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Ráth Caola
Art deco cinema, Rathkeale, Co. Limerick - geograph.org.uk - 581939.jpg
Rathkeale main street, with the former Central Cinema to right
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Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°31′00″N8°56′00″W / 52.516667°N 8.933333°W / 52.516667; -8.933333 Coordinates: 52°31′00″N8°56′00″W / 52.516667°N 8.933333°W / 52.516667; -8.933333
Country Ireland
Province Munster
County County Limerick
45 m (148 ft)
 (2016) [1]
Irish Grid Reference R360420

Rathkeale (Irish : Ráth Caola, meaning 'Caola's ringfort ' [2] ) is a town in west County Limerick, in Ireland. It is 30 km (18 mi) southwest of Limerick city on the N21 road to Tralee, County Kerry, and lies on the River Deel. Rathkeale has a significant Irish Traveller population, and since 1995, almost half the town residents were members of the traveling community. [3] Rathkeale also has the largest concentration of descendants of the German Palatines who immigrated to Ireland in the early 18th century.


Rathkeale has shopping facilities, a museum, two primary schools, and a community college (Coláiste na Trócaire, founded in 1995). The town has a large Roman Catholic parish church, Augustinian Abbey ruins, and the Holy Trinity Church of Ireland church.


Rathkeale in the late 19th or early 20th century Rathkeale, Limerick (5260240713).jpg
Rathkeale in the late 19th or early 20th century
Castle Matrix, Rathkeale circa 1900 Castle Matrix, Rathkeale, Limerick (5260848200).jpg
Castle Matrix, Rathkeale circa 1900

On the south-western edge of the town is the 15th-century tower house of Castle Matrix. The castle was built as a fortress during the early 1400s by Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond, and was later the home of Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Desmond. It contains a display of art objects, holds historical records, and is one of a series of significant Desmond properties in County Limerick (see also Adare, Askeaton, and Newcastle West).

In the cemetery of the Holy Trinity Church are many gravestones bearing names of Irish Palatine families. These families came from Rheinland-Pfalz, in the Rhineland Palatinate, Germany as refugees in 1709. Many of their descendants now live in North America,. [4] The region around Rathkeale, namely the townlands of Killeheen, Ballingrane, and Courtmatrix, contains the largest concentration of Palatine descendants in Ireland today. Rathkeale's former railway station on the closed North Kerry railway line from Limerick to Tralee has been converted into the Irish Palatine Museum.


Bus: Rathkeale is served by Bus Eireann routes 13 and 14 which operate between Limerick and Tralee and Killarney respectively.

Railways: Rathkeale railway station opened on 1 January 1867, closed for passenger traffic on 4 February 1963, and permanently closed on 2 December 1974. [5] The Great Southern Trail, an off-road trail for cyclists and walkers, is a greenway rail trail which follows the route of the former Limerick-Tralee railway line between Rathkeale and Abbeyfeale. [6]



See also

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  1. "Census 2016 - Small Area Population Statistics (SAPMAP Area) - Settlements - Rathkeale". Census 2016. Central Statistics Office.
  2. "Rathkeale History & Heritage | Limerick.ie". limerick.ie. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  3. "Rathkeale A Unique Town". RTÉ Archives. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  4. "Some Irish Palatine Landmarks". www.irishpalatines.org.
  5. "Rathkeale station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  6. "Home". Great Southern Trail. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  7. "A small Irish town swollen by the proceeds of crime". The Independent. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  9. "RAFC Home Page". www.rathkealeafc.ie.
  10. "Rathkeale GAA".