by Helen Blanchfield
It is at a certain point on the road as you journey on the N21, when the road declines as it bends, that you notice the town of Castleisland in all its splendor towards your left. The sweetest island of Kerry as it has been referred to, and as Kerry truly is the Kingdom then welcome to the gateway of the Kingdom. A busy market town of East Kerry in the Sliabh Luachra area Castleisland is richly steeped in the history of business and trade.
The tradition of fair day is still strong in Castleisland. Annually on November the first the famously wide main street and mart area are a busy hive with horses of every stature,ponies, other random farm animals,market stalls, and of course loyal traders and visitors. All that is needed is a little fine weather to complete the magical atmosphere. It makes for long-lasting good memories for young and old amongst us. Long ago there were many industries carried on in Castleisland and around the town. Tannery and basket making to name two for selling on a fair day.
Castleisland castle was referred to in medieval times as “The castle of the island” or simply “the Island .The town grew around the noble Castle built by Geoffrey de Marisco in 1226. In later times the Desmond Fitzgerald fortress was a thriving, self-sufficient entity with a prosperous port of Tralee nearby for trade. The island was created by turning the waters of the river Maine into a moat surrounding the Castle. Stones from the Castle itself were used in the development of the town and can be seen on some shop facades of shops today. A compelling documentary has been made by Robert Maguire an Archaeology graduate, with the goal to preserve the legacy and history of Castleisland Castle. Ruins can be seen if you take a stroll on the river walk .This walk is an attractive feature running from upper Main Street along the banks of the charming river Maine to Herbert Bridge on the Killarney road.
Proudly standing beside these Castle ruins is Divanes, an institution in the motoring trade in Ireland and a main Volkswagen dealer for Kerry since 1954. Seven decades of exceptional service has been provided by this family run business. The company was established by the late Stanley Divane who entered the motor trade in 1935, and has thrived ever since. The family tradition is supplying Volkswagens finest to the community and beyond. Booking a test drive or servicing can be made by phoning 066 7141253 or emailing via the company page at divanes.ie.
Castleisland has an incredible and diverse culture and heritage. One of its festivals run on the October bank holiday weekend each year is the Patrick o keeffe festival. An Irish traditional music festival of national and international interest, and keeping the Sliabh Luachra traditions alive. Sliabh Luachra long acknowledged as more of a state of mind than a geographical entity in Kerry has indeed produced many a remarkable musician. O Keeffes repertoire has seeped into the collective subconscious of traditional musicians thanks to the recordings made in 1948/49 by Seamus Ennis and later on Ciaran Mac Mathuna . It seems that O Keeffe received formal tuition on the violin in his youth as he had an understanding of the writing of music as well as playing engagingly. Patrick was born in Glountane Castleisland to Margaret O Callaghan, a fine fiddle and concertina player and John a schoolmaster at Glountane National School. He was the eldest of 8 children, and spend his formative years with the O Callaghan’s in Kiskaem. Patricks love for music in this happy period came from this house where dances were regularly held. Years later Patrick left behind his job as the schoolmaster at Glountane national school for the carefree bohemian lifestyle of a travelling fiddle master. He achieved fame in 1949 with the broadcasting of his music. Patrick’s tunes make up a huge bank played by today’s musicians and today he continues to be remembered as one of the greatest of Sliabh Luachras musicians, but also a wonderful character and storyteller. His legendary status owes much to his musical accomplishment but also to his philosophy and way of life. With the way things are today and the restrictions with gatherings surrounding Covid19 the festival may be held online but will remain to be celebrated in style by the masses of talented and free spirited musicians that descend on Castleisland October bank holiday weekend for years to come .Le cunamh De. Founded in 1993 opening night for the festival is traditionally held in the River Island hotel, to launch the singing, dancing music, poetry, cd/book launches.
The River Island hotel is an ideal base to explore the Kingdom of Kerry and their guest’s health and safety is paramount in these times. They have adapted a policy called here for you to ensure your stay or visit is as enjoyable as possible. Special offers for autumn available, or surprise a friend or loved one with a gift voucher. Contact River Island hotel at 0667142555 or email@example.com.
Castleisland is accurately considered “The Fashion capital of Kerry” boasting many fashion stores, accessory, and shoe boutiques. With award winning shops supplying top labels Castleisland can be your one stop destination to find everything you require. Take a break whilst shopping to enjoy the many restaurants at your disposal and enjoy free parking too.
Hannons of Castleisland is a third generation family run business since 1939 first started by their grandmother, and as the saying goes” Is always worth travelling to”. New to Hannons for this autumn /winter are the fantastic range of wrendale gifts. Wrendale designs created by Hannah Dale are high quality stylish gifts that are totally unique and with great prices to suit everyone’s pocket. With gift ideas for Christmas such as toys ,notebooks ,bags ,scarfs ,slippers ,candles ,soaps, with nature and wild animal themes to name a selection. This exciting range is new in store and can also be purchased online also. Gifts can be wrapped beautifully and posted on your behalf .As regularly seen on RTEs today show Jill tells me about the new revamped direction for the latest fashions from Hannons. “We are going away from occasion wear to the exciting ranges that are smart casual.” Quality clothing available with great pricing in sizing from 8 up to 24 inclusive. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org .visit 30 main street Castleisland phone 0667141238 or check out exciting new autumn collections arriving daily online.
Also traditionally a family run business at 72 Main Street and formally Tangney’s drapery shop is
David Costello footwear.Experts in men’s, women’s and children’s shoes they stock a great selection of well-known brands including a wide fitting variety. A winter range now includes new stocks of bags and shoes, and an introduction to the sale of safety boots in store .Also new in Costello’s is their range of medical footwear, for more information Contact 066 7141356 from 9.30am to 6pm Monday to Saturday.
At Jackie Reidy Fashions Castleisland call in to check out the expanding supply of ladies and men’s fashions. These include leading labels, workwear, and from casual wear to suits, in all price ranges. Jackie’s is a one stop shop, and he now supplies footwear and wellingtons. Christmas stock is arriving daily. Jackie Reidy’s at the centre of town was formally Hannons from 1971 and Jackie took the reins in 2005.Great banter always ensues when you visit.
Mary personally chooses with the customer in mind and ensures her collections are for all tastes.
For a comfortable, personal experience shop at Le femme 88 main Street Castleisland .Stocking latest designs from both home and abroad, expertise and tips are given to valued customers by the staff in store. Shop online @ wwwlafemmecastleisland.ie.
Castleisland the East Kerry town with the Stacks Mountains to the west defining the beginning of the vale of Tralee has land for pasture stock. Since 1846 a mill has stood at Tonbwee, built by lord baron Ventry as a flour mill. Today Castleisland has a very busy farmer owned Co-operative mart selling livestock for farmers all over Kerry and surrounding counties. Castleisland railway station opened on the 30th of August back in 1875 for the transport of goods, cattle and commercial travel. Like many towns in Ireland, it closed for passenger traffic in 1947, goods traffic 1975, and altogether in 1977. There are many landmarks of significant importance in Castleisland and its hinterland, that draw us a picture of how the town has grown throughout the years in times of peace and prosperity, and indeed in times where the opposite is a fact. If Castleisland could tell its own tale we would hear of a time where the streets presented a mass of uneven rock resembling a quarry not a road. Stories of moonlighting, mass rocks, land league, penal laws, landlordism. Echoes of accounts from the workhouse or fever hospital. What a rarefied experience it must have been when The Liberator Daniel O Connell stopped to a large crowd gathered in Castleisland on his way home by carriage to Derrynane.
Castle Lighting and Interiors Killarney road are Irelands largest showroom, lighting homes, hotels and businesses all over the country. A family run business for 34 years, Castle Lighting has the largest selection of lighting on display in one showroom. Lights from Spain, Holland, Germany, Italy and more are all available. A very personal service is given catering for everyone’s needs and pockets as well as being experts in LED lighting. Large selections of table lamps, standard lamps can be seen in store.
Nana Beas Café and gift store is indeed a treasure and pleasure to visit. Nanas is a beautiful legacy to Shirley’s mom and Beas granddaughters that remember her fondly as a great friend, a second mother and a wonderful listener. “Nana looked after and helped rear the 3 of us while mam and dad got their business Castleisland Lighting off the ground. With the homemade dinners and desserts we were spoiled rotten” says Trish. She was an outstanding woman whom we greatly loved and admired”. Nana Beas legacy is that customers feel as cared for as we were while you are here.” In a timeframe where Nana Beas are having to change direction to provide their customers with the ultimately best service, Wood fired pizzas are now on the take away menu. Our ability to travel being restricted these days let Nanas bring you to places like Brooklyn, Barcelona, Berlin or Buenos Aires which are the names of their fabulous Pizzas. Take your taste buds on a well-deserved trip. New to the popular menu this week is the Neapolitan pizza, and available 7 days a week.
Brownes Agri, steel and Builder
provider Cahereens Castleisland pride themselves in providing top quality, value and service as your local supplier of home, agri and building supplies. Topline Brownes staff have extensive knowledge and experienced advice on steel, agriculture, building materials, home improvements and DIY. The team can also provide services such as delivery, paint mixing, key cutting, and free quotations.Brownes is an integral part of Castleisland business, and values an excellent relationship with the local community .The store was in Killarney road originally with its own bakery on site ,and formally known as Brownes cash stores. Phone 0667141560 Monday to Saturday 8am to 6 pm.
Mc Elligotts Castleisland is one of the longest established businesses in Kerry, having been formed in 1870. Continuing to prosper 150 years later Mark Mc Elligott tells connect “A sense of tradition matters ,as does ensuring customers continue to receive a top class service. The fifth generation family business continues to develop into one of the largest suppliers of furniture, bathroom ware, tiles, stoves, and plumbing products in Munster. “We are proud and conscious of the family link and we are proud to open our second store in Deer Park Killarney “says Mark. Exceptional products, unbeatable prices and an ability to source everything you need to finish your home is a hallmark of what McElligotts do. Striving for excellence is another trait that Mark explains to be essential over the years. Aspiring to supply customers with products that create a happy, cosy, functional home.” We promise you won’t be disappointed” Mark said.
Castleisland belonged to the barony of Trughanacmy back in the late 1800s, the pronunciation of which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It derives from the Irish for “The people of Ciar” the pre Gaelic tribe who lived in the area. Today Castleisland is twinned with the French town of Bannalec and the community immerses itself in other areas of Arts appreciation. Each March the Kerry Drama festival at the Ivy leaf Arts centre produce a week long programme of plays. Other notable festivals include the Castleisland races. The oldest recorded horse/pony meeting in Ireland established in 1859. The Arts festival in August celebrates the life and talent of local artist and sculptor Mike Kenny. The church in Castleisland St Stephens and John was designed by the famous architect Pugin . The pillars in the church are made from red marble found at Lisheenbawn.
A famous son of Castleisland is the brilliant sports journalist Con Houlihan, considered one of Ireland’s finest writers he is fondly remembered in his native town. A bronze bust of Houlihan was unveiled in 2004 .Over a career that spanned 60 years he left behind a legacy of immense sports journalism. As part of the Con Houlihan trail launched in 2017 by Castleisland chamber alliance, no less than fifteen plaques along the route of some of his favourite spots in the town contain some of Cons most memorable quotes. One example pertaining to his love for Rugby. “I was never capped for Ireland but I was Knee –capped playing for Castleisland. In Castleisland I’d like to be remembered as a rugby player if I am remembered at all.” Con once remarked that it’s “not so much a town as a street between two fields”. The history of Rugby in Castleisland and nearby village of Currow and its stars, is an article in its own right .Other sporting clubs such as Desmonds GAA ,St Marys basketball club, Castleisland AFC ,Castleisland golf ,pitch and putt club have had more than their fair share of success over the years. The Riocht grounds are located at Crageens Castleisland where visitors and members enjoy a welcoming environment for every fitness level. The Riocht offers a 400m tartan athletics track. The only of its kind in Kerry.
Galvins optometrists 86 main street Castleisland cater for both adults and children’s eye care needs. Offering eye examinations, lens fittings, after care, approved driving tests, visual field examinations, and diabetic screening. The practice stocks a large range of frames ranging from low budget to designer. Appointments can be made by phoning 0667143584 or emailing
Whyte’s Centra is a busy convenience shop popular with regular customers and visitors to the town alike. A full range of services includes lotto, bill pay, hot food, and off licence. Jim manager at Whyte’s praises the great crew of regular staff that provide great customer service in a covid safe and friendly manner. For convenient shopping that is great value visit Whyte’s centra.
A wonderful new service and incredible asset to the town of Castleisland is Willow Brooke care centre.
Windmill healthcare is pleased to announce the opening of their beautiful new care centre this month. It is purpose built and consists of 74 beds that will provide a wonderful service to the local community. The range of care consists of Rehab and complex care, dementia care, residential care and respite care of residents, with a holistic family orientated approach. Supporting residents to lead fulfilling lives in a safe environment is key to the ethos of Willow Brooke. Windmill healthcare will provide a dedicated team of staff to care compassionately for each individual and their unique needs. For enquiries regarding bookings or recruitment visit
It is easy to be impressed with all that Castleisland has to offer, and it is important now more than ever to support local businesses. Castleisland itself has an engaging sense of pride and community extending a warm welcome to all.
Sweet Castleisland, so dear to me
In that green valley, id long to be
Down by the Maine, I’d love to roam
In Castleisland my home sweet home.
From the song written by the late Michael Barry late of Manchester, and 20 church St Castleisland.