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Irish: Caisleán an Bharraigh
County Mayo
Castlebar large view from above.jpg
Grid reference: M146905
Location: 53°51’39"N, 9°17’56"W
Population: 10,826  (2011)
Post town: Castlebar
Postcode: F23
Local Government
Council: Castlebar

Castlebar is the county town of County Mayo. It is in the middle of the county and is its largest town by population. Castlebar's population boomed in the late 1990s, rising by one-third in six years, though this growth has slowed in recent years.

A campus of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and the Country Life section of the National Museum of Ireland are two important local amenities. The town is linked by railway to Dublin, Westport and Ballina. The town is surrounded by several villages, with Breaffy the most well known. The main route by road is the N5. Its economy is primarily service-based. The population of its urban area as of 2011 is 10,826.[1]


The name of the town comes from the castle built in 1235.[2] In the borough arms, the castle is depicted in the top of the crest, with two yew trees on either side because Castlebar is the county town of Mayo (from the Irish Maigh Eo; "Plain of the yew trees").

The town's name in Irish is Caisleán an Bharraigh, meaning "Barry's Castle".


The Castlebar Races, 1798

The modern town grew up as a settlement around the de Barry castle, which was built by a Norman adventurer in 1235 and was later the site of an English garrison. The castle was located at the end of Castle Street, where the town river is thought to have originally flowed. A military barracks operated in the town for many years. It was finally closed in March 2012 and the buildings and grounds have been purchased by the local town and county councils.

The castle from which the town derives its name stands today in ruins.

Armed conflict has been the centrepiece of the town's historical heritage. French forces under the command of General Humbert aided in a rout of the British garrison in the town during the failed Irish Rebellion of 1798, which was so comprehensive it would later be known as "The Races of Castlebar]]".[3] A short-lived provisional Republic of Connaught was declared following the victory and John Moore, head of the Mayo United Irishmen and the brother of a local landowner, was declared its president. His remains are today interred in a corner of the town green, known as the Mall, previously the cricket grounds of Lord Lucan, whose family (the Binghams) have owned and still own large tracts of the town and county.[4]

The town received its charter from King James I in 1613. The Lake in Castlebar is also known as Lough Lannagh.

The Irish National Land League was founded by Michael Davitt, of Straide in County Mayo, at the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar on 21 October 1879.[5]

Castlebar expanded rapidly during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, concurrently with the careers of influential local politicians such as the current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and Padraig Flynn.


Linenhall Street

At Castlebar are a number of festivals and traditions, among which is the International Four Days' Walk.[6]

A well-established blues music festival in venues across the town took place for many years on the weekend before the first Monday in June.[7]

During the 1970s and 1980s the town hosted the International Castlebar Song Contest which was televised nationally on RTE.[8]

Country Life Museum

The Museum of Country Life is on the outskirts of Castlebar, and is the only branch of the National Museum of Ireland located outside Dublin.[9]

The Linenhall Arts Centre exhibits visual art throughout the year, as well as hosting live drama and music performances.[10] The Linenhall also organises an annual children's arts festival called Roola Boola (an anglicisation of the Irish phrase rí rá agus ruaile buaile which in this context means "boisterous fun"). The Royal Theatre and Event Centre, with a capacity of two thousand two hundred fully seated, four thousand standing,[11] hosts larger-scale productions and popular music concerts.

There is a recently established Mayo male voice choir and Mayo Concert Orchestra. There is also a marching band in the town – one of the few surviving marching bands west of the Shannon.


There are Church of Ireland (Anglican), Elim Pentecostal, and evangelical (Calvary Church Castlebar) and Roman Catholic, churches in the town.


Castlebar has a selection of places to eat and drink. There is a broad range of types of food available: Italian, Indian, Chinese, Irish, and fast food, as well as cafes.

A lot of the public houses closed during the building boom during the 1990s. In 1990, Castlebar had 54 licensed premises, although this number had fallen to fewer than 30 public houses by 2008. Castlebar is a garrison market town; there was a tradition of open air markets mostly selling livestock, which meant there was a healthy daytime drinking trade in Castlebar, but this has disappeared. For a combination of factors since the introduction of the smoking ban and the EU single payment grant to farmers, most public houses offer food to help subsidize the drop in alcohol sales.

One of the oldest pubs in Castlebar is John McHale's pub, located on New Line. The pub is known for its sale of a Meejum of Guinness, which is slightly less than a pint. It once had 'the best pint of Guinness in Ireland' according to a national tabloid.


Ellison Street
Former Linen Hall, Castlebar

Castlebar is traditionally a market town, and it is still a major destination for shoppers from all over the west of Ireland.

It boasts an increasing number of national and international chain stores, and several new shopping areas have been developed in the past 10–12 years on what were considered the outskirts of the town. The modern shopping precinct along Hopkins Road is now the commercial heart of the town, surpassing Main Street. Stores include Argos, Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Aldi, Next, Lidl, Supervalu, Boots, New Look, Shaws, Heatons, Elverys and Homebase, as well as smaller names such as McLoughlins Bookshop, Irwin Interiors and Liam Cannons Fruit & Veg.

In January 2012 it was confirmed that Castlebar is the largest retail centre in Connaught after the City of Galway, with Sligo following behind. A survey by consultants Experian showed that €284 million is spent in by shoppers in Castlebar every year.


  • Football: Castlebar Celtic, established 1924
  • GAA: Castlebar Mitchels Club; Gaelic football and hurling
  • Golf: an 18-hole golf club
  • Rugby: Castlebar RFC, founded in the 1970s

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Castlebar)