Listowel is the capital of North Kerry and considered the literary capital of Ireland, with numerous globally renowned authors, poets and playwrights being born here. It is a market town that is located on the banks of River Feale, at the starting of the North Kerry limestone plain. It is surrounded by the barony of Iraghticonnor in the northern side and barony of Clanmaurice in the southern side, along with several villages. This town holds the distinction of being one of the 26 heritage towns of Ireland, as it is deemed a place of architectural and historical importance.
The town was first mentioned in the Plea Rolls circa 1300, and started developing around the stately Listowel Castle and its Square in the 15th century. Of the imposing castle, only two towers and a curtain wall remain now. Presently, the castle enjoys the status of being a national monument, and is being restored by the Board of Public Works. With the stone now cleaned and the upper section completely restored and waterproofed, an external staircase that is in line with its architectural style has been erected to grant access to the public for tours. Woodford, Listowel is home to a smaller castle that was constructed by Knight of Jerry after 1600.
Being a place of historic importance, Listowel played its part in shaping the Irish railways, by hosting the world’s first monorail. Another occurrence that this town is famous for is the Listowel Mutiny, wherein the Royal Irish Constabulary defied the orders of the Commanding Officer during the Irish War of Independence.
As Listowel is well known for its literary heritage, the Senchai Centre was set up in 2001 to promote the works of prominent North Kerry writers, such as John B. Keane, Bryan MacMahon and Brendan Kennelly, through audio-visual interpretative media. Also, complete information about the Listowel Castle can be found at this centre. Since 1971, the Listowel Writers’ Week, the biggest literary festival of Ireland, has been celebrated annually. It creates the perfect platform for writers who wish to enhance their skills and reach out to the audiences. Over the years, this event has gained immense popularity amongst men of letters and been graced by several renowned personalities of this field, including J.M. Cóetzee, Seamus Heaney, Hugh Leonard, Richard Murphy and Douglas Kennedy, among many others.
Apart from literary pursuits, the people of Listowel are known for their love of sports, with racing being the favourite of one and all. Other sports that are popular in this town are Gaelic athletics, football, rugby, cycling, badminton, golf, horse riding, tennis and angling. Leisure activities like walking, photography, card playing, bridge, pitch & putt, cinema and performing arts also enjoy niche following here.
To commemorate the death of the innocents, Listowel has set up two monuments. The first is the Famine Graveyard, which is located just less than half a kilometre away from the town on the Ballybunion Road. It is the site where the innumerable nameless victims of the Irish Famine (1845-47) were laid to rest. The entrance gates of this monument have been designed by Cliodhna Cussen, a famous local artist. The other monument of this type located in Listowel is the Garden of Europe, which used to be a landfill site in a secluded portion of the Town Park till 1995. It houses 12 mini-gardens that are replete with over 3000 plants and trees; the twelve mini-gardens represent the twelve members of the European Union. The garden is home to the only Holocaust memorial throughout Ireland as well as the bust of Schiller, the reputed poet.
All Imagery Courtesy of Panoramio