Listowel is also known as the Literary Capital of Ireland, as many famous Irish authors come from Listowel and the annual Writers’ Week is held there at the beginning of June. For example, John Brendan Keane (1928 – 2002) was an Irish playwright, novelist and essayist from Listowel, famously known for his play “The Field”, which was also made into a movie. He was very much influenced by the local population and the patrons of his Listowel pub (which today is run by his son Billy) from which he based some of his characters on.
Listowel is a typical, friendly Irish town with everything within walking distance of its colourful main street and with many restaurants and pubs. You’ll never have to walk far to find a Guinness. The River Feale runs alongside Listowel with a charming scenic river walk through forested area that passes by an ancient stone bridges and leads one to a lovely garden with flowers in bloom when I was there in June.
I attended the Listowel Writers’ Week in June 2018 and what a bustle of literary activity it was, from literary workshops, plays, political discussions, poetry, talks and author interviews, author readings and even a literary and historical bus tour to Ballybunion and a stop at The Thatch pub in Lisselton.
I thoroughly enjoyed Writers’ Week and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Irish writers, Irish theatre and have a bit of “craic” (defined as Irish fun, gossip, jokes, entertainment or lively conversation) at one of the many local pubs, or at the Listowel Arms Hotel where registration for the writers’ week was held and where many events took place. The Listowel Arms Hotel is a traditional hotel run by the O’Callaghan family and is located right in the centre of this quaint heritage town.
Listowel hosts many other annual festivals including the Listowel Races in September and the Listowel Food Fair in November.
Across the street from the Listowel Arms Hotel is St. Mary’s Church and within the church is St. John’s Theatre, the venue where the many plays during Writers’ Week took place. St. John’s Theatre is a premier venue for the promotion of the visual and performing arts and features the best local, national and international in theatre, music and dance. Annually St. John’s hosts approximately 160 arts events comprising of 80 theatre presentations, 60 music/dance events and 20 exhibitions.
Listowel Castle was the last bastion against Queen Elizabeth I in the First Desmond Rebellion. It was built in the 15th century and was the last fortress of the Geraldines. It has been restored to some of its former glory and is one of the best examples of Anglo-Norman architecture in County Kerry. It is open to the public for tours on a daily basis.
I left Listowel by bus to travel to Westport. The bus stop was right on the town square a two-minute walk from the Listowel Arms Hotel. Nothing is too far away in Listowel!