Kenmare (Irish: An Neidín, meaning "the little nest") is a small town (population 2175 – CSO 2011) in the south of County Kerry, Ireland. The name Kenmare is the anglicised form of Ceann Mara meaning "head of the sea", referring to the head of Kenmare Bay.


Kenmare is located at the head of Kenmare Bay (where it reaches the farthest inland), sometimes called the Kenmare River, where the Roughty River (An Ruachtach) flows into the sea, and at the junction of the Iveragh Peninsula and the Beara Peninsula. The traditional Irish name of the bay was Inbhear Scéine from the Celtic inver, which is recorded in the 11th Century narrative Lebor Gabála Érenn as the arrival point of the mythological Irish ancestor Partholón. It is also located near the Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Mangerton Mountain and Caha Mountains and is a popular hillwalking destination. Nearby towns and villages are Tuosist, Ardgroom, Glengarriff, Kilgarvan, Killarney, Templenoe and Sneem.


It forms part of the Kerry South electoral constituency. Mark Daly, elected a member of Seanad Éireann in 2007, is from Kenmare.


The entire area was granted to the English scientist, Sir 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.

The three main streets that form a triangle in the centre of the town are called Main Street (originally William Street, after Sir William, 1st. Marquis of Lansdowne), Henry Street (originally Sound Road), after the son of William the 1st. Marquis and Shelbourne Street (Henry Petty became the first Earl of Shelburne). This name was also later applied to Shelbourne Road in Dublin.

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.

The convent in the town, the Poor Clare Sisters, was founded in 1861 when five nuns including Sister Mary Frances Cusack (The Nun of Kenmare), who was also an author and publisher of many books, moved to Kenmare from their convent in Newry, County Down. Under the guidance of Mother Abbess O'Hagan in 1864 a lace-working industry was established and Kenmare lace became noted worldwide.The convent no longer exists and Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine secondary school occupies this site since 2001.

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.

The town has been a winner in the Irish Tidy Towns Competition in 2013, 2000 and was a runner-up in 2003 and 2008.

The Catholic Church in the town, "The Holy Cross" was consecrated in 1864. It was built under the guidance of Archdeacon Fr. John O'Sullivan - who is interred within the church. The church has stained glass windows by O'Connor London (1863), by Caseys Dublin (1864) and by Earley Dublin (1864). The organ is by Telford & Telford(1865). Buried in the church grounds is 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.

The town library is one of the Carnegie Libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie. It opened in 1918, and the architect was R.M. Butler.

The town library building is now home to the Carnegie Arts Centre and theatre, which plays host to the local drama group and a number of travelling productions each year, as well as regular music and comedy nights.

The Church of Ireland church of St Patrick celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008.


Kenmare lies on two noted Irish tourist routes, the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara, approximately 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Killarney. As a result, it is a popular tourist destination and many of the businesses in the area cater to tourists. The town is noted for its food and pubs. Kenmare has a range of restaurants and traditional pubs.

Since the late 1990s the tourism industry has driven local construction work, with land being sold at high prices to developers wishing to build estates of holiday homes. This has led to an increase in the town's population, particularly during the peak tourist season, and prompted fears among some residents that the town is becoming overdeveloped and losing much of its identity.

Notable people

Kenmare was home to composer Ernest John Moeran for a number of years up to his death and a local bar was named after him but has since been renamed. Gaelic footballer Mickey 'Ned' O'Sullivan is from the town, while another footballer, Pat Spillane, comes from nearby Templenoe. Kerry GAA Stephen O'Brien hails from Kenmare while former player Paul O'Connor is also from the town. Kenmare is also the home of Irish Olympic slalom skier Thos Foley. Diplomat Con Cremin was also from Kenmare. NY construction magnate Patrick Harrington was also from Kenmare. Anna McPartlin grew up in Kenmare; in 2007 she wrote the novel Apart from the Crowd, with a setting in Kenmare.

Francis Brennan is the owner of the five-star Park Hotel in Kenmare. He and his brother John, owner of the nearby Dromquinna Manor Hotel in Templenoe, are known for their TV series "At Your Service".

Fair days

Due to its location at the centre of a large agricultural area, Kenmare served as the local market town. Until the establishment of an auction mart in the early 1990s, the approximately monthly fair days were a time when farmers would stand their animals in the streets for sale to visiting stock dealers. The only fair which continues to be held is that of 15 August, which coincides with the Catholic Holy Day of Obligation marking the Assumption of Mary. The day attracts crowds of locals and visitors and is the busiest day of the year in Kenmare.



There are daily bus-services in summer to Killarney and in the off-season, the bus runs Monday-Friday. There is also a daily service to/from Cork in the summer months on the N71 via Bantry and Clonakilty.


The N71 also connects Kenmare to Killarney on a mountainous and scenic part of the Ring of Kerry route via Molls Gap and Ladies View. Alternatively one can reach Killarney via the slightly longer but more comfortable route through Kilgarvan. Kenmare also lies on the N70 national secondary road south-Cork route to Glengarriff. In November 2014, the Eastern Relief Road was opened, allowing drivers from the R569 Kilgarvan Road to bypass the town centre when accessing the supermarkets and schools.


Kenmare railway station opened on 4 September 1893 and finally closed on 1 February 1960.


The nearest airport is Kerry Airport, which is 50 km away. A wider range of services is available from Cork Airport, which is 90 km away. There is a daily direct service to/from Cork Airport in the summer months on the N71 via Bantry and Clonakilty.


The town has a primary and secondary school, community hospital, as well as Catholic, Church of Ireland and Methodist churches.


The GAA club, Kenmare Shamrocks, competes in Kerry GAA competitions. George Mayberry from Kenmare participated in the 1908 Summer Olympics.

Kenmare Kestrels Basketball Club was founded in 2006 and competes in the Kerry Area Basketball League.

The local soccer team Inter Kenmare F.C. competes in the Kerry District League at U17, Youth & Senior Men's/Women's level and in the Kerry Schoolboys/girls League for all underage teams.

In popular culture

In the fictional Harry Potter universe, Kenmare is home to the Kenmare Kestrels, one of only thirteen Quidditch teams that play in the Quidditch League of Britain and Ireland. The team players wear emerald-green robes emblazoned with two yellow K's across the chest.

The eponymously titled song "As I leave behind Neidín" was written by Jimmy McCarthy and recorded by Mary Black amongst others.

The town was also referenced in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Breaking the Ice". The crew aboard the spaceship answer questions received from school children who are said to be from Kenmare.





Lat: 51.880100250 - Lng: -9.583519936