I was the kind of kid that pretended to be an Arctic explorer like Tom Crean and Earnest Shackleton every time the snow descended upon our Chicago suburb home. I’d bundle up in my winter clothes, gloves, and hat, and traverse the neck-high drifts snowdrifts. At the time, six year old me didn’t know that years later my path would cross with Aileen, Tom Crean’s granddaughter, in the small town of Kenmare, Ireland.
During my 10-day Ireland adventure, I had the honor of meeting Aileen and her family at a TBEX event in Killarney. A couple of days later, I stayed at her establishment Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation. Located in downtown Kenmare, I found the inn to be inviting with tasteful, spacious rooms and a unique place to stay for travelers seeking a connection to explorer history.
Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation offers its guests:
- Historic building built in the early 1800s
- Comfortable ensuite rooms with king size beds
- Each room has a unique name
- In-room tea and coffee
- Complimentary water
- Attached restaurant and bar
- Secure bike and motorbike shelter
- Special rates for dinner and bed and breakfast
- Free WiFi
- Limited private parking by request
- Free on-street parking after 4 pm
- Within walking distance of shops, restaurants, bars and historic places of note
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Kenmare – A Heritage Town on the Ring of Kerry
Kenmare is County Kerry’s first heritage town. Founded in 1670, Thomas Cromwell platted Kenmare, and the town has plenty of history, including its famed Kenmare lace which Queen Victoria loved. The town has retained its small town charms, and is a hub of activity with boutique shops, dining, and pubs. It also has one of the largest stone circles in south-west Ireland.
If you plan to visit Kenmare, give yourself two days to see the sights at a leisurely pace, sample a variety of restaurants, and experience local nightlife which includes Irish music. If you are a history lover, I highly recommend taking the Kenmare Guided Heritage Walk. It is only €10 and gives a great overview of the towns history and notable spots. (I’ll have more on the tour and Kenmare soon!)
Want to know what other places I visited in Ireland? Read about my adventures here.
Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation
The Place to Stay in Kenmare, Ireland
Located at the end of Main Street, Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation is easily spotted by its bright blue color. As you can expect, the building is full of historic character. Guests check in inside the restaurant, and from there, you walk around the side of the building to a door that has a stairwell that leads to the rooms upstairs.
A Room With a View of Downtown Kenmare
I zipped right through check-in and soon found myself in the James Caird room. If you are unfamiliar with Shackleton’s expeditions, the James Caird was the lifeboat that he, Tom Crean, Frank Worsley, Timothy McCarthy, Harry McNish, and John Vincent used to make an 800-mile journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia to seek the help of Norwegian whalers for their shipmates on the shipwrecked Endurance.
The spacious room featured a king size bed with two artfully folded towel swans and two roses.
And, a plush lounging chair, a desk, and a small closet. Everything was spotless and the decor very tasteful.
After having been on the road for several days, and staying in an accommodation that had tight quarters, I so appreciated the spaciousness of the room. As a history nerd, I also enjoyed the historical touches throughout the room as well as its view of downtown. That night, I slept soundly and woke up ready for the next leg of my adventure which took me back to Waterville and the Skellig Ring drive.
One feature that some travelers might not like is that since this room faces the street, you will most likely hear noise from barhoppers at night as Kenmare has a lively music scene. I went out myself and returned later in the evening, and it didn’t last much longer after that. There are rooms that do not face the street, so if that is an issue or you know you need to get to sleep early, I would suggest picking an alternative room. Also, there is no elevator, so if there are mobility issues, this might not be the inn for you.
Dining at Tom Crean
You will not want to miss dining at the restaurant or grabbing a drink at the Ice Bar. Both of these spaces are decorated with memorabilia from the expedition or from their personal collection. Two of my favorites included Tom Crean’s very own chair and a photo of him holding a bunch of puppies. How can you not fall in love that that photo?
Another important note, is that Aileen is a very conscious chef and buys locally sourced and sustainable foods.
To start your experience, I highly recommend ordering the Expedition Ale Irish Red. After his life as an explorer, Tom Crean ran a pub, and would most assuredly approve of this beer crafted and brewed for him in neighboring Killarney.
There were so many tasty dishes on the menu. I decided to start with the ricotta ravioli with tomato fondue and shaved Parmesan.
And, the baked fillet of Atlantic salmon with a sesame seed crust, lime yogurt, and coriander dressing. It also came with a side of vegetables and a side of fries, so I had more than enough food. Everything was delicious!
One of the highlights of my evening was getting a chance to talk with Aileen during dinner. She is very adventurous and has backpacked, some of it solo, all over the world. In 2016, Aileen, her sons, and her partner recreated the epic James Caird journey. Unfortunately, during the trip, she broke her leg and couldn’t finish, but still, WOW!
If you don’t have time to eat, or are passing through stop by the Ice Bar. The bar also has music during certain days of the week, so be sure to ask.
Would I stay at Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation again? Yes! In fact, I’d love to go back and take the hubs with me this time as I so enjoyed my two days in this amazing small town. As I mentioned I liked the spaciousness of the room and its comforts. Also, the location is perfect for exploring the town or nearby areas with ease.
To find out more about Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation visit their website.
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To find out more about the area visit Kenmare Co. Kerry.
Kenmare Travel Tips
Closest Airport: Kerry Airport (1 hour), Shannon Airport (2.25-hour drive), Dublin Airport (4-hour drive).
Carless Options: The train from Dublin to Killarney is around a 5-hour ride, from there you can catch the bus to Kenmare. You can also take a bus from Dublin to Kenmare, and the ride is a little over six hours. On my first trip to Ireland, I got around via the bus and train system and found it to be very reliable and convenient.Once in Kenmare, you don’t need a car as most of the attractions are within the town or a short walk away.
Dining Travel Tip: During my stay, I dined at The Terrace at the Park Hotel Kenmare, Tom Crean Fish & Wine & Accommodation. In the mornings I sampled baked goodies from Jam and Maison Gourmet. If you are a chocolate lover, be sure to stop by Lorge Handmade Chocolates as they have fantastic chocolates. All of these places I would recommend.
Pub tips: It is easy to bar hop in Kenmare as the town is so walkable. I’d check out what music is playing, and then make your decision by what you like. Popular pubs are Crowley’s Bar, O Donnabhains, PF McCarthy’s, Bar & Cellar and the Ice Bar. If you happen to see that Micheal O’Brien is playing, don’t miss it!
Activity Tips: If you love a day at the spa, I highly recommend Sámas Spa at the Park Hotel Kenmare. Their spa experience is 3-hours and is worth every penny! You can read about my spa experience here. As I mentioned earlier, I also recommend the Kenmare Guided Heritage Walk. This tour takes you to all of the important stops in town, including the stone circle. If you can, do this the first day of your visit, as it will only enhance your experience. If you like to take morning or evening strolls head to Pennagross Park, which is on the other side of the Park Hotel Kenmare. I love visiting cemeteries, so I drove over to the Old Kenmare Cemetery and the holy well on the other side of the river. You’d need a car or a taxi ride to get there.