Newcastle West is the largest town in Limerick outside of Limerick city itself. The history-rich town sits on the River Arra which flows into the River Deel.
The 40k Great Southern Trail Greenway, which passes through the town, was the first long-distance greenway in the country and one of Ireland’s best.
The well-maintained castle, from which the town gets its name, is located off the town square.
The castle was built by the FitzGerald family during the 13th century. During renovations at the end of the 20th century, the Seals and Crests of the Knights Templar were discovered.
The town itself was sacked in 1302 and destroyed in 1315. During the reign of Elizabeth I in the 1500s, three battles were fought in the vicinity.
In the town square, there is a plaque commemorating Sophie Peirce, a Newcastle West native with an amazing story. She was a pilot during World War I, spending two years as a dispatch rider in England and France.
She was one of the founders of the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association, becoming Britain’s first women’s javelin champion and set a disputed high jump world record.
The following year, Peirce became Britain’s first woman to hold a commercial flying license, setting records for altitude in a small plane and becoming the first woman to parachute from an airplane.
However, she was badly injured in a plane crash in 1929 and never truly recovered. Sophie returned to Ireland, dying ten years later after a fall inside a double-decker tram aged 42.
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