The Great Southern Greenway is a unique 96km (60 miles) stretch of countryside which follows the route of the former Limerick to Tralee/ Fenit railway line.
A 40km off-road walking and cycling trail has been created between Rathkeale and Abbeyfeale, along with short stretches which have been developed near the Lartigue Museum in Listowel and at Rock Street, Tralee, Co. Kerry.
Currently, there are five sections to the Great Southern Trail:
Rathkeale to Ardagh (9km)
This is a level section which begins at the Irish Palatine Museum and crosses the River Deel. Five beautiful cut-stone overhead bridges are passed along the way. Just before the third one, you will see the ancient churchyard at Clounagh and the ruins of the 15th century Lisnacille Castle in the distance.
On the approach to the fourth bridge, a local road to the right of the trail leads to Cahermoyle House (now a private nursing home) which has associations with William Smith O’Brien, leader of the 1848 Young Ireland Rebellion.
The fifth bridge is at Ardagh Station (now a private house) from where the village, St. Moula’s Well and the old fort where the Ardagh Chalice was found in 1868 can be visited.
Ardagh to Newcastle West (4km)
This section is level at each end with a with a slight dip in the middle. It passes through farmland surrounded by hills. As Newcastle West is approaches the River Daar is bridged before proceeding on to Newcastle West railway station.
Only the restored station house (now a private home) and the mature oak trees which lined the approach avenue from Bishop Street survive.
Newcastle West to Barnagh (10km)
Gently uphill all the way, this section represented one of the most arduous challenges in the age of the steam train. The trail climbs into the Rooskagh Hills leading to boglands and providing wonderful views of the Limerick Plains and the Golden Vale.
The route traverses Ferguson’s Viaduct before becoming a dedicated tarmacadam cycleway with excellent views which then rejoins the railway at Barnagh Station. The trains entered Barnagh Station through a tunnel which can be visited along a stand-alone 1km section of the old railway.
Barnagh to Templeglantine (4km)
The N21 roadside cycleway continues into a short section of a cul-de-sac before the sight of old telegraph poles indicate that the railway has been joined again. This section passes through cuttings and embankments and under two stone bridges.
The village of Templeglantine becomes visible on the left and is reached along the L21006. Templeglantine is a good starting point for a side trip to Glenquin Castle (restored), Killeedy Castle (ruin) and St. Ita’s Churchyard. There are also great views of a modern windfarm.
Templeglantine to Abbeyfeale to the Kerry border (13km)
Opposite the church the L21006 leads to the trail where a left turn is taken for Abbeyfeale. After 2km Tullig Wood is entered and its tranquil atmosphere is in sharp contrast to the noisy N21 located just a couple of fields away.
A little further on the restored station (private) at Devon Road is passed, once serving a local creamery. The trail now levels out as it comes parallel to the River Allaghaun and accompanies it all the way to Abbeyfeale.
Pass under the stone bridge and travel a further 2km where the station (private) at Abbeyfeale is passed. You can turn left here onto the R524 for the town centre, or continue on towards Co. Kerry. If you continue on you will cross the River Oolagh and pass Purt Castle (ruin) and the River Feale on your left.
Main access points to the Great Southern Trail:
Rathkeale: The old railway station which is now the Irish Palatine Museum. It is accessed from the R518 roundabout, just south of the N21 and near the Catholic Church (look for the large spire!).
Ardagh: The entrance is at the railway bridge on the local L7001 road which links the N21 with the R523. Parking is available at the community Centre 200m from the railway bridge.
Newcastle West: There are two entrances here. One is at Bishop Court (off Bishop Street in the town centre) and the other near Gaelscoil Ó Dóghair/Recycling Centre on the R521.
Templeglantine: Park the car at Halla Inse Bán which is on the local L21006 road directly opposite the church. The Trail is accessed 1km north along this local road. Devon Road: At the Devon Road Cross turn north off the N21/R515 junction and travel along the L7059 where Tullig Wood is clearly visible to the right.
Abbeyfeale: In the town centre turn right from the N21 onto the R524 Athea Road. You will see the old station on the right after 1km (adjacent to the ‘Railway Bar’).
Rules of the trail:
- The trail is strictly for walkers and pedal cyclists only
- Cyclists please wear a helmet and yield to pedestrians
- Do not enter adjoining farmland
- Respect the natural habitat that is the greenway as well as its flora and fauna
- Please do not litter the trail
- Keep dogs on leads and scoop the poop
- In case of emergency, please phone Newcastle West Gardaí on T: +353 (0)69 20650
For more information, log on to www.southerntrail.net