Newcastle West

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Newcastle West
Irish: an Caisleán Nua Thiar
County Limerick
Newcastle West, The Square.jpg
The Square
Grid reference: R282336
Location: 52°27’4"N, 9°3’18"W
Population: 6,327  (2011[1])
Post town: Newcastle West
Postcode: V42
Local Government

Newcastle West is a town in western County Limerick. It is the largest town in the county, excluding the city of Limerick, and sits on the River Arra which flows into the River Deel. Newcastle West is in the middle of a great bowl-shaped valley in West Limerick, known one time as the valley of the Wild Boar, apparently due to the abundance of this animal here when the area was thickly wooded. The crest of the town carries the image of a wild boar. Newcastle West is on the N21 road from Limerick to Tralee, between Rathkeale and Abbeyfeale.


Foundation and development

Newcastle West grew up around a castle, the ruins of which are located off the town square. The large castle ruins are well maintained.

The castle was built by the FitzGerald family who arrived at some point after 1194, by 1298 the castle had been completed in stone. The town then came to be known as Newcastle, West Limerick, but over time the 'west' became part of Newcastle and the town was known by the current name Newcastle West.

According to Begley,[2] the parish was called Newcastle and Ardagh in 1704. Newcastle was joined with Monagea from 1722 until 1764 when it became a separate parish. Lewis stated that parts of Monagea and Killeedy were in the parish of Newcastle West.

Two notable mentions included in the history of the diocese of Limerick were the first Monsignor in the diocese, Richard Baptist O'Brien in 1881, and Denis Hallinan who was P.P. here and later became Bishop.

Sir William Courtenay, the local landlord, held 10,500 acres of land in Newcastle West in the late 16th century. He was a staunch Catholic, and suffered persecution for his beliefs. His son George may have practised his faith in secret. Their home was reputed to have had a room in which priests were hidden. William Courtenay was denounced in the House of Commons as a papist recusant in 1624.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, three battles were fought near here. Tradition has it that the locals killed many of the Knights Templar. The town was sacked in 1302 and destroyed in 1315. Two of the Earls of Desmond died here. Garrett (better known as Gearóid Iarla) in 1399, and James, the 8th earl, in 1462.

Markets were held on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Large numbers used to attend Thursday's hiring fairs for farm workers. Fairs were held on April 1, May 3, July 12, August 20, October 1, and December 10.

The motto that goes with the town coat of arms is "As Dúchas Dóchas", which may be translated as 'Our Hope springs from our Traditions'. The town now has a population of around 11,000. The urban area has passed well beyond the old town boundaries which are due for redefinition.

Notable people

  • Michael Hartnett, poet
  • Philomena Lee, subject of "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee" by Martin Sixsmith.
  • John St John Long, notorious quack
  • Max Arthur Macauliffe, civil servant and scholar
  • William Nash], recipient of the Victoria Cross

Business and commerce

The West Limerick and Newcastle West area has traditionally had a strong Dairy and Agricultural contribution to the local economy. Huge changes occurred during the latter years of the 20th and early 21st centuries seeing the expanding of the town as a services centre for West Limerick, also bringing an increase in population. Many people who work in Limerick City live in Newcastle West and its environs and commute the 26 miles daily. However, Newcastle West itself is now a large centre of employment with a strong business and entrepreneurial culture. Large to medium employers include Pallas Foods, Rettig Myson, Ballygowan Spring Water and Filtertek. There are dozens of Businesses employing 10-50 including PSE Power Systems, Brian A Flynn, Brian Scully Services and Nolan Products. Hundreds are employed in the retail stores including local and international multiples. In recent times, there has been national success stories in e-business from local companies like[3] and,[4] who are growing information technology skills and employment in the emerging knowledge economy of the town.


Newcastle West has numerous supermarkets, including Dooley's SuperValu, a Tesco, an Aldi and a Lidl. The town is also well known for its clothes shopping with numerous fashion boutiques stocking designer labels, including Ela Maria, Kimono, Bella Sola, The G Boutique, and Platform.[5]

A Street by the River


Newcastle West has three primary schools: Courtenay Boys' School, Scoil Iosaf (an all-girls school), and Gaelscoil O'Doghair (an Irish-language school). The town also has two secondary schools, named Scoil Mhuire Agus Ide (English translation: the School of Mary and Ita), and Desmond College.


The town was connected to the railway network until 1975, as part of the "North Kerry" line, from Limerick city to Tralee, via Rathkeale and Listowel. In 1999, the station house was restored. Newcastle West railway station opened on 1 January 1857, closed for passenger traffic on 4 February 1963, closed for goods traffic on 2 December 1974 and finally closed altogether on 3 November 1975.[6]

Today, Newcastle West is situated on the Irish National primary road N21, where it is joined by the R520, R521 and R522 regional roads. It is forty minutes' drive from Limerick City and an hour from Killarney. It is within an hour's drive of Shannon, and Kerry International Airports, and two hours from Cork Airport.


Newcastle West is home to numerous sports clubs, including Newcastle West GAA club, Newcastle West Rugby Football club,[7] and two association football clubs: Newcastle West A.F.C. and Newcastle West Rovers F.C.

Places of interest

Buildings, bridges, parks

  • The Square
Desmond Banqueting Hall and Castle
  • Desmond Banqueting Hall and Castle - Newcastle West's landmark feature dominates the southern of end of the Main Town Square. The banqueting hall of the Desmond Castle, seat of the Earl of Desmond, parts of which date from the 13th century, is the most notable historical feature of the town. The current Castle dates from the 15th century and during the later part of the 20th century was partly restored and is open to the public, for guided tours May to September. The guided tour is a must for locals and visitors. The area in front of the banqueting hall was the site of The Protestant Church, built in 1777.
  • Castle Demesne - Over 100 acres of parkland with numerous forms of flora and fauna as well as playing areas and sports fields.
  • Slí na Sláinte - Walking trails which includes the Square and the Demesne.
  • Great Southern Trail - A walking trail developed along the disused railway line. It offers an interesting scenic walk between Newcastle West and Ardagh or Newcastle West and the Old Mill.
  • Churchtown Graveyard and Grotto - The Old Church Ruins in Churchtown (Catholic) date back hundreds of years.
  • Old IRA Monument - situated opposite the church this monument commemorates 17 volunteers who were killed during the war of independence and Civil War 1916 - 1922. The monument was unveiled by President Sean T.O'Kelly in 1955.
  • Church of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic) - built in 1828 by Father Thomas Coll P.P. The local Landlord, the Earl of Devon gave the site with the parishioners providing voluntary labour in the building work.
  • Iron Footbridge - crossing over the river Arra the bridge is located opposite the church and was erected by Edward Curling, the Landlord's agent in Newcastle West from 1848 - 1874.
  • Famine Graveyard - located at the rear of St Ita's Hospital. Many hundreds of people who died in the work house during the famine are buried there in unmarked graves. The cemetery is marked by a plain old cross and modern, limestone gates sculptured by Cliodna Cussen, showing scenes from the famine and commissioned by the Famine Cemetery Committee.
  • St Bridget's Well - located in Shanagarry on the Killarney Road.
  • Carnegie Library - located in the Market Yard this impressive building was built by the Carnegie Trust and founded by the Scottish / philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The building housed a secondary school for many years. It is now a busy commercial centre.
  • Bridge of Tears - located at the south of the town at the junction of the Dromcollogher Road, there is a stone bridge which takes its name from being a famous last farewell point. Known locally as the Bridge of Sorrows or Tears, during the time of the famine, Emigrants from all over West Limerick said their last goodbyes before walking or taking a carriage to Cork and the boat to North America or further.
  • Barnagh Gap - About four miles west of the town is the scenic view point at Barnagh Gap, which provides a panoramic east-facing view over County Limerick, West Tipperary/ Galtee Mountains and north County Cork. On a clear day North Tipperary and Clare are also visible.

Great Southern Trail Ireland

The Great Southern Trail is a 53-mile stretch of countryside in West Limerick/North Kerry. It is the route taken by the former Limerick-Tralee railway line, which opened in 1867/1880 and closed in 1975/1977. The Great Southern Trail Action Group are a non-profit group working to develop the Limerick to Tralee section as a rail trail so that everyone can explore this beautiful region in a safe, leisurely way by foot or bicycle. This Group is based around the Newcastle West area.[8]


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