I had never visited Killarney before, but it didn’t take long to be seduced by the place. It has everything you’d expect of Ireland, but it also has a character all of its own. So what is so special about this corner of the country? Here is my personal list of the top five reasons to love Killarney and County Kerry.
1. The Landscape of County Kerry
Even the names are enough to invoke wanderlust. Who could resist the Wild Atlantic Way or the Ring of Kerry? If the names are romantic, so is the landscape. This is the very edge of Europe, with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean between here and America. The air is clean and much of the countryside is untouched. There are tall mountains and miles of walking and cycle trails. You will find deserted beaches with rolling waves and sand strewn with seaweed (the seaweed is so interesting that it gets a whole post to itself…) And Killarney has its own national park right on the doorstep, more than 100 square km of parkland with trees, lakes and a spectacular waterfall (not to mention the ruins of a castle and an abbey).
2. The Light… and the Colours
Imagine waking up each morning to a view of misty hills, or spotting a sliver of light behind a cloud as the sun breaks through. Or watching a fragment of rainbow playing around the base of a mountain. I’ve never seen anything quite like the light here, a result of the purity of the air and the proximity of the sea and the mountains. Then there are the colours. Walk around any town in County Kerry and you’ll find a visual feast of buildings painted in vibrant shades of reds and yellows and purples.
3. The Music… and the People
If the colours are lively, so is the music. To me, music is the one thing that instantly evokes Ireland, and in County Kerry you’ll find it everywhere. Walk down the main street of Killarney and you’ll hear jigs or traditional songs in just about every pub. There will probably be one or two street musicians as well. You can’t separate the music from the people. It’s as if the people here can’t help making music; it is a part of themselves.
4. The Pubs of County Kerry
Pubs are part of the fabric of Irish society, places to meet, drink and listen to music. I found some wonderful pubs in County Kerry: friendly and welcoming, often with live music and great food (you can find some incredibly fresh seafood in the coastal towns). The pouring of Guinness is a ritual, and I soon rediscovered my liking for Irish whiskey with dry ginger. A special mention has to go to John M Reidy in Killarney, which hosted the TBEX closing party. Although it has only reopened relatively recently it has preserved all of the character of a traditional pub, with lots of tiny rooms and cubicles and an outdoor courtyard for fine days. It even doubles up as an old-fashioned sweet shop!
5. History, Myth and the Little People
This is a place where myth and history are intertwined. A standing stone might be from the Bronze Age, or a much later addition. And who knows whether the “Leprechauns crossing” sign near Moll’s Gap on the Ring of Kerry is a local tradition or an indication that the little people still frequent the area? Either way, County Kerry is a place of history and legend, full of ancient ruins, stone circles and more… (See my post on The Historic Places of County Kerry for more.)
Enjoy a Video of Killarney and County Kerry
Finally, I’ve put together a short video showing some of the reasons to love Killarney and County Kerry