Things to do in Kenmare

A Beautiful Town Located in the Southwest of Ireland.

To the southwest of Ireland, tucked along Kenmare Bay in County Kerry, is the town of Kenmare. One glimpse at Kenmare will make anyone see why the town is a popular tourist destination.

Church in the centre of Kenmare
Church in the centre of Kenmare

The charming town – surrounded by mountains to one side and the picturesque Kenmare Bay on the other side – is a place to relax and enjoy.

Not only is Kenmare surrounded by the natural beauty that you can spend days admiring and exploring, but the town also has some excellent pubs, restaurants, and other places where you can unwind.

But all that the town offers only accounts for a small part of its appeal; Kenmare’s biggest advantage is its location. Ideally situated on the Wild Atlantic Way, the town allows one to explore the Ring of Beara and Ring of Kerry while setting base in a comfortable and convenient location.

Apart from this, Kenmare is close to several popular towns and attractions, including Killarney (32 km), MacGillycuddy’s Reeks (53 km), Sneem (26 km), and the Caha Mountains (30 km).

Molly Gallivan’s Cottage & Traditional Farm

Molly Gallivan's Cottage
Image by Klaus Hausmann

About 13 km south from Kenmare on the N71 will bring you to Molly Gallivan’s Cottage & Traditional Farm, which is an opportunity to step back in time to the early 1800s and experience life as it was back then.

If you’re anyway exploring the Ring of Kerry, a day trip here has to be one of the many stops you make along the way.

Molly Gallivan’s 2,000-year-old cottage is a fine example of old Irish architecture, with furniture and stone walls on all four sides sitting atop a land of sprawling farms complete with livestock. The step back in time here extends to more than the visual element.

They have an old tea shop on the premises that serves local homemade delicacies. When you are here, why don’t you have a pot of tea with a scone or apple crumble or some homemade ice cream (the honeycomb flavor is delicious).

The evenings here are better yet – they organize the perfect Irish experience, with traditional music, food, and storytelling presented in the old Irish way. You can expect singing, dancing, and a general good vibe all around.

They organize traditional Irish evenings with prior bookings, so give them a call if this is something you’d like to do.

Molly Gallivan’s Cottage & Traditional Farm is a great attraction for visitors of all age groups. It’s scenic, authentic, and interesting; what’s not to like? Quick tip, if you have the time, take a stroll to the top of the hill to enjoy the stunning scenery.

There is a great souvenir shop which offers knitwear and other merchandise at very reasonable prices. There’s no charge for the small farm visit, you can pay whatever you deem fit in the donation box. They have toilets on the premises, so a stop here can be convenient.

Bonane Heritage Park

Those interested in archaeology can’t afford to miss a trip to Bonane Heritage Park, which is only 10 km south on the N71. The 90-sq km park is an archaeological reserve comprising of 250 heritage sites surrounded by the Sheehy and Caha Mountains.

A 2-km looped walkway serves as the access point to the many sites, varying from the Stone Age to the pre-famine era. A local family generously donated the land in the public interest, and local volunteers look after its upkeep.

The park offers breath-taking scenery of the Sheen Valley. They even have a Fairy Walk, which is a big hit with children and adults alike. There are information boards for all the sites. You will have to wear your walking boots because the hill is quite steep.

Some of Bonane Heritage Park’s must-visit sites include a 4000-year old Stone Circle, a 5th century Ring Fort, and a 150-year old famine house. The Dromagurteen Stone Circle is one of the park’s main attractions as it boasts astronomical significance.

If you’re here during the summer solstice, you really must plan your trip to observe the sunrise and sunset.

Overall, the park’s main attraction is that it covers over 4,000 years of history in a 2-km walk. Experts estimate inhabitants occupied the land continuously till the great famine wiped them out.

Kenmare Bay Water Sports

When in Kenmare, you can enjoy a number of water sports. Several service providers along the bay offer a range of activities, including kayaking, canoeing, and sailing.

If you’re keen on spending a leisure day with the family splashing around in the water, head over to Star Outdoors Kenmare Adventure Centre, which arranges a diverse range of land and water activities. Some of the activities are obviously subject to weather conditions.

You can start your day with a boat ride in the bay, which offers great views of seals lazing on rocks and the overall coastline from a different perspective.

If you’re keen on kayaking, they have inflatables in the water that serve as markers for you to kayak to and back. Grab lunch at the restaurant upstairs, which serves generous portions of delicious, fresh seafood at reasonable prices.

The staff at Star Outdoors are friendly and accommodating; if you have special needs, they’re happy to go out of their way to make sure you enjoy yourself.

The water slide and trampoline and banana boats are great fun for all age groups. Overall, a trip here is well worth the time and money.

Golf

Golf Flag
Image by Hebi B.

When in Kenmare, you can spend half a day enjoying a game of golf while taking in the beautiful scenery around at either the Ring of Kerry Golf Club or Kenmare Golf Club.

Ring of Kerry Golf Club

The 150-acre course of the rolling countryside at Ring of Kerry Golf Club is reasonably challenging with a great variation of holes. The greens and fairways are well-maintained around the year, and one can enjoy breath-taking views from everywhere on the course.

The green fees are on the higher side here, but the course’s excellent condition more than justifies the price.

The clubhouse, which showcases the beautiful landscape with an elevated deck and floor-to-ceiling windows, serves lip-smacking delicacies at reasonable prices.

On a sunny day, sit on the terrace to enjoy the warmth, or you can sit upstairs to get a better view of Kenmare Bay.

In terms of what to order, you can’t go wrong with a burger here -it’s huge, juicy, and flavorsome and comes with a side of well-prepared fries. Wash it down with a glass of Guinness for a meal you won’t forget.

Kenmare Golf Club

The 100-year old Kenmare Golf Club offers a challenge for golfers of all levels at a relatively reasonable price. Its parkland course offers beautiful lake views and is well maintained. Kenmare Golf Club doesn’t have a restaurant, but you can grab a tea or coffee as a refreshment.

Horse Riding

Horse in stable

The abundance of natural beauty around Kenmare, makes horse riding a favorite among locals and tourists alike. When in Kenmare, you can try pony trekking & horse riding at Dromquinna Stables, River Valley Stables, or the Eclipse Center.

Dromquinna Stables, which is just 4 km away from Kenmare on the Ring of Kerry is a family-run business and has been operational since 1949. They offer a number of options depending on the rider’s ability, from 5-hour long rides for experienced riders to mini-treks for children under 8.

If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, opt for the 1.5-2-hour ride along Kenmare Bay’s coastline. On Saturday mornings, they have an equestrian camp from 10.30 am to 1 pm, and during Easter and Halloween holidays, they arrange starter camps for kids.

Overall, the experience is well worth it, considering treks start at €45 per person and lessons at €20 per person. I think they don’t accept cards, so don’t forget to carry cash.

Eclipse Ireland

Eclipse Ireland Activity and Adventure Center, located 15 km from Kenmare, just off the Ring of Kerry, offers the perfect getaway for families and large groups to spend time together, indulging in off-the-beat outdoor activities.

They offer an extensive range of activities to suit everyone’s personal preferences and physical fitness. These include activities such as archery, fishing, kayaking, biking survival camps, raft building, and assault course challenges. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, make sure you try coasteering.

Eclipse Ireland has holiday homes that you can book. The whole getaway is ideal for families and adventurers alike.

The rooms are basic but spacious and spotlessly clean, the food is delicious (the BBQ at night is not to be missed) the service and care to attention is extraordinary – overall, it’s going to be a trip you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.

The best part about the family that owns Eclipse Ireland is they do everything possible so guests enjoy their stay. Even though Eclipse is known for adventure activities, they leave no one out. Everyone’s physical limitations are considered to make sure you have a fun time.

Kenmare Farmers Market

A trip to the farmers market, no matter where you are is always fun and you get the best of local produce and so much more. Kenmare Farmers Market is held every Wednesday in the Square from 10 am to 4 pm.

When you are here, apart from the usual fresh vegetables and fruits, they also have various delicious different types of meats and home-made jams. Other than the food, local artists showcase their artwork like handmade jewelry, pottery, and crafts.

Lorge Chocolatier

Good hand-made chocolates are a rare delicacy, and Lorge Chocolates are among the most delicious. While everyone enjoys good chocolate, not many of us get the opportunity to try our hand at making some – it’s incredibly fun and educational at the same time.

When in Kenmare, visit Lorge Chocolatier to learn how to make chocolates, which is something people of all ages are sure to enjoy.

Lorge has two different types of workshops – a basic one for families and groups and an advanced one if you’re keen on learning more. The basic workshop is quite comprehensive and hands-on for a one-time experience.

Not only do you learn the history of chocolate, but you also get to try different processes, such as dipping, tempering, and molding. You even get to sample different kinds of chocolate and take the labor of your love home with you.

Chef Benoit, who runs Lorge and conducts the workshops, is very knowledgeable and passionate, which makes learning from him a pleasure.

A trip here will take no more than an hour and a half, so it should be easy to work into your schedule. From the price point, most consider it quite reasonable for the experience.

Kenmare Stone Circle

Kenmare is home to one of the largest stone circles in southwest Ireland, which is an egg shape approximately 56 feet by 49 feet. Composed of 15 boulders in a circle surrounding a Boulder-Dolmen in the center, which rests on three low stones, the Kenmare Stone Circle is estimated to be an impressive boulder burial site from 2000 BC.

A five-minute walk from Kenmare’s centre will bring you to the Stone Circle, but you may not realize you’re here since the place is maintained well enough to be a garden rather than a 4,000-year-old exhibit.

Given its manicured appearance, it’s no surprise the place is known as “the Shrubberies” among the locals.

While today the view around the bronze-aged Stone Circle is mostly fir trees and primed shrubs, the structure originally used to overlook the bay. They even have a fairy tree, where you can hang a card with your wish written on it.

A visit here takes no more than 5-10 minutes unless you’d rather stick around to take more pictures or soak in the majestic beauty.

To reach the Kenmare Stone Circle, turn left by the tourist office at Cromwell Bridge and follow the road. As the road turns left, turn right into a short road that leads to a gate. The land is privately owned, and the owners upkeep the grounds and charge a nominal fee.

Seal-Spotting in Kenmare Bay

If seal spotting is your main interest, opt for Seafari Cruises rather than other boat rides at Kenmare Bay. They offer a seal-watching, eagle-watching, and eco-nature cruise on a comfortable passenger boat. It’s a small business run by Ray and his crewmate Alex.

While many providers offer similar services, Seafari Cruises is a class apart, primarily because of their attention to detail.

From the moment you board, they’re talking to you, cracking jokes, and making sure you have a ball of a time.

Of course, you get to see the seal colony & wildlife as closely as luck will allow, but the whole experience is so much more since you have a great time with their chattiness as opposed to the recorded or memorized information that is given out on other boats.

Places to Eat and Drink

Mulcahy’s Bar and Restaurant: Gourmet food | Expensive | Reservation is a must

The Lime Tree Restaurant: Great food | Expensive | Reservation is a must

P.F. McCarthy’s Pub: Great food | Value for Money | Traditional Irish music

Some other must-visits here include Walks from Kenmare No 35, Tom Crean, Lily House Thai and Chinese, Wharton’s Traditional Fish and Chips, The Horseshoe, and Kenmare Ice Cream.

Walks near Kenmare

Much like any other place in Ireland, you can find many picturesque walkways here that allow for a good trek while enjoying the surrounding natural beauty.

Some of these include Old Kenmare Road, Reenagross Park Loop, Gleninchaquin Park, Gortamullen Circuit, and Knockaunanattin Ridge. Why don’t you put on your hiking boots and tackle part of the Kerry Way?

Conclusion

This picturesque town serves as the perfect getaway by itself or as a base to explore the rest of Kerry. From a wide range of entertainment and adventure options to tourist attractions and natural beauty, there’s something here for everyone, no matter how young or old you are.

Spend a couple of days here to do a little bit of everything, or relax for a week, enjoying the hospitality of Irish town life amid breathtaking scenery – either way, you’re bound to love it.

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

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