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Listowel is a market town positioned in the very heart of North Kerry in County Kerry, Ireland. Listowel is situated on the River Feale at the head of the North Kerry limestone plain, about 28km (17miles) from the county town, Tralee.
Town’s long history dates back to 1303 where it first appears in the Plea Roll. The town developed around Listowel Castle, fortress to the Fitzmaurice family, and its significant Square. The last bastion against Queen Elizabeth I in the Desmond campaign, Listowel Castle was built in the 15th century and was the last fortress of the Geraldines to be subdued. It fell after 28 days siege to Sir Charles Wilmot on the 5th November, 1600, who had the castle's garrison executed in the following days. The castle became the property of the Hare family, the holders of the title of Earl of Listowel, after reverting away from the Fitzmaurices, Knights of Kerry. It is now a national monument. Today, the remnants of the castle include two of its four towers, which are joined by a heavy curtain wall, and the unusual feature of an arch below the battlements. Archaeological excavations and records of the castle reveal that it was originally of similar form to Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare. In 2005, restoration works were commenced by the Board of Public Works. The stonework has been cleaned by a team of craftsmen, while the upper section, which had become particularly distressed with the passing of time, has been restored and rendered waterproof. An external staircase, in keeping with the architecture of the structure has been erected to enable the public to access the upper stories.
The town is sometimes described as the "Literary Capital of Ireland" and a number of internationally known playwrights and authors have lived there, including Bryan MacMahon and John B. Keane.
"Beautiful Listowel, serenaded night and day by the gentle waters of the River Feale
Listowel where it is easier to write than not to write,
Where first love never dies, and the tall streets hide the loveliness,
The heartbreak and the moods, great and small,
Of all the gentle souls of a great and good community
Sweet, incomparable hometown that shaped and made me”
Famed for its literary contributions and the many festivals held each year, a major part of those festival celebrations is found in market town of Listowel where the seven day autumn horseracing meeting is held. Listowel races have been a feature of the town since 1858 and have proved to be a major draw for racing fans who flock to the course for the final racing festival of the summer, an event which coincides with the Harvest Festival to produce the highlight of the social and racing calendar.