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The town and district were part of the possessions of the earls of Desmond, who erected castles here to guard the passage of the river.
Rathkeale is located between Croagh and Newcastlewest.
It is located 30 km southwest of Limerick city on the N21 to Tralee.
The town has a significant population of travelers or trading itinerants.
Rathkeale has shopping facilities, a museum and a Community College.
The town has a large Roman Catholic parish church, the well-known ruins of the old Augustinian Abbey ruins and the Holy Trinity Church of Ireland church.
On the southwestern edge of the town stands the 15th century tower house of Castle Matrix, formerly a property of an Earl of Desmond, which contains a display or art objects and holds historical records.