This town lies due East of Tralee, Castleisland! The very name conjures up visions of ancient kingdoms and castles deep in the heart of Kerry. The castle at Castleisland is dated 1266. At this time the area North of the River Maine was known as Kerry and South of the River Maine was known as Desmond. It was here that Geoffrey de Morisco, an Anglo-Norman nobleman built his castle. He diverted the waters of the River Maine into a moat around the stronghold, calling it the Castle of the Island of Kerry. The remains of the castle can still be seen; it was once the power base of the Earl of Desmond. To the old Earls of Desmond Castle Island was the “jewel of the Kingdom”. Shortly after this Kerry passed into the hands of the Earls of Desmond and remained linked with the family until 1583. The castle was once a massive structure, stretching northwards, from the bank of the river, to the foot of Maam Hill, a distance of well over a mile, and the same distance, east west along the bank of the Maine. It has sister castles in Kilmurry, about 5 miles east of the town, and in Molahiffe, and another important one in Castlemaine.
During the reign of Elizabeth 1, the whole of Munster was laid waste, and Kerry did not escape this ravishing. However, the castle continued to be occupied until the mid-seventeenth century when Cromwellian forces shelled it from Camp Hill, some two miles west of the present town.
Today Castleisland is a thriving town, with one of the largest Cattle Marts in the country. Even though quite a small town Castleisland is a major market centre. It has the biggest Cattle Mart of Kerry, in the town itself and a smaller one on the outskirts. Within a 10-mile radius of Castleisland are 9,000 farms most of which use it as a trading centre. The range of shops in Castleisland covers all the needs of the local community. Very few towns of much larger size would have the same range of shops.
Crag Cave: A right turn at the library leads to Crag Cave where nearly 4Km of limestone cave has been explored and an extensive show cave of 350 metres has been opened to the public. A thirty minute guided tour is time well spent, and to browse in the souvenir shop.
River Walk: The River Walk is a very attractive scenic area within the town itself. Lose yourself for an hour as you stroll along the bank of the River Maine watching the fish swim by in its clear and fast-running water.
The Castleisland Gun Club and Shooting Grounds: this amenity caters for clay-pigeon shooting in a wide variety of disciplines.
Ivy leaf Theatre and Art Centre: this small but beautiful theatre hosts the annual Kerry Amateur Drama Festival every march, and other events. Check the local papers.
The annual Horse Fair – is held on 1st November. It is a must for anybody coming to Castleisland at that time of the year.
Patrick O’Keeffe Weekend – the October Bank Holiday Weekend sees the gathering of the cream of Irish traditional musicians in the town, to celebrate the famed fiddle master Patrick, and listen to the best of Irish traditional music.
Memory Lane Museum: – just over 4 miles outside Castleisland on the Cordal road, is the Memory Lane Museum. This unique museum is owned by the Bunt family, and was opened to the public in August 1990. The tastefully presented collection includes numerous vintage cars and tractors, horse drawn carriages, an array of car mascots (including one of John Lennon’s), motormobilia and rural implements. The various antique cars and farm machinery are housed overlooking a panoramic view of Carauntoohil (Ireland’s highest Mountain). Of special interest to car lovers are the 1930 Silver Wraith and the 1929 Barker, which are in pristine condition. There are numerous artefacts of local interest including a crane made by Jack Leonard, which dates back over a 100 years. The firehouse embodies some very rare fire fighting equipment. In a secure little spot can be seen some very old farm fixtures including a sheepshearer dating from 1929.
The China Craft: antique bric-a- brac displays are of special interest to the antique collector. The Brunt family have being diligently collecting and restoring the various memorabilia for almost a generation and have presented them in a superb way. The Museum is open daily from 10 am.
Pitch & Putt and Tennis Club: has its championship course near to the centre of the town.