Welcome to North Kerry

Historical itineraries for North Kerry


Hello and welcome to the historical section of these itineraries. If you’re like me fascinated and would love to trace your history and go back in time to see how your ancestors lived then you are in the right place to find out how to do it. Within this itinerary you will find out about places to go and see, place’s to eat and relax along with other interesting things to do around North Kerry.

Why not base yourself in the heart of North Kerry, Listowel. Listowel is a great base to explore the historical sites and national monuments of North Kerry: within 15 miles there are a number of sites featuring medieval ecclesiastical buildings and historical  fortifications: Listowel Castle, Ratoo Round Tower in Ballyduff, Carrigafoyle Castle in Ballylongford, and Ardfert Cathedral are among them.



Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so make sure you get a good full Irish breakfast into you before you leave that front door. If you are staying around Listowel walk around the town and head for Listowel Castle, one of the best examples of Anglo-Norman architecture in Kerry. It was built in the 15th century by the Fitzmaurices and became the last bastion against Queen Elizabeth 1 in the First Desmond Rebellion. The castle stands on an elevation on a steep bank, overlooking the river Feale, above the location of a strategic ford. A substantial part of the front of the castle survives, consisting of two large square towers of four stories, standing almost to the original height of 15.3 meters, connected by a wall of the same height and linked together by an arch on one side. Guided tours are available.

Once your finished with that visit the Seanchai.  Because Listowel is known as the literacy capital of Ireland visiit the Seanchai building and get a tour while your there to see all the great poet’s that came from Listowel and the surrounding area. If by now you’re feeling the hunger pinch they serve fantastic scone, cakes, and dinners.


If you’re looking for a good substantial meal then you are spoilt for choice in Listowel. The Horseshoe bar and restaurant is just one such place that offer’s excellent food all day everyday. For other options visit the Where to Eat tab on our home page for more options. http://www.gokerry.ie/  If you want to make it into a picnic then ask the retailer to make it to go and head for the park or Garden of Europe to enjoy your meal in the peace and quiet of nature and beauty surrounding you.

Once you’re finished eating and are in the mood for a road trip then head for Ardfert. It will take you a total of 31minutes drive and 17 miles to get to Ardfert just head for the R557 and follow the road. Once your there look (and you wont miss it) for the Ardfert Cathedral – this is another National Monument, it is a fascinating historical place on the grounds of a monastery originally founded by St.Brendan The Navigator, patron saint of the Diocese of Kerry and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Brendan features in the tale “Brendan’s Voyage” , a story of monks travelling the high seas of the Atlantic, evangelizing to the islands and possibly reaching American shores in the 6th century. The museum on the grounds features an ogham stone and provides extensive and beautifully presented information on the history of the area.

When you’re finished with the cathedral visit the Tobar na Molt (Wethers Well) ,  a place of pilgrimage for centuries and the Ardfert Franciscan Friary also a National Monument, founded circa 1253 by Thomas Fitzmaurice, first Lord of Kerry. Make sure to bring your empty water bottles to fill them up with holy natural water that will keep you save and healthy on your trip.

Next you have two options   1. head for Fenit http://www.gokerry.ie/fenit-harbour-marina/ to see the Brendan the navigator memorial, http://www.gokerry.ie/st-brendan-international-conference/ head onto Tralee for activities to do with the kids such as swimming, crazy golf tennis etc. go to Blennerville and see the windmill and the birth place of the Jeannie Johnston. The great vessile that took a lot of Irish people to America during the Famine.   2. Grab you’re wet suit, towel and swimming gear, surf or body board leave Ardfert and head for Ballyheigue beach a place of shear beauty and tranquill sea and sand. Ballyheigue beach is perfect for your picnic trip with the family. Go surfing and swimming and enjoy the beauty surrounding you.

Once you're finished with the water  jump back in the car and head for the Ratoo Round Tower in Ballyduff. It will take you a total of 18 minutes and 10 miles to get there just follow the signs for the R551. The Ratoo Round Tower was built in about 1100 on a monastery site dating back to the 6th century. One of the tallest and most beautifully proportioned Irish round towers, it features a door moulding capped with an unusal curviliner design and a sheela-na-gig, which is the only example found in an Irish round tower. It is still not confirmed whether the tower served as a watch tower for protection against hostile incursions or as a bell tower. In any case, the quailty of the workmanship providing the sturdiness of the structure is amazing. By the time you have all these things done it should be time for home,so follow the R551 which leads onto the R553 for 18 minutes and a total of 10 miles and you will be back in Listowel again.


When it comes to dinner time there are plenty of places to eat in Listowel, Ballybunion, Lisselton or where ever it is you’re eating. The best way to see all your options for places to eat is simply go onto the Where to Eat tab on the GoKerry home page http://www.gokerry.ie/ . A few places of interest would be the Horseshoe restaurant, http://www.gokerry.ie/horseshoe-bar-restaurant/ which offers gorgeous food at great prices in a lovely setting. Another option would be to head for a very romantic and cosy dinner in The Thatch Bar Lisselton, http://www.gokerry.ie/the-thatch-bar-restaurant/ here you are guaranteed food at the highest standard with excellent service and warm polite service from a place steeped in history with the owner being the 4th generation to run the bar and restaurant.After dinner the activities vary, if you enjoy a movie  then head for the movie theater  and catch up on the latest releases or  head for a classic movie Tuesday and step back in time to a see a movie you have forgotten you've seen before.

If the movies aren't for you and you're more of a theatre goer then head for St. John's Theatre and Art's centre http://www.gokerry.ie/st-johns-theatre-and-arts-centre/ to see a list of scheduled plays and  just follow the link to their page on our website for more information.

For the socialiser in all of us the options for bars and public house's around the town are endless, for example Christy's "The Well" Bar http://www.gokerry.ie/christys-the-well-bar/ which is situated in the middle of Listowel town is a great spot to meet new people and soak up all the local knowledge while enjoying a pint of the famous black stuff. For more listing's of bars then look under the Where to Eat tab on the home page http://www.gokerry.ie/

Day two:

Pending you’re not too burnt out from the night before and are in the mood for more adventure my suggestion would be to either start or finish the day with a trip to the beach and get the fresh Kerry air into those lungs. This small loop would take in more history and beauty along the road as you travel. If you leave Listowel leaving the beach till the end, head north for Tarbert it will take you 17minutes and 18kilometers along the N17 to get there. Once there make your way for the Bridewell Court house and jail. Tarbert Bridewell was built in 1831 and its elegant cut limestone exterior stands as a tribute to the fine craftsman of the early 19th century. For more than 100years it served as a Courthouse and Jail. The courthouse was used for the dispensing of justice with the cells and yards for the temporary confinement of prisoners prior to their removal to the County Jail in Tralee. There are also a lot of lovely walks and trails around here to which opens the doors to natural beauty along with peace and tranquillity. One such walk is The John F. Leslie Woodland Walk which overlooks Tarbert Bay is very popular. The walk is 6.1kilometers and takes approximately 1hour. The Flora of the woods is ever changing and every season is a beauty in itself. Since the walk was developed a large number of Trees have been identified and tagged. There is a great variety of Birds & Butterflies to be seen in the woods and along the Bay. Points of interest on the Woodland Walk include: 

·         Tarbert Bridewell.

·         Memorial to the drowning victims.

·         Tarbert House

·         Tarbert Bay View

·         Tarbert Piers from which Dolphin boat trips are provided once booked in advance.

·         Walled Gardens

.         Bird Information Board.

Once your finished in Tarbert follow the signs for Ballylongford and more specifically Carrigafoyle Castle. It should take you 13minutes and 11kilometers along the R551 to get there. Carrigafoyle Castle is a very fine example of 15th century building. The illustration in Pacata Hibernia shows the unique features of this castle. The castle was strongly built and ingeniously situated. Standing on the edge of the Shannon estuary on what was originally an island, Carrigafoyle Castle rises to five storeys with vaults over the second and fourth storeys. An unusually wide spiral stairs ascends in one corner of the tower which has small rooms as well as the main living spaces opening off it. The stone bawn wall at the foot of the castle contained a boat dock. One of the turrets in this wall seems to have been used as a dovecot where pigeons were kept for food. 

A wide spiral staircase of 104 steps leads to the battlements and in presentation and size it rivals Blarney Castle. It rises to 26.4 meters and gives an impression of great strength. In the forefront of the view from it, Carrig Island and Scattery Island can be seen across the broad estuary of the Shannon. 

Carrigafoyle Castle was the main stronghold of the O Connor Kerry, the principal chieftain of this barony named after him. For 400 years they were an important part of the ever changing political and military jigsaw of those times. From here O Connor Kerry was able to intercept ships going up the Shannon to Limerick, board them and take a part of their cargo. This practice continued until the middle of the 16th century.

In the Desmond wars in 1580, the castle came under fire from naval artillery on land and sea, under the command of Sir William Pelham. Following a two day siege the castle was breached and taken on Palm Sunday 1580. All the occupants, comprising nineteen Spanish and fifty Irish were massacred. Opposite the castle is the medieval Church of Carrigafoyle which is built in the same style as the castle.

The O’Connor’s of Kerry also built the Friary of Lislaughtin. St Lachtin was the first to preach Christianity in the area. Various internal rooms and staircases are accessible. There are no visitor facilities, but this need not detract from the medieval experience of seeing the castle.

Once your finished with the castle follow the road onto Ballybunion. It should take you 24minutes 19kilometers to get there along the R551. Weather you in the mood to just relax with the wind in your hair and sand between your toe’s then the beach is the perfect place for you, however on the other hand if you want to play one of the constantly top 10 most ranked golf course’s in the world then either the Old Course or New course in Ballybunion is the place for you. A lot of famous people have graced the course with there company non other than former US President Bill Clinton himself. Why not follow in his great footstep (while not trying to get caught in the same place as him) as you walk these magnificent course’s.

Feeling hungry then why not stop off and get food in the Ballybunion Golf Hotel http://www.gokerry.ie/ballybunion-golf-hotel/ for great food and great people. Feeling thirsty then why not head to Mikie Joe’s bar in the town. http://www.gokerry.ie/mikie-joes-bar/. Great drink and excellent traditional music most evenings this is a great place to unwind after a long day of sport and travelling. 

All this should bring you to the end of your day. So if you’re heading for home to Listowel follow the R553 for 22kilometers and about 22minutes then plan you’re night ahead like you did the night before.

Calls to Action:


  1. Knocknagoshel Shooting Grounds - http://www.gokerry.ie/irish-shooting-sports-knocknagoshel-shooting-grounds/
  1. Fenit harbour and pier - http://www.gokerry.ie/fenit-harbour-marina/
  1. St. Brendan the Navigator – http://www.gokerry.ie/st-brendan-international-conference/
  1. The Aqua dome Tralee - http://www.gokerry.ie/the-aquadome/
  1. Ballybunion Batchelor Festival - http://www.gokerry.ie/ballybunion-bachelor-festival/
  1. Ballybunion Atlantic Sessions - http://www.gokerry.ie/ballybunion-atlantic-sessions/
  1. Muckross House and Gardens - http://www.gokerry.ie/index.php?action=locations&location_id=135
  1. Ring of Kerry - http://www.gokerry.ie/index.php?action=locations&location_id=28
  1. Scartaglen Rambling house - http://www.gokerry.ie/scartaglen-rambling-house-/

      10. Gap of Dunloe - http://www.gokerry.ie/locations/gap-of-dunloe/

      11. Rossbeigh - http://www.gokerry.ie/rossbeigh-beach/

      12. Glenbeigh Festival and Rossbeigh races - http://www.gokerry.ie/glenbeigh-festival-and-rossbeigh-races/


Getting Here;

Tralee: 17 miles (27 km) 20 min drive

Limerick: 45 miles (72 km) – 50 min drive

Cork: 70 miles (113 km) – 1.5 – 2 hours drive

Dublin: 170 miles (274 km) – 3 hours drive (new motorway) 

As you exit Kerry Airport, turn left N23, keep driving until you reach a T junction and take a right onto N22 signposted Tralee. Continue until you reach a roundabout and take the 1st exit left N21 signposted Tralee, continue on through 4 more roundabouts until you reach the 5th, take the 3rd exit marked N69, keep on driving until you reach the traffic lights. Turn right at these lights N69 stay on the N69; this will take you all the way to Listowel. The Listowel Arms Hotel is located in The Square on the left hand side.

From Shannon Airport
out of the airport onto N18 and straight on through 3 roundabouts, at the 4th take the 3rd exit N18 heading towards Limerick. Continue forward entering Limerick. At Coonagh roundabout take the 3rd exit onto N18 signposted N20 Tralee. At the next roundabout take the 2nd exit onto Condell Rd signposted Cork. Continue on over the Shannon Bridge to next roundabout where you take the 3rd exit N69. Keep on the N69 until you reach Tarbert where you take a left. Continue on N69 until you reach Listowel, at the roundabout take the 2nd exit and keep going straight on until you enter the town. The Listowel Arms Hotel is located in The Square on the right hand side.


Depart from Cork Airport

Drive out of the airport via roundabout. Keep straight via two roundabouts. Take 1st exit at Farmers Cross roundabout onto N27. At roundabout take 3rd exit and keep straight onto Eglinton Street. Turn left onto R610 / Terence Macswiney Quay. Keep straight onto Parnell Place, then turn left onto N8 /Merchants Quay. Keep straight onto N20 / Lavitts Quay, bear left and then bear left onto N2019 at roundabout, take 1st exit onto N72 / Navigation Road. Turn right onto R576 / Kippagh South. Turn right onto Kilmaniheen West. Road name changes to Kilconlea. Bear left and then turn right onto N212. Turn left onto R524 / Church Street. It will bring you to the Square; the Listowel Arms hotel is located on the right hand side. 


Things do in Listowel and surrounding areas;


·         Why not visit the Lartigue Monorail Museum and take a ride on the replica of the unique steam engine. Tel. 068 24393 www.lartiguemonorail.com.

·         The Seanchai – Kerry Literary & Cultural Center, featuring five of the County Kerry’s most esteemed writers: John B. Keane, Bryan McMahon, George            Fitzmaurice, Brendan Kennelly and Maurice Walsh. Tel. 068-22212 www.kerrywritersmuseum.com.

·         Take a guided tour around our very own 15th century Listowel Castle. www.heritagetowns.com  www.heritageireland.ie

·         Take a Literary Walk around Listowel with Vincent.

·         Why not go for a walk along the River Feale through the Listowel Park to the Garden of Europe and take in the beauty of the walk and park.

·         Fancy a round of golf, why not play at the Listowel Golf Club or Pitch & Putt in the Listowel Park – 15 min walk to Golf Club, 2 min walk to Pitch&Putt in           the Town Park

·         For the shopper within all  of us “shop till you drop” – there are beautiful shops and boutiques in Listowel

·         Visit St.John’s Gallery and Theatre in the Square. Tel. 068 23485, www.stjohnstheatrelistowel.com

·         For the movie buffs out there why catch a movie at the Listowel Classic Cinema. Tel.068 22796. www.listowel-cinema.com.

·         Why not have a pint in the John B Keane’s – Listowel’s most famous playwright pub. 


Just 10 minutes drive to the Seaside

·         Play a round of Golf at the famous Ballybunion Golf Club. www.ballybuniongolfclub.ie

·         Treat yourself to a relaxing seaweed bath at Collin’s baths on the Ballybunion beach. Tel. 068 27469

·         Fancy a hike, go for the Cliff Walk – a spectacular views 20-min walk along the Cliffs of Ballybunion

·         Relax with a swim or a workout at Ballybunion Leisure Center. Tel. 068 28111, www.ballybunionleisure.com

·         Who’s for grub? Why not have a light bite or gourmet dinner at the Cliff Restaurant overlooking Atlantic Ocean and Ballybunion sandy beaches. Tel.               068 27777, www.gokerry.ie/cliff-house-hotel-/ 

North Kerry