Listowel is a town in County Kerry, 28 km northeast of Tralee. With a population of 4820 in 2016, it's the largest settlement in the north of the county. Its name in Irish is Lios Tuathail, "Tuathal's ringfort", which presumably lies somewhere beneath its stout Norman castle. Listowel was home to the world's first operational monorail, but is nowadays better known for the several literary figures associated with it.
This page also describes the beach resort of Ballybunion and other nearby villages.
Expressway Bus 13 runs every 2 hours from Limerick via Adare, Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale to Listowel (90 min) and continues to Tralee (another 40 min). Don't take Bus 14, which branches south at Abbeyfeale for Castleisland, Kerry Airport and Killarney.
Bus 272 also runs 2-3 times a day from Tralee to Listowel and Ballybunion. It normally starts from Killarney and runs via Kerry Airport to Tralee but is curtailed in 2021; other buses run with a change at Tralee.
Bus 314 from Limerick to Askeaton and Foynes is likewise curtailed and doesn't continue to Listowel.
1 The Square is the town's main bus stop. There's an ESB charging station here.
The Shannon Ferry plies between 2 Tarbert in County Kerry and Killimer in County Clare on the north bank, both on Highway N67. It sails hourly Sept-May and every 30 mins June-Aug. Fare is €20 for a standard car with all passengers, €5 for a foot-passenger, cyclist or motorbike. If you're touring the Atlantic coast, this saves a lengthy detour inland through Limerick. Watch for dolphins on the 20-min crossing.
Listowel is small and walkable, and there's an occasional bus to Ballybunion. But you really need wheels to see the district.
- Listowel Castle by The Square was an Anglo-Norman redoubt, held by rebels in the Desmond uprising. Two of its four towers stand, connected by an unusual arch. It's open daily 09:30-18:00. Ballinruddery Castle, built 2 km upstream around 1600, is a tumbledown turret obscured in private woodland and pointless looking for.
- Kerry Writers Museum next to the castle celebrates the likes of John B. Keane, Bryan MacMahon, Brendan Kennelly, Maurice Walsh and George Fitzmaurice. It's open Jun-Sept M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Oct-May M-F 09:30-16:00, adult €5. The TIC is also based here.
- 1 Ballyduff is a straggling settlement west of Listowel. 1 km south at Rattoo is Kerry's only intact Round Tower, from 10th / 11th century and 28 m tall. 1 km north is North Kerry Museum, hours erratic.
- 2 Ballybunion (Baile an Bhuinneánaigh) is a seaside resort, with two beaches separated by the castle, the shell of a 16th century tower-house. "Ladies Beach" is north and "Men's Beach" is south, but no longer segregated by a blue-nosed priesthood. They're exposed to the west and have a surf school. There's accommodation and eating places in the village.
- Bromore Cliffs 2 km north of Ballybunion are over 50 m high, with offshore stacks and whirling sea birds.
- 3 Beale Strand marks the boundary between the Atlantic and the Shannon. It's a bracing 3 km expanse of mostly sandy beach, backed by sandhills; swimmers beware the currents. At low tide you may see the remains of the brig Thetis, driven ashore in a storm of 1834. The survivors were jailed when their cargo of Quebec timber was found to be concealing contraband tobacco.
- 4 Carrigafoyle Castle is a ruin in the channel separating Carrick Island, now a muddy creek but suitable for shipping in medieval times. It's a sturdy tower house built in 1490 and held by rebels in the Desmond uprising of 1580. Sir William Pelham besieged it by land and sea, blasted the walls, and put to death all its defenders and occupants. That sent a chilling message to all the other Desmond strongholds, who bolted and thereafter only engaged in guerrilla attacks. The castle was never repaired but later rebels used it, until Cromwell blasted it further. It's open May-Sept daily 10:00-18:00. Carrick Island, reached by causeway, has the remains of a 13th century monastery church.
- Lislaughtin Abbey 1.5 km north of Ballylongford was Franciscan, founded in 1470. It was dissolved in 1580 though church and graveyard remained in use for many years after.
- Fort Shannon 4 km west of Tarbert was built in 1942 to guard the estuary against hostile shipping. It's derelict.
- Tarbert is the village 2 km south of the Shannon Ferry pier, on what was formerly an island. The lighthouse, built in 1834, is simply a harbour light, on a tidal rock with a cast-iron catwalk to shore. Tarbert House midway between pier and village was built from 1690 in Queen Anne style and is occasionally open for visits. Tarbert Bridewell, built in 1831, was the local jail and is now a museum.
- Ardfert Cathedral and other points south: see Tralee.
- St John's Theatre and arts centre is on The Square, Box Office +353 68 22566.
- 1 Lartigue Monorail Lisotwel, Lartigue Monorail, John B Keane Road, Listowel, County Kerry, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Although the trains and tracks appear to come from the pages of a Steampunk novel, this recreation of a short portion of a Monorail line based on the Lartigue system is indeed real.
- Listowel Races are just south of town across the river, with both flat-racing and National Hunt. Summer Festival is the May / June holiday weekend. The main event is the Harvest Festival (next held 19-25 Sept 2021), with the premier race the Guinness Kerry National.
- Golf: the nearest courses are on the coast at Ballybunion Golf Club, which has the Old Course and the Cashen.
- Writers' Week is in June, with the next probably on 1-5 June 2022, tba.
- Listowel Food Fair is in November. The next is probably 4-8 Nov 2021, tbc.
- Garvey's SuperValu is the main store in Listowel, on Convent St. It's open M-Sa 08:00-22:00, Su 08:00-20:00.
- Aldi and Lidl are on John B Keane Rd.
- Outdoor gear: the big store is Landers on Manor West Retail Park in Tralee.
- Horseshoe Bar (Behan's), 14 William St, Listowel, ☏ . Daily 10:00-23:00. Trad pub with bar meals and restaurant, they also have rooms. B&B double €120.
- Allo's Bistro on Church St gets great reviews and has rooms.
- John R's Food Hall on Church St is a deli and cafe, and has rooms. It's open Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00.
- Ballybunion eating places are Namir's, Perozzi, and a couple of takeaways.
- Listowel pubs include Dillon's, John B Keane, Tankers, Christy's, Flanagan's, Kevin's, Star & Garter, and New Kingdom Bar.
- Mermaids Nightclub is getting by as a pizzeria in 2021.
- Ballybunion pubs include McMunn's, Bunker Bar, JD's Bar, Mikey Joe's, The Exchange, and Gerald O'Connor.
- Listowel Arms Hotel, The Square, Listowel V31 V962, ☏ . Smart Georgian hotel in town centre, good food and service. B&B double €140.
- Listowel B&Bs include Gurtenard House, McMahon's and North Country House. They weren't open in early 2021.
- Billeragh House is a B&B in a Georgian hall on N69 3.5 km southwest of town. It's no longer a hostel.
- Ballybunion accommodation includes The Astor, Wilde Ballybunion, Harty Costello, Olde Attic and Kilcooly's which is run by the golf club.
As of May 2021, Listowel and N69 main road has 5G with Three and 4G with Eir, but a poor signal from Vodafone. Conversely in Ballybunion, only Vodafone has good coverage.
- Tralee has the county museum. Further southwest is the scenic Dingle peninsula.
- Adare is picturesque but choked with traffic. Continue east to Limerick for a historic lively city.
- Wuppertal in North Rhine-Westphalia has a better wacky monorail, the retro-futuristic Schwebebahn, still in use.