Love Letter to Kenmare, Everyone's Irish Hometown

V J FadelySubmitted by

You won’t find a more charming and picturesque village than Kenmare, Untours’ hometown in County Kerry. Kenmare, the anglicized version of the Irish name “Ceann Mara” (head of the sea) is nestled on Kenmare Bay and surrounded by mountains and hills, including Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohil. The town and surrounding areas offer much to experience and discover, not the least of which is the spectacular scenery and friendly locals. Kenmare is perfectly situated for touring the Southwest of Ireland with many activities and attractions nearby, including the world-famous Ring of Kerry, the less-traveled but equally worthy Beara Peninsula, the wild and dramatic Dingle Peninsula, and Killarney National Park. Kenmare is a beautiful spot to call home while you enjoy the wonders of County Kerry and West Cork.

Kenmare was established in 1670 and is one of Ireland’s market towns. It is a “Tidy Towns” award winner and it isn’t hard to see why. It is indeed a neat and tidy town, the three main streets lined with buildings in a rainbow of colors, many dating back to the early nineteenth century, and a lovely town park at one end of the triangular layout. Old stone walls on narrow side roads sprout ivy and, in season, tiny flowers. The bells of Holy Cross Church ring hourly, the steeple jutting high into the air, and the first thing one notices upon entering Kenmare from the Southern route. There are several ancient archeological sites both in and around the town, all easy to get to places like Kenmare’s Stone Circle dating back to the Bronze Age, the largest in Southwest Ireland. The Heritage Trail is an easy walk guiding you past interesting historical sites with informative signposts.  

Kenmare is small enough to retain its old-world village charm, but large enough to have nearly any amenity you might need. For those wanting more than a walk around town, you needn’t venture far to find an extensive choice of graded walks, an 18-hole golf course, boating, and fishing. If the weather doesn’t call for outdoor pursuits, just wait, it will change. In the meantime, spend the day in Kenmare visiting the many inviting shops, art galleries, pubs, cafes, and restaurants. While on-street parking fills quickly, there are three car parks near town center.  

A foodie’s paradise, Kenmare boasts several fine dining establishments as well as cafes, gastro-pubs, and an ice cream shop. There are also a couple of take-out places and, if you’re in the mood to cook your own, there are convenience markets, supermarkets, and a weekly open air market. You won’t go hungry in Kenmare!

Kenmare is the kind of place you’ll enjoy returning to after a day out and where you’ll want to take some time to linger. Go for a stroll past colorful shop windows, admire the hanging flower baskets and window boxes spilling over with bright blooms, maybe stop and have a chat with a shopkeeper, or enjoy an ice cream in the park. Fancy a Guinness, a glass of wine, or a cup of tea? Duck into one of the many pubs or cafes, each with its own unique ambience. Relax in the sunshine at one of the sidewalk tables, or sit inside by a turf fire on a cool damp day.  

From midspring to early fall, traditional Irish music can generally be found in one or more of the pubs most nights and even in winter music sessions can be heard at least a few nights of the week. Ask around or just wander down the street and listen for the tunes. See what’s on at the Carnegie Arts Centre, Kenmare’s local theater which doubles as a small art gallery. You’ll find changing displays of artwork, local theatrical productions, touring stage shows and a weekly first-run film. Kenmare hosts several events throughout the year, from bike races to music festivals, adding an extra buzz to the already vibrant atmosphere. 

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, foodie, shopper, festival-goer, music lover, or just want a place to chill, there truly is something for all ages and interests. You’ll surely find what you’re looking for in and around Kenmare, including a big County Kerry welcome and friendly locals to help you find it. Relax, smile, and enjoy – You’re in Kenmare!

About the author: In 2013, V.J. Fadely moved from California to Kenmare, Ireland where she currently resides. Drawing on her experiences in Ireland she has two books in progress, a memoir entitled Chickens in the Garden, Wellies by the Door: An American in Rural Ireland, and a small travel guide,Irish Bits & Pieces: A Pocket Guide for Visitors. Both are expected to be published in late 2015.

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