Welcome to Newcastle West, the county town of Limerick, lying at the heart of Munster’s great Golden Vale.
It is a town with a history, a Desmond stronghold which has seen wars and conquest, harmony and development, a town which has adapted and changed to become a thriving centre with a wide range of facilities and services, underpinned by industry and enterprise.
Located on the banks of the Arra River, Newcastle West is an expansive town, with lots of green and leafy spaces that make for relaxed and healthy life-styles, and which has drawn new people to live here over the past 25 years.
Today Newcastle West has a population of close to 7000, an increase of almost 50% over the past 25 years… a population that also reflects the increasing diversity of Ireland itself. More than 1 in 5 people now living in Newcastle West are not Irish born but have made the town their home where their Irish-born children now go to schools and find jobs.
The town’s motto, As dúchas, dóchas, packs a powerful message. Our hope springs from our traditions.
Historically a town of fairs and butter markets, Newcastle West is now a large centre of employment with a strong business and enterprise culture. It is home to international companies such as Rettig Myson and Filtertek but also to strong successful local companies such as Brian A Flynn, Brian Scully Services, PSE Power Systems and Hunt Office.
But food enterprise remains strong. Pallas Foods, originally established by a local family, is now part of the multinational Cisco empire and a major employer. Another home-grown enterprise Cahills Cheese, has won international awards.
And then there is Ballygowan the leader in Irish bottled water, indeed a by-word for bottled water, an iconic brand with an international reputation.
A wide range of smaller enterprises also provide employment and services within the town and to the wider community ... bars, restaurants, cafes, furniture and household goods, supermarkets, speciality shops.
Significantly, the new Irish of Newcastle West have also played their part, seeing in the town a good base for their entrepreneurial spirit. The Silver Room restaurant was opened in 2016 by two Polish couples who originally came to work for a hotel in Adare. Last year, they won Newcomer of the Year in the Food and Wine Awards and this year expanded their restaurant. Other enterprises include mechanical repairs, food shops, dress-making and alterations.
Over the past 20 years, Newcastle West has steadily built a reputation for fashion and style and is now a destination town for fashionistas. The town has a range of boutiques and shoe shops ensuring a wide choice of labels, styles and price.
The can-do attitude of Newcastle West’s boutique owners can be seen too in the development of significant online business, in particular by Virgo and Ian Scanlan, and in the decision by fashion guru Gok to stage one of his road-shows in the town last year. Newcastle West boutiques also featured in RTE‘s Frock Shop series.
The town also supports a community hospital as well as a range of other medical and professional services.
Education has a long history in the town. The Courtenay School dates back to 1759. Today educational facilities include four national schools, including a Gaelscoil, and two second level schools. There is also a HSE Training Centre and a Brothers of Charity Workshop for people with special needs while agencies such as West Limerick Resource provide other training opportunities. The town is centrally located for easy access to the University of Limerick and Mary Immaculate Training College or to the Institutes of Technology in Limerick or Tralee.
Sport plays a big part in the life of Newcastle West …the town has significant sports facilities for GAA, soccer and rugby and is also home to several cycling clubs, an athletics club, and tennis club, a pool and a several gyms. And we look forward to the development of a Regional Athletics Hub in 2019.
Volunteering is a big part of life in Newcastle West… whether in sports, the arts or in organisations such as the Vincent de Paul or the Men’s Shed.
The Desmond Complex was imagined and built through local voluntary effort and how provides crèche facilities and facilities for our older citizens as well as being a centre for meetings and social occasions. The Men’s Shed, the Arra Walking Group and the Active Retired all provide social outlets for different groups of people.
Newcastle West Tidy Towns deserves a special mention. It now has six bronze medals to its credit, a huge achievement, and this year is hoping to win silver.
Each year, the town hosts Eigse Michael Hartnett, a literary and arts festival with a very special atmosphere. It is run by a local committee in partnership with Limerick City and County Council and brings leading writers, poets, artists and thinkers to the town
The Great Southern Trail Group is another voluntary group which has achieved a lot. Their work over 20 years brought the 40k Great Southern Greenway into being, the first long-distance greenway in the country and part of the Euro-Vélo 1 route. It is now under the management of Limerick City and County Council and there are plans for to extend it east to the city and to continue it on to Listowel.
Over the past three years, a new organisation has evolved in the town: the Newcastle West Development Association an umbrella organisation which brings together the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Association, Tidy Towns and the Community Council. This new association is now spearheading a five year plan for the town in a dynamic collaboration with Limerick City and County Council and the Newcastle West Municipal District.
A number of elements of that five-year plan are already underway with the development of a Regional Athletics Hub and a visitor centre at Fullers Folly.
Together with the Desmond Castle Complex and the Great Southern Greenway, they will attract new visitors to the town and help to copper-fasten Newcastle West as a tourist destination… a place to visit, to stay, to eat and drink and to explore.
Newcastle West is a town on the move, determined to forge ahead, but secure in knowing that it is a good place to live, to work, to rear families and to do business in.