Kenmare bay

Kenmare is located at the head of Kenmare Bay, 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.
Kenmare is in the Kerry constituency.

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. Before him, a previous surveyor of Ireland, Sir Valentine Browne (1510-1589), 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.


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 is a mass famine grave for Kenmare victims. 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.
During and after the Civil War (1922-1923), there were a number of incidents in Kenmare, including the killing of O'Connor brothers in September 1922 by Anti-Treaty forces, and an attack on the daughters of a local doctor in 1923 (the latter sometimes referred to as the 'Kenmare incident'). Kenmare was briefly held by Anti-Treaty forces during the Civil War, before being retaken by National Army troops in December 1922.

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 library building is now home to the Carnegie Arts Centre and theatre, hosting a local drama group and a number of travelling productions each year, as well as music and comedy night.


Holy Cross Catholic Church in Kenmare 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.

View of Main Street in Kenmare (between the 1880s and early 1900s)
The Church of Ireland church of St Patrick celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008. The town has been a winner in the Irish Tidy Towns Competition in 2013, 2000 and was a runner-up in 2003 and 2008.

gap of dunloe

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.
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.

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.