Kenmare’s Irish name, Neidin, means little nest. Founded in 1670, though many generations have passed since then, the unique charm and inherent beauty of the town remains unchanged. Failte Ireland, the Irish Tourist Board, officially recognised the historical, cultural and environmental significance of Kenmare by bestowing upon it the title of Kerry’s first Heritage Town.
Kenmare Stone Circle
The stone circle at Kenmare has to be one of the easiest monuments to visit. It is located just a five minute walk from the centre of Kenmare Town.
The ellipse shaped circle measures about 17.5 metres at the widest point and 15 metres at the narrowest point. It consists of fourteen low boulders and a one metre tall slab like stone. In the centre of the circle is a very impressive boulder burial. The 1.5 metre wide boulder is resting on at least three other low stones. It is similar to the stone circle at nearby Dromagorteen, it too a boulder burial in the centre.
Over 3,000 years old, it consists of 15 stones arranged in a circle. It possibly dates to the same era as Stonehenge and Newgrange. Many of the stone circles are placed precisely in relation to the sun. Assuch they were possibly used as calendars in relation to agriculture. They may also have been used for sun worship and burial grounds.
Name thought to have originated from the Irish word "croimeal" the Gaelic word for moustache. The bridge is arch shaped and the population was Irish
speaking. One of the theories is that the locals were speaking of the bridge and his majesty's men thought they were speaking about Cromwell!
The entire area was granted to the English scientist, Ssir 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.
However, the area has more ancient roots. One of the largest stone circles in the south-west of Ireland 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.
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.
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.
Holy Cross Church
The Catholic Church in the town is called "The Holy cross". It contains stained glass from Franz Mayer & Co. and a hand carved Bath Stone chancel and side altars. In front of the church is the tomb of Monsignor P F Cremin, (died 2001) who was a periitus or theological expert at Vatican II. He was a native of Kenmare and had been Professor of Canon Law and Moral Theology at St Patrick's College, Maynooth from 1949 until 1980. He was a brother of Con Cremin, an Irish diplomat, who represented Ireland in France and Germany during World War II and subsequently in Portugal, the Holy See, the United Kingdom and at the United Nations
Dromore Castle was designed and built for Denis Mahony by the architect Thomas Deane, probably assisted by his brother Kearns Deane. Work began in 1831, although the account books show that only a negligible amount had been carried out before May 1834. Building work was completed in 1839.
The house is in the castellated Gothic Revival style, with an external finish of Roman Cement with limestone dressings. With the notable exception of the grand south-facing window with its pointed arch, the windows consist of pointed tracery contained within rectangular frames, a style characteristic of Deane's domestic work. The entrance hall, which is in the form of a long gallery, takes up half of the area of the ground floor. The west wing of the Castle takes the form of a round tower, with a spiral staircase contained within an attached turret.
Dromore Castle, near Templenoe, was built in the 1830s for the Mahony family, to a neo-gothic design by Sir Thomas Deane assisted by his brother Kearns Deane. The house is in the castellated Gothic-Revival style, with an external finish of Roman cement with limestone dressings. With the notable exception of the grand south-facing window with its pointed arch, the windows consist of pointed tracery contained within rectangular frames, a style characteristic of Deane’s domestic work. The entrance hall, which is in the form of a long gallery, takes up half of the area of the ground floor. The west wing of the Castle takes the form of a round tower, with a spiral staircase contained within an attached turret. The castle has a wonderful main gateway on the Ring of Kerry.
Old Kenmare Cemetery
The old Kenmare Cemetery can be found just outside the town of Kenmare. Take the road to Glengarriff and just over the bridge turn left. You will find the graveyard just before you come to the Sheen Falls Hotel. There’s a sign that says no access but this means no access to the land beside the Burial Ground.
The graveyard was the site of an early monastic settlement founded by Saint Finian of Innisfallen who died at the end of the 7th Century. The Church of St Finian is in now ruins. Nearby you will see the Famine Plot (Irish potato famine), where over 5,000 local people are said to have been buried during the great famine. Such was the level of poverty in the area during the great Irish famine that the medical officer in the Kenmare workhouse (a workhouse was the name given to feeding stations set up by the English to feed the starving during the Irish potato famine) described the workhouse as “an engine for producing disease and death”.
Reenagross or Reennagross, a park developed by the Marquis of Landsdowne from a sandbank and a waterlogged piece of his estate, almost 200 years ago. Sixty years ago the park was leased to the Kenmare Development Association for a nominal rent of ten shillings. In more recent times the Kerry County Council holds the lease and are responsible for the maintenance of the park. The main entrance is across from the pier road on the Kenmare side of the suspension bridge. If you walk towards the park there is a fine 5 foot high wall where lime like plants like the pink flowered Calamint and the Rusty-back fern are growing.
Following the pathway with it's tall private hedge, on the left the majestic Park Hotel and on the right a fine lagoon where a extensive, soft mudflat is exposed when the tide is out, you will meet the gates of the park.
Our Lady Holy Well, Dromore
A little further along the N70 (Ring of Kerry road) look out for a small sign on the left attached to a drystone wall, and park up off the road. There is room. Follow the track down a very well signposted path for about 15 mins through the Dromore woods. Don't despair, you'll find it even if it seems you're lost, there are plenty of signs. Finally you'll come across the well, which is a pretty simple outpouring of water from the hillside in the middle of the wood. The bits of ribbon, photos and other votives attest to the fact that people still come down here for prayers to Our Lady. This is one of the "healing wells" where people will use cloth dampened in the water to wash or bathe.
On the way down you'll find hedges upon hedges of the wild fuschia that seem to overgrow in Ireland.
Derreen Garden covers more than 60 acres of garden and has over 12km of paths which wind through mature & varied woodland to reveal wonderful views over Kilmakilloge Harbour, the Caha Mountains and the distant McGillicuddy Reeks. The garden is full of rare and exotic plants, many of which were brought back from the Himalayas and elsewhere. Derreen is particularly known for its collection of rhododendrons. The labyrinth of narrow mossy paths weave their way through groves of bamboo, towering eucalyptus, tree ferns and conifers, all thriving in the mild, damp climate.
The garden is also a haven for wildlife and a habitat for Sika deer, Irish hares and red squirrel. Seals can often be seen from the shore and there have been sightings of otters and Kerry’s rarest mammal, the pine marten. By the shore there is an abundance of bird life, including cormorants, oyster catchers, gulls, great northern divers, guillemots, and sea eagles.
There are a number of walks around the garden taking 30 minutes to an hour, although it is easy to get drawn into exploring and many visitors will spend a few hours before finishing off their visit with a picnic, cream tea (available at the cottage close to the car park) or a trip to the nearby pub at Kilmakilloge.
Specially For Children
The “Derreeny Houses” are located in Derreen Garden along the Glade Walk and the adjacent section of the Broad Walk. To date 20 such houses have been found. All the houses are vacant, but look like they have recently been lived in. There have been reports from children walking in the garden of movements in the Rhododendrons as they walk along the paths in the garden.. “Derreenies” are about 2 inches (5cm) tall, but are rarely seen. The last sighting of a “Derreeny” was in 1855.
A fantastic little beach with a small peninsula perfect for swimming, kite flying, and windsurfing. With low tide one can collect shells, mussels or dig some clams.
Whether you are visiting the South West of Ireland for a short break or a long stay, Bonane Heritage Park should be at the top of your list of things to do. It boasts one of the most significant archaeological sites in Ireland as well as making the perfect setting for amateur and professional photographers and walkers. So whether you're interested in history and heritage or just looking to embrace all that makes Ireland truly special, a visit won't disappoint. Nestled at the point where the Ring of Beara meets the Ring of Kerry, it makes the perfect place to start your exploration of the area.