Newcastle West (An Caisleán Nua Thiar in Irish) is a town in west County Limerick, Ireland. The town is the largest town in the county, excluding Limerick city, and is sited on the River Arra which flows into the River Deel. Newcastle West sits in the centre of a large 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 dense with forrestry. The Crest of the town even carries the image of a wild pig. It is located on the N21 road from Limerick to Tralee, between Rathkeale and Abbeyfeale.
Newcastle West used to be called Castle-Roe, after a castle built there by the Knights Templars in 1184. 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, 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 Monegea 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 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 Templars. 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 1st, May 3rd, July 12th, August 20th, October 1st, and December 10th.
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 8,000. The urban area has passed well beyond the old town boundaries which are due for redefinition.
Today, Newcastle West is Situated on the Irish National Road - N21. Located twenty minutes drive from Limerick City and just a mere hour from Killarney. It is within 1 hours drive of Shannon, Cork and Kerry International Airports. It's strategic location is one of the many reason for the town's thriving success through recent years.
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 has been recently part restored and is open to the public, for guided tours May to September. Local folklore always insisted that the castle at one time had been a seat of the "Knights Templars". This has been more than likely verified lately while during cleaning of the Old Stone during renovations found the Seals and Crests of the Knights Templars over on old door Threshold of " The Halla Mor", which are in the same grounds. Either way, there has been castles of both timber and stone on this ground since the 1200s and 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 0.4 km² (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 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.
Catholic Church - 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. Under age drinkin central.
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 Birdge 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 7 kilometres 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.