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I may masquerade as a natural, no-frills kind of girl, but underneath I like all the gourmet treats and cultural sophistication of a metropolis. This how I would describe the town of Kenmare. It is a town by the sea, nestled amongst the mountains of Kerry and Cork, in Gaelic "neidin" or "little nest." It is a little bastion of culture in the Irish countryside, probably why it became Kerry's first Heritage Town.
What to See and Do
Walk to the Druid Stone Circle on the edge of town - come for the Summer Solstice and celebrate the sunrise. Learn more about the ancients by browsing Noel and Holland, a 2nd hand bookstore and center of literary culture. Visit the Kenmare Lace and Design Centre and see their exhibition of antique, handmade laces. The town has many fine art galleries. Shop for beautiful linens at The White Room. Find yarns to knit your own Irish sweater at Spin A Yarn, Ltd. They also teach knitting classes.
Explore the Ring of Kerry and MacGillycuddy Reeks, Ireland's highest mountains.
Play a round at one of the 18-hole golf courses - Kenmare Golf Club or The Ring of Kerry Golf and Country Club.
Where to Eat and Drink
Truffle Pig Fine Foods are purveyors of fresh cheeses, olives, and baked goods. If you are staying at a self-catering spot, here's a place to find Lamb Shanks slowly cooked in red wine and root vegetables (9 euro) and Kerry Beef and mushroom pie (9 euro). Pair with Dauphinoise potatoes cooked in milk, butter, onion, and garlic (2.75 euro). Or picnic in Reengross Public Park. The Pantry is a whole foods and organic produce market. The town has a number of fine restaurants and pubs. The Brook Lane Hotel serves up Jazz and Oysters every Sunday from 2-6PM.
Where to Sleep
The town has tons of guesthouses and B&Bs. We stayed at a fine hostel in nearby Templenoe, a town just west of Kenmare on the Ring of Kerry drive. The Greenwood Hostel is a gently restored farmhouse run by a German couple, outdoor enthusiasts who've created a superb setting for rejuvenation. Eat breakfast in the garden with a book from the irresistible library. Curl up in the living room under a wool rug by the fire or test out your chops on the piano. The finest hostel we've visited and highly recommended - tel: 064 89247.
How to get there
From Bantry, take N71 north.
From Cork, take N22 west to Cloonken. Take R569 through Kilgarvan to Kenmare.
From Killarney, take N71 south.
From Tralee, take N22 south to Killarney, then N71 south to Kenmare. Or take beautiful Ring of Kerry drive N70 to Kenmare.
From Limerick, take N69 coastal drive to Tralee, then N22 and N71 to Kenmare, or Ring of Kerry drive to Kenmare.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
When to go
April through October, when the weather is finer and the days longer.
Kenmare and Templenoe host the following festivals: a cultural weekend honoring Folklorist Sean O Suilleabhain in mid-April. Family Easter Egg Hunt in April. The Kenmare Horseshow at the beginning of June. Templenoe Regatta at Templenoe Pier in mid-July. Kenmare Rowing and Boating Club Regatta at Kenmare Pier in mid-July. The Little Bo Peep Triathlon at the end of July. The Three Brother's Golf Classic at the Kenmare Golf Club at the beginning of September. Appetite for Life, a food festival at the end of October.
Written by Liz O' Malley - Summer of Travel 2007