County Kerry – The Kingdom

County Kerry is a mystical, rugged, and scenic Irish county that has captivated tourists for hundreds of years, making the Ring of Kerry one of the most famous attractions in all of Ireland.

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Waterville On The Ring Of Kerry At Sunset

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Known as The Kingdom to the people of Kerry, the county is the closest any tourist will get to experiencing an ancient, mythical, Celtic kingdom.  Misty mountains, glacial lakes, rugged peninsulas, magical rainbows, secluded hamlets and windswept beaches await.

Larger towns like Tralee, Killarney and Kenmare provide wonderful accommodations from budget friendly hostels to luxury castle hotels.  Many pubs host live traditional music sessions in the evenings, so tourists can experience the warm welcome of the Kerry people.

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Kerry is one of the six counties of the province of Munster and is the 5th largest county in all of Ireland.

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Ballybunion Beach

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Ballybunion is located in the northern part of the county and is famous for its challenging, blustery golf courses.  The town boasts a statue of President Bill Clinton holding his golf club, to commemorate his trip to the town.

Also famous for its sandy beach, Ballybunion is a surfer’s paradise.

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Listowel And Its Racetrack On The Banks Of The River Feale.

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Located in the very heart of north Kerry on the banks of the river Feale is the town of Listowel.  The ancient stone keep, Listowel Castle, dates back to the 1300’s.  The town is also famous as the home of the writer John B. Keane.  It hosts an annual literary festival and the famous Listowel Races.

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Blennerville Windmill, Ireland’s Largest Windmill, Just Outside Tralee.

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Tralee is the largest town in County Kerry, established in the 13th century.   Tralee town sits beside the River Lee from whence it takes its name, in Irish, Trá Lí meaning ‘strand of the Lee’.  The northern access route onto the Dingle Peninsula starts in the town.

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Candidates For The Rose Of Tralee

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The annual Rose of Tralee Festival crowns one fair maiden as the winner. Her duties, you ask.???  It’s simple – just represent Ireland to the world. No pressure whatsoever!!!

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Gallarus Oratory – Dingle Peninsula

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The Dingle Peninsula has the highest density of ancient archaeological monuments of any other landscape in western Europe.   Almost 70 Ogham stones are dotted around the area. Ogham (pronounced “o-am”) is the earliest form of Irish writing.  It is thought the stones may be old landmarks, or possibly could be signs associated with land ownership.

The Gallarus Oratory pictured above, is a small stone chapel dating back to between the 6th and 9th century AD.

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Clogherhead Beach, Dingle Peninsula

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The Dingle Peninsula is a mountainous finger of land which juts into the Atlantic Ocean.  The Connor Pass connects the peninsula to the Tralee road and offers some of the most amazing ocean views in all of Ireland. Be prepared for some daunting twists and turns, as the road hugs the edge of Atlantic cliffs with sheer drop-offs.  Spectacular beaches await, with breathtaking sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean.

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Inch Beach On The Dingle Peninsula

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Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula is a beautiful sandy strand.  The movie Ryan’s Daughter was filmed here.

Dingle, in my estimation, can be counted as one of the most beautiful places in the world.  On a sunny day, there is nowhere on earth quite like it.  And on a wet day, you can’t beat the inviting atmosphere of one of Dingle’s many pubs and cafes.

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Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula

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Slea Head is a promontory on the westernmost point of the Dingle Peninsula offering spectacular views of the Blasket Islands.

The Blasket Islands

The Blasket Islands lie off the coast and were inhabited until 1953.  The islands were home to native Irish speakers, many of whom immigrated from Ireland and settled in Springfield, Massachussets.  Others moved across the water to Dingle, and their descendants continue to live within sight of their island home.

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Killarney

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Killarney is a hub of activity for tourists seeking to undertake a tour of the famous Ring of Kerry.  But my advice is not to rush out of town, but to spend some time savoring the atmosphere and visiting some of the local tourist attractions.

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Ross Castle

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Ross Castle, near Killarney, is open for tours.  It is an example of an Irish chieftan’s stronghold during the Middle Ages.

Muckross House

Within Killarney National Park lies Muckross House, a magnificent Victorian mansion.  Here, tourists can appreciate the lifestyle of Ireland’s once landed gentry.  Downstairs, the basement displays the life of the servants.

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Rhododendrons In Muckross Gardens

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The Gardens at Muckross House are renowned for magnificent azaleas and rhododendrons, a water garden, and rock garden.

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Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park

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Torc Waterfall is one of Killarney’s famous tourist attractions.  You may not wish for rain on your trip to Ireland, but after a good downpour these falls are even more spectacular.  For the more energetic visitor, there are about 100 steps at the side of the falls.  At the top a magnificent view of the lakes awaits.  Torc Waterfall is a busy stopping point for bus and coach tours.

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Jaunting Car – © Copyright Graham Horn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Killarney is well known for its jaunting car tours of the surrounding lakes and national park.  To some this may seem a little too touristy, but trust me, the drivers of these jaunting cars are experts on local culture, environment and history.  They are true entertainers.

I remember taking a jaunting car trip as a child and laughing my heart out at our hilarious driver.  He even told jokes to entertain kids.  As they say in Ireland – “he was a real character”.

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Lakes of Killarney

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To the southwest of the town, lies Killarney National Park, a 26,000 acre expanse of rugged, mountainous country.  The extraordinary combination of misty mountains, reflective lakes, whispering woods and cascading waterfalls, all under tumultuous changing skies, adds magnificence to the scenic beauty of this natural wonderland.

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Carrauntoohil – Ireland’s Highest Mountain

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Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest mountain and is part of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range, which boasts nine of Ireland’s ten tallest peaks.

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Ring Of Kerry Bus Tour – © Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Many tourists envision the Ring of Kerry as a town, or a place they can visit for an hour or two.  The Ring is in fact a looping road which winds for 179 kilometers around the Iveragh Peninsula.  In the summer months, many tour buses can be spotted, winding around the coast or stopped at scenic viewpoints dotted along the route.

Driving the Ring of Kerry is an experience of a lifetime.  Here the mountains meet the ocean with scenic splendor, making this trip one of the world’s most spectacular drives.

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The Town of Kenmare

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The town of Kenmare is a perfect stopping point on a tour of the Ring of Kerry.  South of the busier hub of Killarney, it is a great central point for touring Cork and Kerry.  Brightly colored houses, shops, bars, restaurants and hotels line the streets of this welcoming town, nestled in the Kerry mountains and set against the splendid backdrop of Kenmare Bay.

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Double Rainbow Over Cahergall Stone Fort, Near Cahirsiveen, Co. Kerry

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The Ring of Kerry boasts ancient ringforts, sublime scenery, rainbows, beaches and outdoor activities to suit every tourists needs.

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Beehive Huts In Sneem On The Ring Of Kerry – © Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Everywhere in Kerry, it is easy to feel connected to our ancient, mythical past.  Archaeological treasures seem to dot the roadsides and countryside.

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Valentia Island

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Valentia Island is located on the western loop of the famous Ring, and for such a small island boasts an amazing history.

The oldest footprints in the northern hemisphere were found on the cliffs here.  Slate from the island’s quarry was exported all over the world and was used to roof the Paris Opera House and the London Houses of Parliament.

The first weather forecasting station was set up here in 1860 and the first transatlantic cable landed here in August 1858.  This little island deserves a blog post all of its own.

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Little Skellig from Skellig Michael – Islands In The Atlantic

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The Skellig Islands, off the Kerry coast, are home to a 7th century monastic complex, perched on the steep sides of the rocky island of Skellig Michael.  The extreme remoteness of Skellig Michael has until recently discouraged visitors.  The site is therefore exceptionally well preserved.

And so we come to the end of our tour of County Kerry.  There are many places I had not time nor space to include today, but trust me, if there is a county in Ireland that is not to be missed, County Kerry falls into that category.

Here are some links to help with planning a trip to this Celtic Kingdom of Kerry.

Discover Ireland – Kerry

Ring of Kerry Tourism

Kerry Tourism

Dingle Peninsula Tourism

For links to Irish American Mom’s tour of the other counties of Ireland here is the link:

Ireland: County-By-County

 

Wishing you all happy travels in the land of my birth.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Stunning views! I love reading about all the history you included too! My mom’s name is Kerry and I’ve always wanted (well, since I was older) to ask my Granddad about the significance of that…Such a beautiful place!

    • Aimee – Glad you enjoyed these photos of County Kerry, the inspiration for your mom’s name. It is a magnificent place, which has to be seen to be believed. I hope you make it there someday.
      Best wishes,
      Mairead

  2. mary donegan says:

    Did you use Photoshop to get rid of the rain?

    • Mary – I think all of the photographers must have been enjoying the warmth and shelter of the Kerry pubs on all those inevitable rainy days. I think you’re right though – a few rainy shots would be more realistic. At least a few rainbows made the cut.
      All the best,
      Mairead

  3. What a wonderful collection of photos. Those places tug at my heart.

  4. Was blessed and privileged to briefly visit this paradise on earth you call Kerry and am so emotional as I absorb the marvellous photos and count the days until April when I can rest my eyes on all these amazing treasures Kerry offers.

    • Connie – I hope you have a wonderful time when you visit Kerry in April. It should be lovely, with lots of wild flowers starting to bloom. It is lovely to hear you so enjoyed your first trip to Ireland, you are planning a return visit. Enjoy every moment of your time there.
      Best wishes,
      Mairead

  5. The beach shots are absolutely gorgeous. And Mairead, I’d love to visit a castle someday! :)

    • Cheryl – I hope you get to visit an Irish castle someday. My husband’s dream is to renovate an old castle someday – I think we’ll have to win the lotto for that one.
      Best wishes,
      Mairead

  6. I’m lucky enough to live in County Kerry – what a great post with lovely photographs.

    • Anne – It was hard to pick out just a few photos of County Kerry – this post could have gone on forever and a day, there are so many beautiful shots to choose from. Thanks so much for stopping by.
      Mairead

  7. Oh Mairead….the very first picture is so lovely, it alone makes me long to visit County Kerry!

    • Grammy – County Kerry has some of the most spectacular, unspoiled beaches in the whole world. The water is on the cold side for swimming, but you can’t beat a lovely walk on a Kerry beach. I hope you make it there someday.
      Have a lovely weekend.
      Mairead

  8. What a gorgeous set of photos! I can tell you really love your country. I toured the Ring of Kerry a few years ago and it was stunningly beautiful. I can’t wait to go back someday and spend more time there. Thank you for your post.

  9. Donie Horan says:

    Mairaid – thank you .Fabulous photographs of a fabulous County.I am a Kerryman in exile, but the sheer beauty of the lakes, mountains and superb blue flag Atlantic beaches forever impresses me – the place just touches my soul with every visit .Great outdoor variety in one little County.

    • Donie – I understand completely how County Kerry touches your soul with every visit. It is a beautiful part of the world. Despite having spent over twenty years living in America, I still call Ireland my spiritual home. I recharge my batteries when I am there, and West Cork and Kerry are my favorite parts of our homeland.
      All the best and thanks for stopping by.
      Mairéad

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