Kenmare is a village in County Kerry in southwest Ireland. It's at the head of Kenmare Bay: north of the bay is Iveragh Peninsula, and its coast road is the popular Ring of Kerry tourist route. South is Beara Peninsula, marking the boundary with County Cork. Kenmare's resident population (as of 2016) is 2376, but it has lots of tourist accommodation and other facilities and gets busy in summer.
Kenmare's Irish name is An Neidín, "the little nest". It was laid out as a planned town in 1670 by Sir William Petty, who'd been awarded the land by Cromwell for mapping Ireland. Subsequent landowners promoted tourism, which boomed once the railway reached Killarney in the 1850s. Kenmare also became famous for the lace sewn at its convent.
The Tourist Information Centre is north side of the main square.
In July and Aug, Bus 282 runs a triangle across the hills to Beara Peninsula in County Cork. It runs in the morning from Kenmare to Glengarriff (45 min, for buses to Bantry) and Castletownbere, returning via Ardgroom, Laragh and Dawros back to Kenmare; then the reverse in the afternoon. Sept-June this bus only runs between Kenmare and Ardgroom once a week with no onward connections.
By car from Dublin follow M8 to Fermoy then N72 west through Mallow to Killarney then N71 south through the National Park.
Arriving by car, use the main car park on Railway Rd by Holy Cross Church. There are public toilets here. Avoid the congested Square.
The main taxi operator in the village is Kenmare Coach and Cab +353 87 24 80 800. You could negotiate a tour of the sights.
Bike hire is available from Finnegan's Cycles on Henry St.
- 1 The Square is the colourful centre of Kenmare, lined by pubs and shops along Henry St, Main St and Shelbourne St. Yes, it's a triangle. The TIC is at the north end. There isn't a civic art gallery in the village but lots of little private galleries and art shops.
- Holy Cross Church (RC) just north on Railway Rd was completed in 1864 along with the Poor Clare's Convent adjacent. Here the nuns developed the techniques of needlework that made Kenmare lace famous. You can visit the church but the convent closed and became a school. The Poor Clares continue elsewhere, and you can see the legacy of their craft in the Lace and Design Centre, described below.
- Kenmare Stone Circle is 300 m west along Market Street. It's a ring of 15 stones around a central boulder, from the Bronze Age 2200-500 BC. River Finnihy is the stream and scenic dell further west.
- 2 Kilgarvan Motor Museum, Slaheny, Kilgarvan V93 PW28 (1 km south of Kilgarvan), ☏ . Tu-Sa 09:30-12:45, 13:45-17:30. A personal collection of vintage and classic cars, including Rolls Royce, Bentley, Alvis and Armstrong Siddeley. If you happen to own one yourself, they can do repairs and servicing.
- 3 Sneem is a village west on N70 with a scenic inlet of the sea. Its name An tSnaidhm means "the knot", the explanation of which depends entirely on which garrulous codger has bent your ear with the tale. Charles de Gaulle holidayed here, and it's the burial place of the fifth Irish President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh (Carroll O'Daly, 1911 – 1978). There's accommodation and a golf course.
- 4 Staigue Stone Fort is an Iron Age ringfort of circa 300-400 AD. It has sturdy drystone walls and an encircling ditch. It's at the head of a valley and commands great views yet can't be seen from below, no accident surely. Drive up the 4 km access lane from Castlecove, which is narrow but in good repair, to the car park. The site is free to access 24 hours.
- 5 Caherdaniel is a village near the south point of Iveragh peninsula. Its sights are a ring fort, Derrynane Beg Ogham Stone, Derrynane House the home of liberation lawyer and politician Daniel O'Connell, and the fragmentary remains of an abbey on a tidal island. Boat trips to the Skelligs sail from Bealtra just west.
- Waterville and other points further along the peninsula are described as part of Caherciveen.
- Lauragh is a village along R571 on Beara peninsula, which extends south of Kenmare. Dereen Garden is open daily 10:00-18:00, adult €8 child €3.
- 6 Ardgroom is the main village on the north side of Beara peninsula and has two stone circles. It's across the boundary into County Cork but easier to reach from the Kerry side, following R571.
- See Castletownbere for the tip of Beara peninsula, including Dursey Island, which is reached by cable-car.
- Ring of Kerry is the 214 km circuit of the Iveragh Peninsula, a comfortable day-trip by car or tour bus. Buses tour anti-clockwise so Kenmare comes near the end of their circuit, then they climb N71 over Moll's Gap to return to Killarney. Independent travellers starting from Kenmare are probably better going clockwise, though you'll have to dodge all the oncoming buses somewhere on the road beyond Waterville.
- Wild Atlantic Way is the coastal route all the way down from Donegal to Kinsale. On Iveragh Peninsula it's one and the same as the Ring of Kerry. South it hugs the coast of Beara Peninsula, eventually reaching Bantry.
- Carnegie Arts Centre on Shelbourne St is the village performing arts venue, with film, theatre, music and comedy.
- Horse riding: there are centres at River Valley (within Sheen Falls Hotel) and at Dromquinna 10 km west on N70.
- Eclipse Ireland, Dromore Old V93 EC65, ☏ . Residential activities centre in the hills above Blackwater Bridge. Activities include horse-riding, falconry, raft building, rock climbing and laser tag. They especially cater for groups: yes it's that heartsink word "team-building".
- Boat trips: Seafari sail from the village jetty, and Star of Kenmare from Dauros southwest along R571.
- Kenmare Bay Diving, Bunaw Pier, Kilmackillogue harbour, Lauragh, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. They go out in Ribs / zodiacs from Lauragh on the Beara Peninsula and can pick up from Kenmare accommodation. They offer try-dives, training, kit hire and dives for every skill level - see Scuba Diving for what's involved. They're open for business May-Oct, the rest of the year they just dive for fun in a grey heaving Atlantic.
- Kissane Sheep Farm, Foardal, Moll's Gap V93 D621 (12 km on N71 towards Killarney), ☏ , ✉ noel@KissaneSheepFarm.com. Traditional, working sheep farm, where you watch the collies herd the sheep, and lambing and sheep-shearing in season.
- Golf: Kenmare GC lies east side of the village. Blue tees 6086 yards, par 71, visitor round €50.
- Ring of Kerry GC is 5 km west on N70. Blue tees 6663 yards, par 73, visitor round €110.
- Supermarkets are northeast edge of the village, with Lidl, Aldi and Murphy's SuperValu.
- ATMs are outside Bank of Ireland and AIB, both on The Square.
- Kenmare Lace and Design Centre, The Square V93 H68P, ☏ . This is upstairs from the TIC: it's a craft shop for lace plus a small museum. Needlepoint lace was handmade by the nuns of Poor Clare Convent from the 19th century, winning acclaim for its innovative designs. The convent declined in the late 20th century but the nuns taught a local craftswoman their skills and she founded an artisan co-op which became this centre. It occasionally has demonstrations, classes and promotional events.
- Farmers Market is in The Square every Wednesday 10:00-16:00.
- PF McCarthy's, 14 Main St V93 D7YF, ☏ . Daily 12:00-23:30. Pub and restaurant with good pub food, including a great seafood chowder.
- Mulcahy's, Main St V93 W35F, ☏ . M-Sa 17:00-00:00. Pub-restaurant serving great trad-continental food.
- Lime Tree, 3A Shebourne St V93 A462, ☏ . Daily 18:30-21:30. This cosy restaurant get great reviews for its modern Irish cuisine.
- Kenmare Brewhouse, The Square V93 VK02, ☏ . Th-M 10:30-23:30. It's not a microbrewery as the name might suggest, but a pub-restaurant with a decent menu.
- Lily House does Thai and Chinese food (Tu-Su 16:00-22:00) and there are lots more cheap eateries and takeaways around The Square.
- Sneem Black Pudding has protected geographical status. It's square rather than the usual rings, uncased and tray-baked, and made of beef suet, onions, oat flakes, spices and the blood of sundry animals.
- The Square is walled by pubs; most do food and several have rooms. Weave your way between Atlantic Bar, O'Connor's, Wander Inn, Foley's, Crowley's, Davitt's, Purple Heather, Flory Batt's, Bistro XVIII, Mulcahy's and Roughty Bar.
- Top of Coom claims to be Ireland's highest pub. It's in the hills on the Cork-Kerry boundary along a lane to Macroom, and open M-Th 17:00-22:30, F-Su 12:00-22:30.
- Tom Crean Brewery on Kenmare Main St is named for the Antarctic explorer born in Annascaul on the Dingle Peninsula. They also have B&B.
- No campsite or touring caravan park: the sites around town are for holiday caravans on long lets.
- Ard Mullen, Henry St (in the centre of town), ☏ . Family run self catering accommodation.
- Davitts Kenmare, Henry St (in the centre of the town), ☏ . Family run bed and breakfast accommodation.
- Fáilte Hostel, Shelbourne St V93 P297, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This is closed until April 2022.
- 1 Greenwood Hostel, Capparoe Cottages V93 WC83, ☏ . Clean friendly hostel west along N70, German owner.
- Hawthorn House, Shelbourne St V93 XP30, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Friendly B&B with 8 rooms in village centre, they also have a self-catering lodge. B&B double €100.
- Kenmarerentals.com (Jer Foley), Henry St (Located on Henry Steet in O Donnabhains Bar & Guesthouse), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. Self-catering holidays homes in and around Kenmare, Co. Kerry. Owner managed with different houses types. Reserve on-line or contact/e-mail owner direct for last minute deals. Houses range from 295 € to €995 per week depending on the season; shorter bookings also available.
- B&Bs in village centre also include Bridge St Townhouse, Coachman's and Rose Cottage.
- B&Bs west on N70 Sneem Road include Happy Pig, Rose Garden, Kenmare House (formerly Annagry House), Gortnamullen House and Druid Cottage.
- B&Bs south include Whispering Pines before the bridge, then Muxnaw Lodge and Watersedge on the south bank.
- B&Bs east on R569 include Greenville House, Shelburne Lodge, White House, Abbey Court, Ashfield, Driftwood and Oldchurch House.
- Brook Lane Hotel, Killarney Road V93 T289 (junction of N71 and N70), ☏ . Charming small hotel. No dogs. Live music in Casey's Bar. B&B double from €150.
- 2 Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare V93 HR27, ☏ . Now you've really arrived: the summer residence of the Marquis of Landsdowne is now a very plush resort hotel and country club south shore of the bay. B&B double €500.
As of May 2021, Kenmare and its approach roads have 5G from Vodafone and 4G from Eir and Three.
- Following the Ring of Kerry clockwise takes you west on N70 through Sneem and Caherdaniel to Waterville, Portmagee and Caherciveen.
- Following it anti-clockwise, N71 climbs Moll's Gap (for Gap of Dunloe) then comes into Killarney through the National Park.
- South is Beara peninsula, with routes via Ardgroom to Castletownbere or through the N71 tunnel (unsuitable for high vehicles) into Glengarriff and Bantry.
- East the R569 through Kilgarvan leads onto the N22 to Macroom and Cork.