It was pouring down rain the first time we came to Listowel. We were racing west from County Limerick, trying to outrun rains that had pelted our spirits and given a vapid gloom to our surroundings. Listowel welcomed us with open arms - it was a haven of culture. We bunkered down in the Seanchai exhibition, toured 12th century Listowel Castle, and by the end of it, felt some renewal.
North Kerry is a great nest of Irish writers, with Listowel at the heart of it. In this gorgeous corner of Kerry, John B. Keane, Brendan Kennelly, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Maurice Walsh, and Bryan McMahon grew to be some of Ireland's legendary writers. Learn all about their writings and their lives at Seanchai, Kerry Literary & Cultural Centre. Located inside a restored, 19th century Georgian house, this is a great exhibition - I highly recommend it (Tel: +353 (0)68 22212, www.kerrywritersmuseum.com).
Listowel is also a good hub to all the surrounding points. The rivers and shoreline of North Kerry have spectacular fishing and bird watching. Kerry's premier seaside resort is Ballybunnion - with a world-class golf course. Ballyheigue Bay has a gorgeous sandy beach. Carrigafoyle Castle, just outside Ballylong ford, was built in 1490, and overlooks the Shannon estuary. Rattoo tower is an interesting architectural wonder, on the edge of huge fields - think Rupulzel.
There are lots of festivals happening -- a Summer Festival in Ballyheigue every July, and a Bachelor Festival in Ballybunnion in June. Dating back to an early 19th century gathering near Ballybunnion, the Listowel Races are now a major horseracing event in the summertime & early fall.
But the big bash of the year is the 37-year old Literary Festival in Listowel. Listowel is the center of a huge literary community in North Clare. Do a literary pub-crawl: maybe you'll be inspired to pen something yourself.
What to See and Do
The North Kerry Way is a 48-kilometre walk through rural North Kerry. The booklet can be purchased through the Tourist Information Office in Listowel.
Opening in 1888, the unique Lartigue Monorail ran from Listowel to Ballybunnion. Service continued until 1924.
Visit the ruins of Ardfert Cathedral and Friary, just southwest of Listowel.
Where to Eat and Drink
Lots of pubs and restaurants in the town.
Where to Sleep
Many options for accommodations - B&B, hotels, and a hostel. Check with the Tourist Information Office.
How to get there
From Limerick, take the N69 coastal highway west.
From Tralee, take the N69 highway north.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
When to go
From April to October, when the days are longer and the sun comes out. Bachelor Festival in Ballybunnion in June. Listowel Writers Week in May. Summer Festival in Ballyheigue every July. Dan P. Andy Fest in Lyreacrompane in August. B. Kennelly Festival in Ballylongford in August. The village of Finuge celebrates The Sean McCarthy Memorial Weekend in August. Pattern Day in Ballyheigue in August. Harvest Festival in September. Listowel Festival Race Meeting in September. Food Fair in November.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007