Tralee & Environs (Co. Kerry)

Tralee Aqua Dome, resembling a bizarre cross between an overgrown Ringfort and a monastic Celtic planetarium, is a waterworld featuring waves, rapids, lazy rivers and a flume slide for shrieking children, plus a Health & Sauna Suite for adults, and a  Bungee Trampoline, a miniature golf course and a remote control truck and boat area in the grounds.

The Tralee & Dingle Light Railway

 

The Tralee and Dingle Light Railway and Tramway was a 32 mi / 51 km narrow gauge railway that operated between Tralee and Dingle between 1891 and 1953,, with a branch to Castlegregory that closed shortly prior the outbreak of the WWII. It was the most westerly railway line in Europe.

 

The railway was built as cheaply as possible, largely following adjacent roads, and the resulting in  tight curves and severe gradients were a constant problem, leading to several serious accidents and many delays. From the start income failed to cover operating expenses, and the system required public subsidies throughout its existence.

 

The War of Independence saw the line closed temporarily  on the orders of the British Army in 1921, and operations  were severely disrupted during the Civil War of 1922–23.

 

The Great Southern Railway took over the system in 1925, passenger services were discontinued in 1939, and  the last trains to use the line moved cattle on market days.

 

Walter Simon, a German spy who had been landed  by submarine, arrived at Dingle station on 13 June 1940, and asked when the next train would depart (not realising that only freight services were still operating). He then caught the bus to Tralee and made his way by train to Dublin. The Garda Síochána were informed his enquiry at Dingle station and he was trailed by detectives, arrested on arrival in Dublin and interned for the duration of “the Emergency“.

 

Restored in 1993 by local enthusiasts, a 3km section was furnished with an original Hunslet steam engine from Steamville,  USA to pull carriages imported from Spain along the picturesque narrow-gauge track between Tralee and Blennerville. Although featured in the Great Railway Journeys of the World  series on BBC TV as one of the world’s most famous narrow-guage lines, the railway has not operated since 2007 and faces a very uncertain future.

The River Lee estuary, to which the Steam Railway runs parallel, has acquired a great reputation amongst birdwatchers for the vast numbers of birds that fly in from all over Northern Europe to spend the winter here. While all of Tralee Bay holds birdlife of great interest.  the at time of year, the inner section of the estuary, from the very edge of Tralee town as far as Annagh Island,  frequently holds the densest bird population and attracts the greatest number of birdwatchers, both Irish and foreign, who have found it well worth spending time in the area.The salt marsh which lies between Tralee and Blennerville holds a dazzling array of birds from September/ October right through the winter until mid-March.

Blennerville (Co. Kerry / West).

Blennerville (Cathair Uí Mhóráin) (pop 700), historically  aka Cahermoraun / Cahirmoreaun, is effectively a suburb of Tralee, located approximately1.6 km / 1 mile west of the town centre, where the River Lee enters Tralee Bay.

It has been suggested that this was the ancient site of the Tramore ford, the  escape route afforded to the 15th Earl of Desmond from Tralee towards the south, before his capture and execution in 1583.

A bridge was built at the site in 1751, and in 1783 the village was renamed Blennerville after the family of the landlord Rowland Blennerhassett  (1741–1821), for whom the Blennerhassett Baronetcy of Blennerville, a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom, was created on in 1809.

Blennerville House was the residence of Blennerville’s founder, who is known to have lived here in 1783; however, the building probably dates from the late C17th. It was acquired by the Chute family in the mid-C19th, and sold by Capt. Richard Chute in 1919. It is now the home of the Johnson family.

The Blenervile Windmill. built in 1800, was used for grinding corn for both the local population and for export to Britain. Sir Rowland Blennerhassett‘s widow Milicent (née Yielding) was killed in 1831 by a blow from the canvas sails. The port ran into difficulties and the structure had fallen into ruins by 1846.  Purchased by the local authority in 1981, it was restored to become a symbol of Tralee. The most visible manmade landmark on Tralee Bay, it is Ireland’s largest windmill, and also the tallest of its kind in Europe at 21.3m high. This striking edifice is now the centrepiece of a major craft complex that includes a restaurant and multi-lingual audio-visual presentation on the history of the area and an exhibition on C19th emigration. (Photo by Kglavin)

The Tralee Ship Canal

 

Blennerville’s port silted up rapidly, and local merchants soon became very discontented. In 1828 a petition on behalf of the gentry and merchants of Tralee was made to the House of Commons by Maurice Fitzgerald MP, 18th Knight of Kerry, and in 1829 a Local Act of Parliament sanctioned the completion of a ship canal from the town to the sea. Work began during the 1830s and the canal was completed in 1846. At Blennerville, a lock was built with a wooden drawbridge which could be pulled up to let ships through.

 

The Tralee Ship Canal stretches from about half a mile beyond Blennerville Quay to Prince’s Quay, right on the edge of Tralee town proper, and for many years brought ships of up to 300 tons right up to the town to discharge their cargoes. Gradually, however, the problem that had beset Blennerville, silt deposit build-up, also occurred in the canal. Over a period of time the canal became impossible to navigate and fell into disuse, gradually replaced in importance by Fenit and the railway.

 

The  canal has recently been dredged and restored. (Photo by Ian Taylor)

The Blennerhassett Baronetcy of Blennerville has descended from father to son. Sir Rowland Blennerhassett (1839 – 1909), 4th Bart PC (Ire), who married Countess Charlotte Julia von Leyden, was a Liberal Party MP for Galway Borough from 1865 to 1874 and for County Kerry from 1880 to 1885. The title was held as of 2008 by Sir (Marmaduke) Adrian Francis William Blennerhassett, 7th Bart (b. 1940).

Jeanie Johnston

 

Jeanie Johnston, a three-masted barque built in Quebec in 1847, traded out of Tralee, transporting emigrants from the Great Famine and its aftermath to North America and timber back to Europe. She made 16 Trans-Atlantic trips and never lost a crew member or passenger.

 

In 2000 the construction of a replica of the C19th ship was undertaken by young volunteers from all over the world under the supervision of master shipwrights; the work began in Fenit Harbour, and continued later in Blennerville’s shipyard.

 

In 2002 the Jeanie Johnson sailed to Canada and the USA. She has taken part in the Tall Ships Race and currently operates out of Dublin as a sail training ship. (Photo by mozzercork)

 

The Jeanie Johnston Commemorative Quilt, made by a group of women in the Tralee area, commemorates the barque with a design depicting the Jeanie Johnston in Blennerville and a group of emigrants on the quay waiting to board it. Close by are the Blennerville Windmill and Workhouse, and dotted on the hills in the background are the abandoned homes of famine victims. The Quilt’s lower border has famine scenes of women digging in search of potatoes and of a mother holding her dying child; a picture of the Fever Shed in Grosse Ile is a reminder of the sufferings of the famine emigrants. There are also crests of some of the seaports associated with the ship; Quebec, New York, Boston, Belfast, Dublin and Tralee.

 Blennerville Farmers Market is held on Sundays outside the Windmill.

Blennerville is not far from Derrymore and Camp on Byroute 1, at the northeastern end of the Dingle Peninsula.

Tralee Bay Nature Reserve, encompassing over 8000 acres extending from Tralee town to the Maharee Islands, is a designated Natura 2000 site where migratory pale-bellied brent geese spend from October to April feeding on the eelgrass and green seaweeds on the mudflats and grazing in nearby fields and saltmarshes when this food is scarce. Birds of the bay include turnstone, ringed plover, dunlin, redshank, bar-tailed godwit, golden plover and curlew.

Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre has an eco-friendly visitor centre, viewing tower, activity zone and nature zone.

 

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