Blennerville Windmill

Blennerville Windmill is located at Blennerville Village 2km outside Tralee town (see my web page here). It is on the Tralee to Dingle Road. Blennerville Windmill is the largest working windmill according to the Guinness Book of Records in Ireland.

Blennerville Windmill Visitor Centre

The visitor centre is open from April to October. There is a small gift and a coffee shop.

Blennerville Windmill Opening Times

wdt_ID Months Opening Time Closing Time
1 April 09:30 AM 05:30 PM
2 May 09:30 AM 05:30 PM
3 June 09:00 AM 06:00 PM
4 July 09:00 AM 06:00 PM
5 August 09:00 AM 06:00 PM
6 September 09:30 AM 05:30 PM
7 October 09:30 AM 05:30 PM

Blennerville Windmill Admission Charges

wdt_ID Admission Price
1 Adult €7
2 Senior citizen €5
3 Student €5
4 Child €3
5 Family (2 adults & 3 children) €20

Bennerville Windmill itself and how to get a good photograph?

It has 5 floors. On the top floor, you can go outside because part of the mechanics for the windmill is outside as well. It is all painted white even the roof. 4 floors have windows.

There is a bird-watching telescope for you to use. The River Lee is tidal at Bennerville Windmill so you can look at all the wading birds having their lunch. 

The fans are wood and when extended the windmill is very photographic. If you want to take a lovely picture of the windmill, I recommend you go in the morning. The perfect place to take a picture is across the bridge from the Windmill.

Blennerville Sunset
Tralee Canal (taken by Sean McInerney)

The sun will be at your back. If you wait until the afternoon you will be taking the picture right into the sun. You will have the estuary in the foreground, then the Windmill, and in the background the Slieve Mish mountains. If the tide is out, you will have wading birds in the picture as well.

There are 4 exhibitions inside Blennerville Windmill.

  • The workings of the Blennerville Windmill
  • The Jeanie Johnston Exhibition
  • Tralee to Dingle Railway Exhibition
  • Some early 19th & 20th century artefacts that were used in Ireland

The workings of the Blennerville Windmill

You will be given a guided tour of the windmill and how it works. The grinding stones in which ground grain wheat are still in operation today. If there is a breeze, the complex machinery will move the grinding stones.

Blennerville Windmill in Tralee
Blennerville Windmill

If you are lucky a couple of times a year the fans will be extended, and the machinery is in use. There is an audiovisual on the Windmill as well. The buildings by the back of the Windmill were used to hold the ground wheat.

The flour was exported to Great Britain until the estuary silted up and no cargo ships could get in. The flour was purchased by the local people also.

At the back of the windmill, there are warehouses where the flour was kept until it could be exported to Great Britain. There was only one Warehouse built after the Windmill closed down in the 1880s. That was where the replica of the Jeanie Johnston was built – see below.

The Jeanie Johnston Exhibition

The Jeanie Johnston was built in Quebec in 1847 by Scottish man, John Munn. It was built for transporting cargo from Europe to America. In 1848 Kerry merchants John Donovan and Sons, who are based in Liverpool, bought it. Under the stewardship of captain James Attridge, it made its maiden voyage on the 14th of April 1848.

At that time Ireland was gripped by the Great Famine. 193 people were on the maiden voyage. It did 16 Transatlantic voyages which carried 2500 approximately people until it was sold in 1855.

In the 16 voyages, it didn’t lose a single soul partly because the captain didn’t overload the ship and there was always a doctor (Richard Blennerhassett) on board.

The average time the ship crossed the Atlantic was 47 days. In the Maiden voyage, a baby was born on the ship. Sailing to New York, Baltimore, and Quebec it would leave people off at those ports before returning to Europe with timber.

The most people it ever took was 254 and that was on the 17th of April 1852. That was a crossing from Blennerville to Quebec. Just to put it in comparison for safety the Jeanie Johnston replica can only take 40 people due to the Irish and international maritime laws.

The Jeanie Johnston ship was sold in 1855 to another company. In 1858 and during one of the ship crossings it began to sink slowly. The crew held on for 9 Days until another ship that was passing rescued them. Nobody died preserving her perfect record.

100,000 were killed on the coffin ships during the famine trying to go over to America to a better life. By preserving her record, I believe it wasn’t one of those coffin ships.

The Jeanie Johnson (Ireland) Company Ltd built a replica of the ship. The ship was started on the 6th of May 1998 and was christened by the president of Ireland Mary McAleese on the 7th of May 2000.

St Brendan Statue looking a the sunset
Fenit Harbour

It was finished in Fenit Harbour in 2002. The original cost of the ship was 5.8 million euros but ballooned to 13.7 million. They had to build a warehouse at the back of Blennerville Windmill to house the replica when it was being built.

Because of Irish and international maritime laws it has to be fitted with safety features. Even though it could sail with no engines they had to have 2 diesel engines and 3 generators. No more than 40 people (Including crew) can sail on the ship at one time.

Tralee to Dingle Railway Exhibition

A model of the 52km narrow-gauge railway from Tralee to Dingle with particular emphasis on Blennerville is located in the windmill. The railway was first opened in 1891 and ran until 1953 when it was closed.

There were 3 steam trains working on the line passing each other at the Castlegregory Junction and Annascaul. When it opened it took 2 hours 30-minutes for the train to go from Tralee to Dingle.

It was the second most westerly railway track in Europe only to be surpassed by the Point in Caherciveen which is also in Kerry. The railway track was inexpensive to construct. It failed to make a profit in the first few years. There was a branch off at Camp for Castlegregory but it closed just before World War II.

In the early 2000s, the last steam train was put in use again running from Ballyard Train Station to Blennerville. Unfortunately, the boiler broke on the steam engine and they are waiting for a replacement for the last 10 years approx. Now the track is overgrown again. It is a shame.

Some early 19th & 20th century artefacts that were used in Ireland

There are many artefacts of how people lived in the 19th and early 20th century in Ireland. The artefacts are mainly used in the kitchen. They have a mixing bowl for making bread etc. On the kitchen dresser, there are many hand-painted 19th-century dinner service sets.

There is quite a quantity of hand-painted decorative platters with vibrant colours. Early 20s century mixing bowl and vintage stoneware jars for holding flour. There are 2 old porcelain whisky jars.

History of Blennerville Windmill

The Windmill was built by Sir Rosalind Blennerhassett in 1780. Built to almost 70 feet tall and 60 feet in diameter, it was a sight to behold. It has 5 floors and a capped roof. Back then it was erected in the main port of Kerry. It fell into disrepair with the wild Atlantic weather in the 1880s.

Now at that time, the main port in Kerry was Fenit. Also, there was a canal built so ships could get up to Tralee easily. Moreover, there was a steam train going from Tralee to Dingle at that time as well. Dingle was another port and Blennerville Village was not the main port in Kerry anymore. Blennerville Windmill stopped working at this time.

It lay in ruins until 1981 when the Urban District Council or as it is now known the Municipal District Office bought it. At that time, it was being used as a piggery. The windmill fans were all broken and the roof was in a very bad state. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, there were training courses for young people who had no skills formed by the government called ANCO. In 1981 ANCO started to refurbish the Windmill.

By 1984 it was fully restored as a working windmill. It was a sight to behold with its painted white exterior and wooden blades. With the Slieve Mish mountains as a backdrop, the windmill is a photographer’s dream. It was opened to the public in 1990 by the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey.

Conclusion

So, if you are in Tralee or going to Dingle I highly recommend a visit to Blennerville Windmill Visitor Centre.

Check out my web pages on the Ring of Kerry Drive, The Skellig Ring and Slea Head Drive.

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