emigration on the river.
- …and much more.
Besides being known for flying boats and maritime history, Foynes is also where Irish Coffee was invented way back in 1943. Brendan O’Regan owned the restaurant and coffee shop in the Foynes terminal building and when asked to prepare a drink for some air passengers, that were turned around mid-flight one cold winter’s night to return to Foynes, he decided to add a little Irish Whiskey to their coffee. It’s since become one of the most popular welcome drinks in the world.
The museum features a really neat 3-D hologram reenactment of this story and, of course, you can warm up with some Irish Coffee of your own in the museum’s café.
So what do you think? Sounds neat eh?
We think you should definitely check it out!
To read more about our adventures on our Ireland Road Trip, please feel free to check out these posts:
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