This strategic location on the banks of the Shannon has been a stronghold for thousands of years. It was recorded that it was also a Viking stronghold in the 900’s. It was not until the Normans arrived in the 1100’s when everything changed. King John, who was then Lord of Ireland, ordered for a castle to be built here. It was completed in around 1200 and became one of the finest Norman castles in the country. The city prospered under the Norman rulers and the city was divided into two areas known as ‘English Town’ on King’s Island and ‘Irish Town’ on the south bank. By the 1550’s, Limerick was regarded as the most beautiful town in Ireland. In the 17th century however the castle came under attack in at least 5 occasions and was occupied in 1642 by Protestants fleeing the Irish Rebellion and also by Cromwell’s forces. It was also besieged by an Irish Confederate force under Garret Barry who collapsed the walls. After Ireland gained its freedom in 1921 the new government decided to build council houses within the walls. This small community has lasted for nearly 100 years but the last house has just recently been demolished. St John’s Castle has been transformed into a state of the art visitor attraction winning numerous top awards.