The Iveragh Peninsula (Co. Kerry)

The Coastal Route from Kenmare to Killorglin:

Kenmare is on ByRoute 1.

Templenoe, near the head of Kenmare Bay / River, is the location of a pub called Pat Spillane’s Bar, owned by the family of the famous GAA star. (Photo by grandmaR)

Rossacoosane is the location of a small ancient petraglyphic design of grooves, cups and rings.

Dromore Castle

 

Dromore Castle, stands high on a hill overlooking Kenmare Bay / River. Both the mansion and its splendid gate lodge were designed by Sir Thomas Deane and completed in 1839. (Photo – www.thinplace.net)

The first owner was Denis Mahony, a Church of Ireland minister who operated a soup kitchen from the castle during the Great Famine. His proselytising was unpopular, and he was atacked in his Templenoe church in 1850, while a mob also threatened to burn down the castle, and were reputedly only prevented from doing so by the intervention of the local Roman Catholic parish priest.

 

His grandson, the third and last Irish tennis player to win a Wimbledon Championship, Olympic silver medallist Harold Mahony, was the last male member of the family to own the property. After his untimely death in a bicycle accident in 1905, the castle passed into the hands of various uncaring relatives, and has only recently been restored to its former glory by new corporate owners.

 

One probable visitor around the turn of the C20th was Mahony’s friend Harold Boulton, writer of the Skye Boat Song, who apparently had this place in mind when he penned the lovely Castle of Dromore(although some contend that the song refers to another castle of the same name in County Tyrone). 

 

The Kerry Way runs through the grounds, which retain walled gardens, orchards and a poignant old tennis court. Several footpaths lead down to the foreshore.

Blackwater Bridge spans the local River Blackwater as it flows into Kenmare Bay near Coss strand and Blackwater Pier, where fresh bay fish and shellfish are landed daily. The river is managed and known for its steadily growing stock of wild salmon. The area offers several good B&Bs, fine walks and views, horse riding and trekking, and the excellent Blackwater Tavern.

Tahilla Cove is popular with surfers, windsurfers and kayakers. (Photo – www.tahillacove.com)

Tahilla is a tiny village notable for the Brushwood Studios, where a group of talented artists who live locally display and sell their work. Jo Anne Yelan‘s colourful oils of local scenes are particularly individual and attractive-

Coongar Harbour, an inlet on Kenmare Bay, has fine views of the Beara Peninsula to the south.

Parknasilla (Pairc na Saileac – “Field of the Willow Trees”) has a rich heritage dating back to 1692. For over a century it has been dominated by the Victorian opulence of the splendid Parknasilla Hotel.

Parknasilla Hotel

 

Parknasilla Hotel has long been one of the most famous hotels in Ireland. Prominent guests have included George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, General Charles De Gaulle, Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands, Princess Grace of Monaco and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Formerly part of the excellent Great Southern hotel chain, it is by all accounts still one of Ireland’s finest resort hotels, albeit slightly faded in grandeur. The palatial reception rooms have huge open log fireplaces, creating the ambience of a relaxed old-style country house party, and the bedrooms are said to be quite luxurious. The dining room has a very good policy of serving children’s teas earlier than the other evening meals; I’m told the food is old-fashioned but top class.

Onsite facilities include two all-weather tennis courts, an outdoor Canadian hot tub, a spa and hydrotherapy baths, horse riding, croquet, clay pigeon shooting, boules and archery; there is also a small golf course. A labyrinth of salt-water channels intersects the extensive wooded grounds, featuring the ruins of Derryquinn Castle; the bathing is good both in the sheltered waters and from the open strand that lies beyond, and an indoor swimming pool is available as well.

There are walks of varying lengths, the best being a tranquil trail along the coastline with footbridges to the adjacent islands (private) and through parklands.

The estate used to belong to Dr. Charles Graves (1812-99), CoI Bishop of Limerick, grandfather of the great writer Robert Graves.

The complex now includes a number of self-catering villas and lodges, and is marketed as  the Parknasilla Resort & Spa.

Sneem (An tSnaidhm – “the Knot”) lies in a green bowl at the foot of a mountain range dominated by the 2,245 ft Knockmoyle, and at the head of the Sneem river estuary.

Colourful houses and shopfronts (painted ox-blood red, lime green, gorse yellow, heather mauve, hideous purple and sky blue) make for picturesque streets, and there are several good pubs, tearooms / cafés and eateries. (Photo – gerrykane.com)

The focal point of the hourglass-shaped village is the bridge connecting the two parts, each with its own impeccable rectangular village green featuring a monument to Cearbhaill O’Dalaigh (1899-1976) former President of Ireland, who lived in Sneem.

Sneem and its surrounding area has become quite a haven for artists, and it would be a shame not to visit the Sneem Art Studio, Brushwood Studio and artist Rosemary Bradshaw‘s Studio

The church of the Transfiguration (CoI), an unusual white edifice dating from 1810, regularly hosts exhibitions of work by locasl artists. It has a salmon-shaped weather cock on its stumpy steeple, and several interesting graves in the well-kept churchyard.

St Michael’s parish church (RC), built in 1865, features a statue of the ancient Egyptian deity Isis, “a gift from the people of Egypt to the people of Ireland, presented by the ambassador of Egypt, H.E. Hussein Mesharafa, in 1993.

The sculpture park adjacent to the church features pyramid-like structures resembling Beehive Huts, made by James Scanlon in 1987, and other striking creations from around the world.

The Garden of the Senses on Sneem Pier Road has transformed an area of the village into a serene walk down the banks of the Sneem Estuary, awash with colours and aromas, and includes a bird island, a barbecue area and much more.

Unusually for a small Kerry village, Sneem has a local clinic providing homeopathy, reflexology anf massage, and there is a llama farm in the vicinity.

Sea kayaking is very popular in this area and is catered for at a number of locations, the most magical being Oysterbed and the Parknasilla Islands. With numerous families of seals, various species of birds and tree covered islands; the area provides spectacular scenery and ideal conditions for the Kayaker. Many other activities are also facilitated, including: horse riding, windsurfing, water-skiing, sea-angling and sailing.

Sneem is not far from Derreendarragh on the Interior Route.

Castlecove, which takes its name from a small harbour with an unfinished castle, is a small resort with fine sandy beaches nearby, on a inlet from picturesque Kenmare Bay. Coastal erosion has created natural rock pools, and there are exquisite sandy coves dotted underneath the cliffs.

Staigue Fort is a magnificent prehistoric Ring Fort, thought to be about 2500 years old. The remarkably thick walls, tapering from almost 4m / 13ft at the base to 2m / 7ft at the top, were built to last. Its large size (27m in diameter) and location in a natural amphitheatre suggests some ceremonial use. Local legend says it has long been hinhabited by “the little people”. (Photo – www.irondonkey.com, an excellent bicycle touring website)

Caherdaniel, a pretty village on the edge of Derrynane Bay, got its name from the stone fort of Caher (c 600 B.C) which is on the Kerry Way long distance walking trail to the north of the village, and from its associations with the great Daniel O’Connell.

Caherdaniel is a lovely spot, with terrain varying from rugged shore to gently rolling mountains, where visitors can walk, cycle, ride or drive through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and an excellent location for angling, swimming and diving.

The tiny harbour of Derrynane was once the haunt of pirates and buccaneers. Later, in the C18th, Derrynane Harbour became a thriving centre for trade with France and Spain. Boats can be hired here for excursions to the the Skelligs.

Derrynane House

 

Derrynane House, the boyhood home of Daniel O’Connell, was bought by his father with the proceeds of his contraband smuggling. (Photo – thepoormouth.blogspot)

The attractive residence has long been converted into a museum, with interesting displays illustrating the Liberator’s life and career, notably a truly bizarre processional triumphant chariot. Nowadays it is a National Monument and part of a 320 acre (1.3 km²) National Park.

There are several archaeological artefacts and ruins to be seen on the grounds and on Abbey Island, which can be reached on foot when the tide is out.

The Derrynane area is known in archaeological circles for sites associate with the Beaker people, who left evidence of copper mining in the area around 4000 years ago. A Dolmen / Stone Age grave in the village may date from 3000 BC.

Waterville is an elite holiday destination with a posh hotel, lovely beaches, great angling and a couple of excellent restaurants. Founded as  a telecomminications portal, it was a long-time favourite of Charlie Chaplin‘s, commemorated by a bronze statue.

(Photo – irlande.web-sy.fr)

Unfortunately, Waterville is most famous for its golf course. No doubt it is as good a golf course as its admirers say, but to claim that any golfcourse can be in some way mystical is absolute drivel. This absurd claim, made in a 1992 tournament brochure, is based on stories in the Book of Invasions, written about 1000, that Noah’s grand-daughter Cessair landed in Ballinskelligs Bay after the flood and became Irelands first invader, and that the the Milesians, last of the mythical invaders, settled locally in 1700 BC and were reportedly responsible for many of the archeological sites found in the area.

Waterville is the western terminus of the Interior Route.

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