It's something special, being Kerry. This magnificent county in the far southwest has Ireland's highest and most varied mountains, and certain favoured areas also have our longest-lived citizens. Then, too, it's a region which has long been a global pioneer in the hospitality business - in 2004, the scenically-blessed town of Killarney celebrated 250 years in the forefront of Irish tourism, while its most senior hotel, the Great Southern (now the Malton), celebrated its own 150th anniversary.
So visitors inevitably arrive with high expectations. Kerry, however, can face the challenge. This magnificent county really is the Kingdom of Kerry. Everything is king size. For not only has Kerry mountains galore - more than anywhere else in Ireland - but there's a rare quality to Carrantuohill, the highest of all.
By international standards, this loftiest peak of MacGillicuddy's Reeks (try pronouncing it "mackil-cuddy") may not seem particularly notable at just 1038 m. But when you sense its mysterious heights in the clouds above a countryside of astonishing beauty, its relative elevation is definitely world league. And all Kerry’s mountains sweep oceanwards towards a handsome coastline which rings the changes between sheltered inlets and storm tossed offshore islands. Visually, Kerry has everything.
But these days, spectacular scenery isn't enough on its own. Like other leading visitor destinations, Kerry is well aware of the need to provide accessible entertainment and an increasing choice of places with cultural and historical interest. Here too, the Kingdom can oblige.
The oldest fossil footprints in the Northern Hemisphere are in Kerry, and they’re about 350 million years old. You’ll find them way down west, on Valentia Island, and they’re reckoned one of the seven wonders of Ireland. In much more modern times, the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean was from Kerry. He came from the little village of Annascaul on the majestic Dingle Peninsula, and when he had finished with adventuring, he returned to Annascaul and opened the South Pole Inn.
The town of Killarney, among the lakes and mountains where they’re re-establishing the enormous white-tailed sea eagle, has long been a magnet for visitors, but Killarney is determined not simply to rest on its laurels after more than a Quarter Millennium as Ireland’s premier tourist destination, for it was in 1754 that its attractions were first internationally promoted. Meanwhile, on the more immediate question of keeping the place clean, Killarney scored well in the latest national Tidy Town contest, announced in September 2007 – it came in with a Gold Medal.
Across the purple mountains from Killarney, the lovely little town of Kenmare in South Kerry is both a gourmet focus, and another excellent touring centre. As one of the prettiest places in Ireland, Kenmare puts the emphasis on civic pride,
Away to the west, thrusting into the Atlantic, is the Dingle Peninsula where the harbour town of Dingle is the focal point for a thriving, highly individual and notably hospitable region. And in the far northeast of this large county, Listowel – famed for its writers and its Race Week in September – has the restored Lartigue Monorail, another award-winning attraction. It’s unique. And if you want to know how unique, well, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself.
Local Attractions and Information:
Beaufort Hotel Dunloe Castle Gardens
+353 (0)64 44583
Castleisland Crag Cave
+353 (0)66 714 1244
Dingle Ocean World
+353 (0)66 915 2111
Dunquin Great Blasket Centre
+353 (0)66 915 6444 / 915 6371
Farranfore Kerry International Airport
+353 (0)66 9764644
Glencar Into the Wilderness Walking Tours
(May-Sep) +353 (0)66 60104
Kenmare Walking Festivals
+353 (0)64 41034
Kenmare Heritage Centre +353 (0)64 41233
The Centre covers various themes including Famous Visitors to Kenmare, The Nun of Kenmare, Kenmares history and historical sites, Effects of the Famine on Kenmare and the Landlords of Kenmare. The Centre also has a Kenmare Lace Exhibition.
An integral part of the Experience of the Kenmare Story is to visit the Historical sites after visiting the Centre. The Heritage Trail map will show you at first hand some of the delights of Kenmare. All the sites are within walking distance from the Centre and the trail takes about 40 minutes to complete.
Killarney Muckross House, Gardens & Traditional Farm
+353 (0)64 31440
Killarney Tourism Information +353 (0)64 31633
Killorglin Kerry Woollen Mills
+353 (0)64 44122
Killorglin Puck Fair
(ancient festival), mid-August +353 (0)66 976 2366
Lauragh Dereen Gardens +353 (0)64 83103
To the north of the Beara Peninsual is famous for tree ferns, azaleas and rhododendron.
Listowel St John's Art Centre
+353 (0)68 22566
Listowel Writers' Week
(June) +353 (0)68 21074
Tralee Kerry County Museum
+353 (0)66 712 7777
Tralee Rose of Tralee Festival
(late August) +353 (0)66 712 3227
Tralee Siamsa Tire Arts Centre
+353 (0)66 712 3055
Valentia Island The Skellig Experience
+353 (0)66 947 6306
Valentia Island Valentia Heritage (Knightstown)
+353 (0)66 947 6411
Waterville Craft Market
+353 (0)66 947 4212