Listowel - Ireland’s Literary Capital
Listowel is a market town in County Kerry, Ireland, and is situated on the River Feale, 28 km from the county town, Tralee. The combined population of Listowel Urban and Rural Districts is 22,668; the town itself has a population of 4,823. Listowel has a long history dating back to 1303 where it first appears in the Plea Roll. Fortress to the Fitzmaurice family the town developed around Listowel Castle and its magnificent market Square, one of its many distinguishing features.
A distinctive feature of the streets of Listowel is the colour and variety of its shop front designs. Most notable are The Maid of Erin in The Square, The Harp & Lion and The Emporium in Church Street. These unique items of plasterwork are the work of local craftsman Pat McAuliffe (1846-1921). The Maid of Erin depicts a Romantic image of Mother Ireland surrounded by a harp, a wolfhound and other symbols of Eire.
Sandwiched between the bustling city of Limerick and the world renowned tourist haven of Killarney, one could be forgiven for dismissing Listowel as another one of the seemingly endless rural towns in Ireland catering more for the strong local farming community, than to the visitor. Home to Kerry Group, one of the worlds largest food producing companies, Listowel is indeed a traditional agricultural centre, however, in recent years the town has recognised the need to look beyond this traditional industry, and develop its strong cultural identity for the economic benefit of the town. Central to this has been the development of a number of major tourist attractions in the town including the Seanchaí – Kerry Literary & Cultural Centre & the Lartigue Monorailway, and the designation of Listowel as a Heritage Town in 2000, one of only 26 Heritage Towns in Ireland.
North Kerry Writers:
Listowel is acclaimed nationally and internationally as a place of literary excellence. Its writers, poets and playwrights have captured the essence of rural Ireland – to make us laugh or weep, or simply wonder. To honour this great literary talent, The Seanchaí Centre opened in 2001 and encompasses an audio-visual interpretative museum on the great North Kerry writers including John B. Keane, Bryan MacMahon, Brendan Kennelly, Maurice Walsh & George Fitzmaurice, ( the link will download a short leaflet on the writers and their works), Located in a magnificently restored 19th century Georgian residence in Listowel’s Town Square, Seanchaí is a museum of words & spirit where the imaginative worlds of the great Kerry writers are evoked.
The Seanchaí Room entices the visitor to sit and listen to the history of storytelling in Ireland and how it was the precursor to the written word. This is exemplified in Ireland’s most famous storyteller, Eamon Kelly, himself a Kerryman. ‘Storytelling’, he claims, ‘is the oldest form of entertainment. It was practised before the written word. The stories were handed down from generation to generation, and in ancient Ireland the seanchai was held in such high esteem that he sat at the same table as the king.’
Take a journey with the Kerry writers through historical and scenic North Kerry in a stunning audio-visual presentation in the Landscapes Room. Learn about the places, people, traditions and customs that influenced the writers in their works – from the harshness of the Atlantic waves crashing against Ballybunion’s rugged cliffs to the magnificent spectacle of the Wren Boys as they perform through the streets of Listowel.
Travelling through the Centre pause and read from the many writers of Kerry; from the experiences of the Great Blasket Islanders - Peig Sayers, Thomas O’Criomhthain and Muiris O’Suilleabhain - to the humorous verse of Robert Leslie Boland.
When a Listowel man takes a drink from any tap in this lovely town
‘Tis not only water thats going down, but the purified secrets of the dead
Flowing into his belly and through his head
No town here or in any land will do this for your body and mind
Inspiration flows through the graveyard sod
Turn a tap in Listowel, out flows God!
written by Brendan Kennelly
Top things to do in Listowel Town
Listowel is a buzzing market town with something to do for everyone. It is a great base for exploring the beautiful County Kerry and also located near the Tarbert Ferry port – a gateway to County Clare and Galway.
Coming soon to Listowel will be the extension of the Great Southern Trail from Abbeyfeale. The Great Southern Trail (GST) is a unique 85km stretch of countryside in West Limerick/North Kerry. It is the route taken by the Limerick - Tralee railway line, which opened in 1867/1880 and closed in 1975/1977.
Recently the 10km section from the Limerick Border to Listowel has been cleared of vegetation by Kerry County Council who now own 50km+ of the old North Kerry railways. Further progress on development of the Listowel section is expected to follow as soon as is feasible. This will be an amazing asset to biking and walking in safety for everyone. more information can be found here....
Just 10 minutes drive to the Seaside
TripAdvisor also have a good list of the Top things to do in Listowel – 14 Listowel Attractions.
Listowel Rambling House takes place in the Seanchaí Centre on the last Thursday of every month. This informal gathering of traditional Irish music, song, dance & storytelling continues the tradition of the Irish rambling house of days gone by. Admission is free and a cup tea & traditional brack will be served. Donations welcome.
On my research for this website I came across a great Blog by Mary Cogan, called: Listowel Connections. I tried to leave a comment but I was unable, even when I tried to join. I gained quite a lot of information for my about page from Mary's blog. Thank you Mary, I just wish I could let you know on your blog.
Another great website I came across is: North Kerry Reaching Out. . Aww...just recently checked this website out and its no more, a shame. They do have a Facebook page, too many companies are doing away with their websites in favour of Facebook, a pity as not everyone wants to be on Facebook.
Got the photo of Cattle dealing in the Square in Listowel, ca. 1900: Here. Great archive of old photos.