Listowel Racecourse Hotels

Listowel Racecourse
Photo thanks to Healy Racing Photographers

Following the closure of Tralee Racecourse of 2008, County Kerry has been left with just two racing venues. In addition to the picturesque Kilbeggan Racecourse, head further north and you will stumble across Listowel Racecourse. It is quite an exclusive course in the sense that there are only two opportunities to visit each year. Racegoers either have the choice of joining for some, or all, of the three-day meeting in June or the extremely popular week-long Harvest Festival in September.


Listowel itself is a heritage market town with a popular of around 5,000 people. Given that it is a fairly small place with little tourism outside of people coming for the races, nearby accommodation options are few and far between. Although there are options nearby, you will find that because Listowel effectively has just two meetings per year, prices on racedays are not especially cheap. The heightened demand for just a few dates combined with limited supply does see establishments up their nightly rates.

In Listowel

In addition to a few, small private rents with just one or two rooms, Listowel is also home to a family-run pub hotel – the Listowel Arms Hotel. The hotel is well-rated among guests but you may have difficulty getting a room on the day of a race meeting unless you book very far in advance as it is not particularly big. Located in the centre town, you can easily walk to the racecourse.

The Listowel Arms Hotel
The Listowel Arms Hotel
21 min walk

Located in Listowel's historic old square, the Listowel Arms Hotel is family run and is just a 21-minute walk to the Listowel Racecourse. There is a Georgian restaurant that overlook the River Feale and offers local produce, as well as a bar that has a fireplace.

Ballybunion Break

Situated around 20km away from the racecourse on the coastline of Ireland is the town of Ballybunion. As its golden sand beaches are popular among visitors, there is a decent hospitality industry in the area meaning several places to stay overnight. Close to the beach, you have a couple of options with sea views, whilst just further south to the golf course, you will find some smaller B&B options. There are several holiday cottages in the area too for those hoping to rent something a bit more private.

Marine Boutique Hotel Ballybunion
The Marine Boutique Hotel
16 min drive

This beach hotel is just 200 metres from the ocean and offers a lounge, restaurant and bar with sea views. The hotel is perfect for racegoers hoping to get some waves, as it is only a 16-minute drive from Listowel Racecourse.

Cliff House Hotel Ballybunion
The Cliff House Hotel
16 min drive

The Cliff House Hotel in Ballybunion is located near the beach on the Atlantic coast. Many of the rooms offer ocean views with balconies available. There is also a restaurant that offers scenic views, including a restaurant made with local produce and freshly caught fish.

Tralee for a Full Selection

Although there are a handful of options to find in Ballybunion, you may find that, especially on a Listowel raceday, Tralee will better suit your needs. The town itself has well over 20,000 inhabitants, making it the largest place within easy reach of the racecourse. The journey to the centre of town will take you around 25 to 30 minutes by car but public transport connections are available too. There is a great assortment of places to stay in Tralee with highly rated option both in town and a little further out in the countryside.

The Ashe Hotel Tralee
The Ashe Hotel Tralee
29 min drive

The Ashe Hotel is located in the heart of Tralee with plenty of eating and drinking options, including a restaurant, lounge, garden terrace, vintage afternoon tea options, and a couple of different bars. The hotel is less than 30-minutes driving to Listowel Racecourse.

Tralee Benners Hotel
Tralee Benners Hotel
28 min drive

Tralee Benners Hotel is both a hotel and gastropub located in the heart of Tralee. There is a communal sitting room with a fireplace, as well as an Irish pub restaurant and bar that offers a courtyard and terrace. Additionally, there is a café, as well as new restaurant that offers wood fired pizzas and cocktails in the evenings.

Grand Hotel Tralee
Grand Hotel Tralee
29 min drive

The Grand Tralee Hotel is located in the heart of Tralee, which is under a 30-minute drive to Listowel Racecourse. The restaurant serves modern cuisine using local produce and there is also a bar with live Irish music on selected weekends. Guests can also receive a discount at the nearby Dooks Golf Club.

About the Racecourse

Listowel Racecourse with ferris wheel in background
Photo thanks to Healy Racing Photographers

Listowel is an independent racecourse and one that likes to provide something of a traditional and authentic racing experience. Although their official website appears a little dated in places, you cannot say the same about the facilities on offer with Listowel providing what you would expect from a modern-day racecourse.

Although many people visit Listowel Racecourse year on year, it is a place that others choose just to visit once so they can say they have experienced it. With only two festivals per year, it is not a place that provides you with many opportunities to attend but that is what makes racing so special here. It is not just a sentiment shared by the many racegoers that visit either as Listowel races manage to attract some of the biggest names in Irish racing.

To be part of one of their two festivals, you will of course need to know how to get yourself to the racecourse. If you simply aim for Listowel you will end up very close as the course is just a turn off one of the major roads running through town. The N69 is the road many will take to arrive at Listowel in the first place as the road passes directly through while connecting Tralee to Limerick.

If you rely on public transport to get around, buses to run to Listowel from the likes of Tralee and Limerick. For the September Festival, you may find that Listowel runs a special bus service to/from both places but check the course for details of this. As for arriving in Tralee or Limerick initially, both have train stations which are served by a direct connection from Dublin, among others locations.

The Course

The racecourse itself is located centrally in Listowel with lots of shops, homes and businesses situated on the other side of the river to the course. Although you do not end up fully immersed in the countryside as a result, the grandstand does look away from the city centre and into the County Kerry greenery. As for what it is like to race on, Listowel features a fairly standard left-handed oval course that is significantly sharp in nature. After the final bend there is a run-in of just shy of two furlongs, making it smaller than some, but still easily long enough for a lead to change hands.

Dress Code

Listowel make no reference to a dress code because they take a relaxed stance when it comes to attire. Racegoers are free to come as smartly or as casually as they like providing it remains within the boundaries of decency. It is always down to personal preference but the majority of patrons do end up donning something fairly smart as a trip to Listowel is something of a special occasion due to the limited number of meetings here. This is especially true if you happen to be visiting any of the hospitality areas within the course.

The Stands

Listowel has three main stands, all of which can be accessed through a general admission ticket. The largest of the trio, featuring Tote facilities underneath, is practically in line with the winning post so is considered by most to be the optimal place to be. Further down the home straight you have the smallest of the no-thrills stands followed by another with a green roof which offers the most elevated position across the trio. Although three stands sound like plenty, on the busiest days you will find there is not enough room to fit everyone in, such is the popularity of the occasion.

If you do end up struggling to squeeze into one of the three sheltered stands, you may have some better luck watching the action from across the rail where you will be metres from the passing horse. To see the action for yourself, you will just need to purchase a general admission ticket. For the June meeting, tickets cost €15 a day while any day of the Harvest Festival in September will set you back €20. Only day tickets are available, you cannot purchase one ticket covering multiple days.

Major Meetings

Listowel Racecourse crowds
Photo thanks to Healy Racing Photographers

As mentioned before, Listowel only has two meetings per year so they are both major occasions. The first falls in June and is a three-day meeting usually starting on a Saturday and finishing on a Monday. Although this meeting sees plenty of interest, ticket prices are cheaper because it is the smaller of the two meetings to feature at this course. The biggest in terms of both stature and duration is unquestionable September’s Harvest Meeting.

Stretching a full week, running from Sunday to Saturday, the Harvest Festival is among one of the longest racing festivals in the world. Day four (Thursday) is a particular highlight as it sees the most valuable race of the week, the Kerr National Handicap Steeplechase with its giant €150,000 purse. Friday is also another big hitter as it gives the ladies a platform on which to show off their finest clothing. In addition to being Ladies Day, the penultimate event of the festival also sees the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle which is often a franticly competitive affair.


Listowel Racecourse meeting
Photo thanks to Healy Racing Photographers

To find out about the history of racing at Listowel you must dig a little deeper than when the racecourse was officially founded in 1858. Prior to this, Ballyeigh in Ballybunion had been the location for racing in the local area but that was not all that took place here. In addition to galloping nags during the early 19th century, Ballyeigh also held a variety of games and pre-arranged faction fights (organised brawls!).

1834: Mass Brawl Causes Racecourse Closure

These fights would typically conclude the day’s events with many people involved leaving with broken noses and lost teeth. There was one skirmish, however, on June 24th, 1834, that proved to be especially violent. The mass brawl featuring over 3,000 people ended up with 200 dead once the fighting was over. A terrible sight for any day, let alone a holy day like the Feast Day of St, John the Baptist, the event was swiftly abandoned… and this meant the racing, as well as the fighting.

1858: Racecourse Re-Opens

With local racing requiring a new home, the action moved to Listowel two decades later with the first meeting held across 5th and 6th October in 1858. Over the next few decades, temporary and permanent bridges were built over the adjacent River Feale and the first concrete stand was later erected in 1957. The Harvest Festival was steadily lengthened after this point, then increased to four days in 1970, five days in 1977, before reaching its present length of seven days in 2002.

The Hannon Stand & the Hugh Field Stand

The increase in scheduling was something made possible thanks to the construction of two stands in the years prior. The Hannon Stand was the first to open in 1980 and this was followed by the Hugh Field Stand in 1998. Should you be interested in reading more about the interesting history of the humble Listowel Racecourse, local author John O’Flaherty wrote a detailed book on the matter called Listowel Races 1858-1991.