Tralee is the county town of County Kerry in southwest Ireland, with a population of 23,691 in 2016. Its Irish name Trá Lí means "strand / beach on the River Lee".
Tralee is north of Kerry's tourist circuit so it feels like a real town; it's on the edge of the commuter belt for Limerick. It grew up at the lowest point you could cross the River Lee, and its navigable channel made it an early colony of the Normans. They embellished it in their usual way, with an abbey, a castle, and overmighty barons who fell foul of London authority. In these parts the barons were Earls of Desmond, and the last of that ilk was seen in Cork in 1583, minus his head which was on a spike on London Bridge.
Tralee in its present form was laid out in the 19th century in Georgian style. The castle had already been demolished, with Denny St built over it and the area converted to Town Park, while elegant civic buildings sprang up such as the courthouse. But it declined as a port, as vessels grew larger and the estuary silted up. The ship canal was built in fits and starts from 1832 to 1846, nicely in time to succumb in turn to silting, so the harbour moved to deeper water at Fenit Island in the 1880s.
This means that Tralee hasn't had much industry or tourist development, and has preserved the feel of a provincial market town. As the county town it has business accommodation and amenities. The Tourist Information Centre is within the Kerry Museum on Town Park, same hours.
It's a longer drive, but you've more choice of flights into Dublin or Shannon.
Trains run to Tralee every couple of hours from Mallow, taking 90 min via Killarney and Farranfore (for Kerry Airport); a few start from Cork. There's one direct train daily between Dublin Heuston and Tralee, but usually you change at Mallow, with journey time 4 hours and a walk-up single fare of €43. Change also at Mallow for Limerick, Galway and Cobh. See Irish Rail for timetables, fares and online tickets.
2 Casement railway & bus station is 750 m northeast of town centre. The ticket office is open M 09:00-17:00, Tu-F 06:30-17:00, Sa 06:30-13:00; there are also machines. The toilets are only open for 20 min before each departurture.
Dublin Coach M7 runs daily hourly from Dublin Burgh Quay and Red Cow Luas station via Limerick, Adare, Newcastle West, Abbeyfeale and Killarney, taking 3 hours 30 min to Tralee. They don't use the bus station in any of those towns; in Tralee the stop is outside Kerry Group Headquarters, near Aqua Dome south side of the town. From Dublin airport take their bus for Portlaoise, Waterford or Dundrum and change at Red Cow. Bus M7 runs 06:15-23:45; it's every 30 min but alternate buses branch north at Limerick for Bunratty and Ennis.
Bus Eireann 40 treks cross-country every hour or so, from Rosslare ferry port via Wexford, New Ross, Waterford, Dungarvan, Youghal, Cork, Macroom, Ballyvourney, Killarney, Farranfore and finally Tralee.
Bus 271 runs 3 or 4 times a day from Killarney via Farranfore, Kerry Airport and Castleisland to Tralee.
Bus 275 runs every hour or two from Dingle, taking an hour to Tralee.
By road from Dublin follow M7 to Limerick then N21 through Newcastle West, reckon 3 hour 30 min.
Tralee town is compact, but you need your own wheels for outlying sights. For instance Bus 278 to Fenit only runs on Friday, with a return trip possible into town but not outward.
Enterprise Car Hire have a base in Tralee near the railway station, open M-F 08:00-17:00, Sa 09:00-12:00.
- 1 Kerry County Museum, Ashe Memorial Park, Denny St V92 CXE3, ☏ . Tu-Sa 09:30-17:00. The engaging "Medieval Experience" winds through a reconstruction of a 15th century town. There are also exhibitions on Roger Casement, and on Antarctic explorer Tom Crean (1877-1938), born near Dingle and a survivor of Scott's 1911-13 expedition, and one of the six who sailed a small boat to South Georgia to bring help to Shackleton's marooned expedition. Plus temporary exhibitions. Adult €6, child free.
- Town Park by the museum is a pleasant open space, especially when the roses are in bloom.
- Churches: St John the Evangelist on Ashe St is Church of Ireland, while St John's RC church is on Castle St. Holy Cross is the Dominican church on Princes' St.
- The Courthouse on Ashe St still houses the courts. It was completed in 1834 in neo-classical style, and later embellished by two cannon used in the Crimean War (1854–56) and the Indian Rebellion (1857).
- Ratass Church is a medieval ruin on R875 north side of town. Its oldest parts are 10th century, built over the Iron Age Rath Mhaighe Teas, "fort of the southern plain". In the graveyard, a 6th century Ogham stone was found incorporated into a burial vault. It's inscribed for "Sílán son of Fáithloga".
- 2 Blennerville was the port until 1846, where many emigrants left for North America; then a canal was cut to Tralee town centre. There's a restored windmill with an exhibition on the emigration years and a model railway. The area is good for birdwatching and breezy walks along the river and canal.
- 3 Fenit is a picturesque harbour 10 km west of Tralee, which until the 19th century was a major port. In 1588 the Spanish Armada sloop Nuestra Señora del Socorro surrendered here, unable to limp home. The crew were all put to death - a rattled London government had given local sheriffs strict instructions.
- Fenit Island is reached by walking or driving across the sand bar north of Fenit village. It's populated, with a ruined castle, and it's claimed that St Brendan the Navigator (484-577) was born here.
- 4 Ardfert is a village 10 km northwest of Tralee with the ruin of a 12th century cathedral and two other small churches, open April-Sept daily. 500 m east is the ruin of the 13th century Franciscan friary.
- 5 Banna Strand is a long beach with sandhills 12 km northwest of Tralee. This is where Roger Casement and two others were captured in April 1916, having been put ashore from a U-boat. Germany had sent arms to support a republican uprising, but the arms ship was captured by the Royal Navy, and scuttled off Cobh. Casement had also been involved in recruiting Irishmen within Germany (such as POWs) to fight against Britain, and he was hanged for treason.
- Akeragh is another long sandy strip north of Banna.
- 6 Kerry Head is the headland south of the Shannon estuary, with Ballyheigue the main settlement.
- 7 Castleisland has been described as "not so much a town as a street between two fields". The island was created when a moat was built around the castle, of which only a crumbling tower remains. The main attraction is Crag Cave 2 km northeast, almost 4 km long, of which you tour 350 m.
- What's on? For local events listen to Radio Kerry on 96.2 - 97.6 FM, or read The Kerryman, Kerry's Eye or Tralee Advertiser. Tralee Outlook folded in 2019.
- Aqua Dome, Ballyard Rd V92 T6TW, ☏ . M-F 10:00-22:00, Sa Su 10:00-19:00. Large indoor pool with flumes, jacuzzi, sauna and so on. Adult €16, child or conc €13.
- Cinema: Omniplex is next to Aqua Dome.
- Theatre: Siamsa Tire is west side of Town Park by the museum.
- Tralee Bay Wetlands, Ballyard Rd V92 HH57, ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. Lagoon and wetland near the estuary. You can just stroll round or hire pedaloes, take river boat rides etc. Adult €2.50, activities extra.
- Gaelic games: Kerry GAA the county team usually play their home football games in Killarney, but for hurling they use Austin Stack Park (capacity 12,000), 200 m east of the railway station.
- Tralee Racecourse occasionally hosts point-to-points but no longer has a regular race calendar. It's at Ballybeggan, 2 km northeast of town.
- Dingle Way is a 176 km hiking trail that begins in Tralee, circles the Dingle peninsula and returns. The whole circuit takes 8 days but you can easily do short sections. The first stage leaves Tralee along the ship canal towpath to Blennerville. It climbs a lane onto a path on the flanks of Slieve Mish, 1 km south of N86, and follows the flank to the coastal village of Camp. That's 18 km, for the next stage see Annascaul. The final day is much the same in reverse.
- Tralee Garden Festival is mid-June. The next is probably 18-19 June 2022, tba.
- Rose of Tralee Festival is an old-style beauty contest in August. The next is probably 19-23 Aug 2022 but tba.
- National Circus Festival is in November on Town Park. The next is 4-7 Nov 2021.
- Town centre has plenty of shops, with Garvey's SuperValu on Rock St open daily 08:00-22:00.
- Manor West is the retail park 1 km west beyond University Hospital. Tesco is open M-Sa 08:00-22:00, Su 09:00-22:00.
- Landers Outdoor World is a big store for outdoor clothing, footwear, camping, water sports and fishing tackle. They're next to Aldi on Manor West, and open M-Sa 09:00-18:00.
- Chopin’s Cafe & Restaurant, 8 Ashe St V92 C9CV, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 08:00-18:00. Friendly place for breakfast, lunch, dinner or cakes.
- Mozart's Tapas, 7 Ashe St, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-18:00. Good for breakfast, lunch and light bites.
- La Scala, The Square V92 H603, ☏ . This Italian restaurant gets mostly good reviews.
- The Roast House, 3 Denny St V92 TC6R, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-17:00. Great coffee, the owner roasts his own beans. Good food selection, especially the pulled pork sandwich.
- Yummy Cafe Market, Dominick St V92 C799 (off town square), ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-17:00. Nice cafe for breakfast and lunch with free play area for kids. Popular with families.
- Finnegan's, 17 Denny St V92 FF6F, ☏ . Daily 17:00-22:00. Quality trad food in a low-beamed cellar.
- "Tralee Trembles?" - "Not any more he doesn't." - Brendan Behan, The Scarperer
- Tralee Trembles is the hapless tool of a prison escape; Behan's own prison career was almost as inglorious.
- Roundy's Bar, 5 Broguemaker's Lane (facing Ashe Hotel). Th 10:00-23:00, F Sa 10:00-00:30, Su 12:00-23:00. A delightful, cosy little pub with music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
- An Cearnóg bar, 7 Dominick St (off The Square), ☏ . M-Th 10:30-23:30, F Sa 10:30-00:30, Su 12:00-23:30. Small cosy pub with excellent bar staff. Serves free snacks on Fridays at 18:00, but no bar food. Music most weekends and some weeknights.
- Seán Óg's, 41 Bridge St, ☏ . Daily 12:00-00:00. Buzzing pub, also has rooms.
- Baily's Corner, 30 Lower Castle St V92 N9FT, ☏ . Lively pub does good food and has trad music.
- Others include Kirby's Brogue, O'Sullivan's, Paddy Mac's, The Pikeman (within Grand Hotel), Blasket Bar, Hennessey's and Ballymac.
- Woodlands Caravan & Camping Park, Dan Spring Road V92 RW89 (follow lane across river bridge), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Open March-Oct, a long-established friendly well-run site, a short walk to town. Dogs welcome on lead. Tent or caravan with 2 adults €33.
- B&Bs are along Oakpark Rd towards Listowel.
- Ashe Hotel, Maine St V92 W56F, ☏ . Comfy well-run B&B, but there's often noise from the nearby pubs. B&B double €110.
- Manor West Hotel, Killarney Rd V92 YC59 (by retail park 2 km east of town centre), ☏ . Modern efficient hotel on retail park, with pool and gym. B&B double €110.
- Meadowlands Hotel, Oakpark Rd V92 DC83 (1 km northeast of town centre), ☏ . Comfy modern hotel in a quiet area on road towards Listowel. B&B double €120.
- Brandon Hotel, Prince's Quay V92 PVK6, ☏ . Modern hotel in town centre, good for business meetings with meeting hall, spa, pool and parking. B&B double €120.
- Grand Hotel, 31 Denny St V92 NDT8, ☏ . Cosy town centre hotel. Showing its age but gets good reviews for comfort, food and service. B&B double €100.
- Imperial Hotel, 27 Denny St V92 PK76 (next to Grand Hotel), ☏ . Comfy central hotel with good dining, but no lift to upper floors. Parking is a tight squeeze.
- Rose Hotel, Dan Spring Road, Cloon Beg, Tralee V92 HKA4 (N86 on riverside), ☏ . Friendly well-run place on south edge of town. B&B double €130.
- 1 Ballyroe Heights, Ardfert Rd, Ballyroe V92 HT91 (R551, 4 km NW of town centre), ☏ . Friendly modern hotel with good food. B&B double €120.
- 2 Ballygarry House Hotel, Killarney Rd V92 W279 (Jcn N21 & N22, 3.5 km southeast of town centre), ☏ . Modern hotel, well furnished and comfy, with spa. Off N21, handy for motorists. B&B double €150.
- 3 Ballyseede Castle Hotel, Ballyseedy V92 VW30 (off N21, four km southeast of town centre), ☏ . Plush hotel in the "new" castle (circa 1580s); the "old" castle is a ruin in the woods. Great reviews for food, comfot and service. B&B double €160.
As of Aug 2021, Tralee has 5G with Eir and Vodafone, and 4G with Three.
- Listowel is the main settlement in the north of Kerry. Follow the coast then take the Shannon Ferry to continue the Wild Atlantic Way in County Clare.
- West is the Dingle peninsula, dotted with prehistoric sites, and with boats to the Blasket islands.
- Southwest takes you via Killorglin onto the Ring of Kerry coastal itinerary, eventually circling back to Killarney.