Historic sites and National Monuments
Listowel is a great base to explore the many historical sites and National Monuments of North Kerry : within a radius of 25 km there is a number of sites featuring medieval eccelesiastical buldings and historical fortifications: Listowel Castle, Ratoo Round Tower in Ballyduff, Carrigafoyle Castle in Ballylongford, and Ardfert Cathedral are amoung them.
On your doorstep there is 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 a 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 metres, connected by a wall of the same height and linked together by an arch on one side. Guided tours are available.
Ratoo Round Tower in Ballyduff – built about 1100 on a monastery site dating to the 6th century. One of the tallestand most beautifully proportioned Irish Round Towers, it features a door moulding capped with an unusual curvilinear 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 was serving as a watch tower providing protection against hostile incursions or as a bell tower. In any case, the quality of the workmanship providing the sturdiness of the stucture is amazing.
Carrigafoyle Castle in Ballylongford – now a listed National Monument, was built by Connor Liath O’Connor at the end of the 15th century using a design borrowed from the Normans. The O’Connors 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.
Ardfert Cathedral – another Nathional Monument, is a fasinating 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 the tale “Brendan’s Voyage” – a story of monks traveling the high seas of the Atlantic, evangelizing to the islands and possibly reaching American shores in the 6th century. The museum on the grounds feature an ogham stone and provides extensive and beautifuly presented information on the history of the area.
Other interesting sites nearby are 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.