At the heart of the Shannon region in the south west of Ireland lies County Limerick. From the Ballyhoura and the Galtee mountains to the rich fertile plains and boisterous city of Limerick itself visitors to the county would be spoiled for choice.

With 5,000 years of history and Neolithic life to be explored, scenic countryside, charming villages and a massive tradition of sporting, from GAA to rugby, racing and fishing to be explored, Limerick is a holidaymakers paradise.

Here are IrishCentral’s pick of the top five tourist attractions in County Limerick:

King John's Castle

King John's Castle, known as Caisleán Luimnigh, or Castle of Limerick, in Irish) is a 13th-century castle located on King's Island in Limerick city, next to the River Shannon.

The site dates back to 922 when the Vikings lived on King’s Island. During the 1900s a Viking settlement were uncovered during archaeological excavations at the site.

However, the castle itself was built on the orders of King John in 1200. King John’s Castle is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Europe, and the walls, towers and fortifications are a major attraction for visitors.

In 2013 a new visitor’s center with state-of-the-art interpretive activities and exhibitions was opened on site, which bring to life over 800 years of dramatic local history. In the courtyard you’ll find a medieval campaign tent, a blacksmith's forge and scenes from a 17th century siege, which the children and big kids will adore.

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Read more: What's your Irish County? County Limerick

University of Limerick

Established in 1972 the University of Limerick (known as UL) boasts of the most amazing location with 137.5 hectares (340 acres) of land along the River Shannon. The university has currently over 11,000 full-time undergraduate students and c. 1,500 part-time students.

The facilities are really impressive and you can even stay on site but it’s the gorgeous campus that will steal your heart.

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Thomond Park Stadium

Thomond Park is something special, a hallowed ground. The stadium is the home ground of Munster Rugby, one of the most successful and best supported rugby clubs in the world.

The venue has been redeveloped and now boasts an increased capacity of 25,600. Since its reopening night, when Munster played the All Blacks in 2008 witnessed by a national television audience of over one million viewers. The stadium is famed for its noise during play and the complete silence while home and away players are kicking for goal.

It’s also played house to big music names with stars such as Bruce Springsteen, when he was famously handed an oversized Irish passport by members of the crowd.

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Holy Trinity Abbey Church

This is the only recorded Trinitarian monastery in Ireland. It was built by the Fitzgerald Clan for the order of monks in the early 13th century. The order was from France, though it’s believed the monks in Adara were from Scotland. Their main purpose was to raise money to rescue Christian captives taken by the Moors, during the crusades.

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Read more: Top 10 interesting facts about county Limerick

Desmond Castle

Situated just outside Adare village is ruined castle dating from the 12th century. It was built by William de Burgo and passed down to the Earls of Kildare in the middle of the 13th century. It was granted to the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond in 1536.

In 1569, James Fitzmaurice FitzGerald led a rebellion against the English who occupied the south of Ireland at this time (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth). The first "Desmond Rebellion" was fought from 1569 to 1573. During the rebellion, the Fitzgeralds lost Desmond Castle to the English after a siege. The castle was later destroyed in 1657 by Parliamentary forces after Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland.

Restoration work commenced in 1996 and has since completed. Now the ruins of the castle including a distinct inner and outer wall and a three-storey square tower are a popular tourist attraction along with the guided tour, run from the Adare Heritage Center.

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