An Neidín
—  Town  —
Kenmare is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 51°52′48″N 9°35′02″W / 51.880°N 9.584°W / 51.880; -9.584Coordinates: 51°52′48″N 9°35′02″W / 51.880°N 9.584°W / 51.880; -9.584
Country Ireland
Province Munster
County County Kerry
Elevation 8 m (26 ft)
Population (2006)[1]
 – Urban 1,701
Irish Grid Reference V908709

Kenmare (Irish: An Neidín, meaning "the little nest")[7][8] is a small town (population 1701 - CSO 2006) in the south of County Kerry, Ireland. The name Kenmare is the anglicised form of Ceann Mara[7] meaning "head of the sea", referring to the head of Kenmare Bay.



Kenmare is located at the head of Kenmare Bay (where it reaches the farthest inland), sometimes called the Kenmare River, where the Roughty River (An Ruachtach) flows into the sea, and at the junction of the Iveragh Peninsula and the Beara Peninsula. The traditional Irish name of the bay was Inbhear Scéine from the Celtic inver, which is recorded in the 11th Century narrative Lebor Gabála Érenn as the arrival point of the mythological Irish ancestor Partholón. It is also located near the Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Mangerton Mountain and Caha Mountains and is a popular hillwalking destination.


It forms part of the Kerry South electoral constituency. Mark Daly, elected a member of Seanad Éireann in 2007, is from Kenmare. Nearby towns and villages are Tuosist, Ardgroom, Glengarriff, Kilgarvan, Killarney, Templenoe and Sneem.


The entire area was granted to the English scientist, Sir William Petty by Oliver Cromwell as part payment for completing the mapping of Ireland, the Down Survey in 1656. He laid out the modern town circa 1670. Like William Petty, a previous surveyor of Ireland (1584), Sir Valentine Browne, ancestor of the Earl of Kenmare was granted some lands in County Kerry during the resulting plantation, the Munster Plantation.

The three main streets that form a triangle in the centre of the town are called Main Street (originally William Street, after Sir William, 1st. Marquis of Lansdowne), Henry Street (originally Sound Road), after the son of William the 1st. Marquis and Shelbourne Street (Henry Petty became the first Earl of Shelburne). This name was also later applied to Shelbourne Road in Dublin.

However, the area has more ancient roots. One of the largest stone circles in the south-west of Ireland[9] is close to the town, and shows occupation in the area going back to the Bronze Age (2,200-500 B.C), when it was constructed. The circle has 15 stones around the circumference with a boulder dolmen in the centre.[9]

Mass famine grave for Kenmare victims

Vikings are said to have raided the area around the town which at that time was called Ceann Mhara, which means "head of the sea" in Irish.

The convent in the town, the Poor Clare Sisters, was founded in 1861 when five nuns including Sister Mary Frances Cusack, who was also an author and publisher of many books, moved to Kenmare from their convent in Newry, County Down. Under the guidance of Mother Abbess O'Hagan in 1864 a lace-working industry was established and Kenmare Lace became noted worldwide.

A suspension bridge, which is claimed to be the first in Ireland, over the Kenmare River was opened in 1841 and served the community till 1932 when it was replaced by a new concrete bridge.[10]

The town is noted for winning the Irish Tidy Towns Competition in 2000 and being a runner-up in 2003 and 2008. The Catholic Church in the town contains stained glass from Franz Mayer & Co. and a hand carved Bath Stone chancel and side altars.

The town library is one of the Carnegie Libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie. It opened in 1918, and the architect was R.M. Butler.[11][12]

View of Main Street in Kenmare (between 1880s and early 1900s)

The Church of Ireland church of St Patrick celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008.[13]

The Catholic church in the town is called "The Holy cross".[14]


Kenmare lies on two noted Irish tourist routes, the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara, approximately 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Killarney. As a result it is a popular tourist destination and many of the businesses in the area cater to tourists. The town is noted for its food and pubs. Kenmare boasts a range of restaurants and traditional pubs.

Since the late 1990s the tourism industry has driven local construction work,[citation needed] with land being sold at high prices to developers wishing to build estates of holiday homes.[15] This has led to an increase in the town's population, particularly during the peak tourist season, and prompted fears among some residents that the town is becoming overdeveloped and losing much of its identity.[16]

Noted residents

Kenmare was home to English composer Ernest John Moeran for a number of years up to his death and a local bar is named after him. Gaelic footballer Mickey 'Ned' O'Sullivan is from the town, while another footballer, Pat Spillane, comes from nearby Templenoe. Current Kerry GAA player Paul O'Connor hails from Kenmare. Kenmare is also the home of Irish Olympic slalom skier Thos Foley. Diplomat Con Cremin was also from Kenmare. NY[clarification needed] construction magnate Patrick Harrington was also from Kenmare.[citation needed] Anna McPartlin grew up in Kenmare; in 2007 she wrote the novel Apart from the Crowd, with a setting in Kenmare.

Big Bertha (1945-1993) was a Guinness World Record breaking cow who lived in the area: she was both the oldest recorded cow and the one with the greatest number of offspring.

Fair days

Due to its location at the centre of a large agricultural area, Kenmare served as the local market town. Until the establishment of an auction mart in the early 1990s, the approximately monthly fair days were a time when farmers would stand their animals in the streets for sale to visiting stock dealers. The only fair which continues to be held is that of August 15, which coincides with the Catholic Holy Day of Obligation marking the Assumption of Mary. The day attracts crowds of locals and visitors and is the busiest day of the year in Kenmare.[17]


There are daily bus-services to Killarney. There is also a daily service to/from Cork in the summer months on the N71 via Bantry and Clonakilty. The N71 also connects Kenmare to Killarney on a mountainous and scenic part of the Ring of Kerry route via Molls Gap and Ladies View. Alternatively one can reach Killarney via the longer but more comfortable route through Kilgarvan. Kenmare also lies on the N70 national secondary road south-Cork route to Glengarriff.

Kenmare railway station opened on 4 September 1893 and finally closed on 1 February 1960.[18]


The town has a primary and secondary school, community hospital and Catholic and Church of Ireland churches.


The GAA club, Kenmare Shamrocks, competes in Kerry GAA competitions. George Mayberry from Kenmare participated in the 1908 Summer Olympics.

Kenmare Kestrels Basketball Club was founded in 2006 and competes in the Kerry Area Basketball League.

Use in popular culture

In the fictional Harry Potter universe Kenmare is the home of the Kenmare Kestrels, one of only thirteen Quidditch teams that play in the Quidditch League of Britain and Ireland. The team players wear emerald-green robes emblazoned with two yellow K’s across the chest.[19]

Kenmare was also mentioned in a Star Trek Enterprise episode "Breaking the Ice" in which the crew answer questions from children in a fictional school located in the town.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Census 2006 – Volume 1 – Population Classified by Area" (PDF). Central Statistics Office Census 2006 Reports. Central Statistics Office Ireland. April 2007. Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  2. ^ Census for post 1821 figures.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lee, JJ (1981). "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses". In Goldstrom, J. M.; Clarkson, L. A.. Irish Population, Economy, and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. 
  6. ^ Mokyr, Joel; O Grada, Cormac (November). "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850". The Economic History Review Volume 37 (Issue 4): 473–488. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1984.tb00344.x. 
  7. ^ a b Collins Irish Gem Dictionary. Great Britain: HarperCollins Publishers. 2006. ISBN 000719160X 
  8. ^ Irish Placenames Database - Kenmare entry
  9. ^ a b Megalithomania - 'The Druids' Circle' : Stone Circle - Kenmare
  10. ^ [1] Article of the Kenmare Suspension Bridge
  11. ^ [2] Catalogue of the Photographic Exhibition of Irish Carnegie Libraries
  12. ^ [3] Article from Kenmare Historical Society
  13. ^ Church of Ireland Gazette, page 3, 3 October 2008
  14. ^ - Churches
  15. ^ €11.5m land sale expected as Kenmare prices rocket Irish Examiner
  16. ^ Fast-changing times for Kenmare The Kerryman (registration required)
  17. ^ The 15th of August Fair day in Kenmare, County Kerry Ireland
  18. ^ "Kenmare station". Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  19. ^ Whisp, Kennilworthy (2001). Quidditch Through the Ages. WhizzHard Books. pp. 31–46. ISBN 1551924544. 

External links

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