Things to Do in Kenmare
In the heart of Killarney National Park, Ladies View has a way of showing that natural beauty is timeless. Back in 1861, when Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting visited this Kerry overlook, they were so enamored with the view of the lakes that the picturesque promontory still carries their regal name today. From this panoramic overlook off of N71, gaze down on the three lakes that sit at the middle of the park, and since the light here is constantly changing, if you simply sit and reflect for an hour you may see rainbows, shadows and beams of light that dance on the surrounding hills. Just up the road from the main overlook, there is another parking area with a small trail that offers views of the upper lake, and when standing here on this windswept ridge gazing out on the view below, it’s like looking through a portal to Ireland’s past—where the raw beauty of the Irish countryside exists in its natural state.
No one knows quite how Cromwell’s Bridge in Kenmare got its name, but it likely wasn’t named after Oliver Cromwell. One popular theory about the stone bridge is that it was named ‘croimeal,’ the Gaelic word for ‘mustache,’ but when English-speakers overheard locals talking about the bridge, they assumed they were saying ‘Cromwell.”
However it got its name, Cromwell’s Bridge is one of several beautiful and ancient sites along the scenic Ring of Kerry. It’s located just outside the village of Kenmare near the Stone Circle, making it a convenient stop for visitors passing through the area.
On a grassy paddock just outside of the village of Kenmare sit 15 stone boulders — 13 standing upright and another two prostrate. These large stones arranged in an egg shape comprise one of the largest stone circles in Southwest Ireland, dating back to the Bronze Age. In the middle of the stone circle sits a dolmen with a capstone, often used to mark the burial place of a significant figure in the Munster region. Experts believe the capstone to weigh nearly seven tons, which would have required 30-odd men to drag into position.
The stone circle in Kenmare is one of over 180 in Ireland and of 20 in County Kerry. It’s the only one in the region to exhibit an egg shape.
The Ring of Beara is a circular road around the Beara Peninsula in southwest Ireland. It follows the coast and is about 85 miles around. The road begins in Kenmare in Kerry County, and you can go in either direction around the loop. The road passes through several small villages along the way, including Castletownbere, Bonane, Lauragh, Ardgroom, Eyeries, and Allihies. You can also see mountainous landscapes, jagged cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, and herds of sheep.
The Uragh Stone Circle, a neolithic stone circle with some stones reaching almost 10 feet tall, is also located along this journey. A few islands are located just off the coast of the peninsula. One in particular is Dursey Island which is reachable by cable car. Healy Pass offers the best viewing point on the Beara Peninsula. A rock tunnel called Caha Pass connects Kenmare to Glengarriff in Cork County. There is also a 122 mile walking trail for those who would rather take it slowly and see the area on foot.
When strolling through the trees of the Gougana Barra National Forest Park, and gazing out at the placid waters of Gougana Barra’s lake, you can see why this corner of southwestern Ireland was a place of historical solace. It was here on the island in the middle of the lake, that St. Finnbar—patron saint of Cork—founded a monastery in the 6th century before eventually moving to Cork. When visiting the Gougane Barra today, the most popular site is St. Finnbar’s Oratory on a small island in the lake. With its romantically elegant stone design, this 19th-century, picturesque church is a popular spot for weddings, and it’s also a holy pilgrimage site—where Roman Catholics would hold secret Mass away from the Anglican Church. Behind the lake is the National Forest Park and its system of hiking and biking trails, which pass through woods that are densely forested in Sitka Spruce and Pine. This is also the site of the River Lee—which meanders its way through Cork—and while Gougane Barra is most often visited as a relaxing day trip from Cork, there’s also a small, family-run hotel that’s open from April-October.
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