I hadn’t planned on visiting Kenmare, Ireland, but while researching small towns to see along Ring of Kerry, I kept seeing it. Everything I read said it had fabulous food, a wide range of accommodations, and a beautiful location. When an opportunity arose at TBEX Ireland to visit this quaint Irish town, I said, “YES!”
Then, when I got to Kenmare, I totally fell in love with it. Not only is it a small town, which you know I’m already crazy about, but its a very vibrant small town. Everything I’d read about its food, lodging, and location had been true. Add in history, and Irish pubs with music and you’ve got the makings of a great holiday.
Choosing to stay and explore this small Irish town for two days, will probably go down in history as one of the best last-minute decisions I’ve ever made. Here is why I adore Kenmare, and you will too!
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Where the Heck is Kenmare?
If you are not familiar with Ireland, you might be wondering where this quaint Irish town is. It is in County Kerry which is on the southwest side of Ireland on its famous Ring of Kerry. From Dublin Airport it’s a 4.15-hour drive. From Shannon Airport a 2.20-hour drive. And, from Cork Airport a 1.30-minute drive.
Why I Adore Kenmare, Ireland, and You Will Too
You know I’m a big foodie and when I see that a place has lots of restaurants, pubs, and cafes, I know I’m heading in the right direction. Kenmare has over 30 restaurants or cafes in town or near town, and for a town of around 2,300 people that is a lot. Many restaurants use fresh, local ingredients, and have creative menus. During my stay, I dined at the Park Hotel Kenmare’s The Terrace and Dining Room, Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation, for dinner, and enjoyed breakfast at Jam and Maison Gourmet. Each I can recommend.
One of the attractions that drew me to Kenmare was its Guided Heritage Walk. Thankfully, even though my plans came about last minute, history guide Anne-Marie fit me in for her 2-hour tour. If you love history or like learning about the places you visit, it is a must. And, for €10 you can’t beat the price!
The tour meets in front of the Kenmare Heritage Centre. From there, you walk to the important locations around town, and Anne-Marie talks about their importance to the town and their history. There are too many stops to cover here, but some of the highlights are:
- Cromwell’s Bridge, a unique arched bridge built by Franciscan monks.
- Our Lady’s Well, which is known for its healing waters.
- The towns market building.
- The towns oldest houses.
- Kenmare Stone Circle, which is the biggest in southwest Ireland!
- The town’s Main Square.
- Holy Cross Church, which was built by Father O’Sullivan.
- The Nun of Kenmare, who was a prolific writer.
You’ll also learn how the Irish Famine affected the townspeople of Kenmare. It’s not a pretty story and people often on the streets of starvation. People also went into debt, and as a result, they were shipped off to America. Unfortunately, many died on those ships, and they are now referred to as “coffin ships.”
After the tour, stop by the heritage center as all the information from the tour will help you understand the exhibits. And, be sure to check out the display of Kenmare lace!
On the history tour, I learned about Old Kenmare Cemetery. Built along the river, on the opposite side of town, the graveyard is quite big and includes a map near the gate that points out burial sites and names. Of interest for a general traveler are the old church ruins, a Famine Plot where they estimate that over 5,000 people were buried, and a holy well along the river.
There isn’t an official parking area at the cemetery, so park where you find room and that is not blocking the roadway. I had no problem as I visited in the offseason.
Hotels, Inns, and a Hostel
Kenmare has a wide range of accommodations that include luxury hotels budget-friendly inns, and even a hostel. Many are in town, within walking distance, or just outside of town. During my visit, I stayed at the 5-star Park Hotel Kenmare and Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation. Both I’d recommend, and both have a restaurant and a bar, so if you happen to stay at one, you can still experience the other for a meal or drink. Serious budget travelers will prefer Kenmare Fáilte Hostel which has private rooms and bunks.
Kenmare is also known for its music scene, especially from April to October. I wandered from pub to pub, listening to the music. When I stopped by The Coachmans, I decided to grab a seat and a beer, and listen to the very popular Michael O’Brien.
Bars that host music are:
- The Coachmans
- Crowley’s Bar
- The Wander Inn
- P.F. Mc Carthy’s Bar
- Casey’s Bar & Restaurant
- Davitt’s Bar and Restaurant
Steps away from the heart of town is Rennagross Park Kenmare. The park is a wooded peninsula with trails that meander through the forest and along the river. I found it to be the perfect leisurely outdoor activity, especially at sunset. And, if you love a spa day, the Sámas Spa at the Park Hotel Kenmare is an amazing 3-hour experience that includes an outdoor Vitality Pool, sauna room with ice and a tropical shower, your treatment of choice, and relaxing in a room with views of the woods.