The lovely little village of Kenmare in Kerry is one of our favourite villages in Ireland.
Kenmare is home to colourful streets, lined with great pubs and restaurants, and there’s also plenty of things to do in Kenmare, if you don’t fancy leaving the town.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything you need to know if you’re debating a visit to this peach of a town.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Kenmare
Although a visit to Kenmare is fairly straightforward, there’s a few quick chunks of information worth knowing in advance of your trip.
Located by Kenmare Bay in County Kerry, Kenmare is a great base for discovering Killarney National Park and offers easy access to popular hillwalking destinations such as MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Mangerton Mountain and Caha Mountains.
The name of this small town in the south the county means “the little nest”. It comes from the anglicised form of Ceann Mara, which means “heads of the sea”.
3. Ring of Kerry Town
In addition to being a charming town with a variety of fun things to do, Kenmare is also a fabulous destination to start your Ring of Kerry drive. This scenic drive allows you to discover Ireland’s stunning scenery and it takes about 4 hours to complete the journey.
A very brief history of Kenmare
The little town of Kenmare in Kerry dates back to the 17th century when a piece of land was given to Sir William Petty who was completing the mapping of the country.
However, people have been living in the Kenmare area since the Bronze Age. We know this because many artifacts from the area were discovered in this region including one of the largest stone circles in the country.
In Kenmare, many incidents happened during the Civil War including attacks on residents. The town was in the hands of Anti-Treaty forces but was retaken in 1922 by the National Army troops.
Things To Do In Kenmare (and nearby)
We go into the various things to do in Kenmare in detail in this guide, but we’ll give you a speedy overview of the different places to visit, below.
From the Ring of Kerry drive/cycle to Moll’s Gap, seal watching and much, much more, there’s plenty to see and do close to Kenmare.
1. The Ring of Kerry drive/cycle
This 179km-long circular route is without a doubt one of the most scenic drives in southwest Ireland. Expect to see gorgeous coastal landscapes, as well as rural seaside villages along the way. There is also the option of cycling the Ring of Kerry.
2. See the Seals with Seafari
If you wish to experience Kenmare Bay from a different perspective, I recommend going on a Seafari. What the hell is a Seafari, you ask? It’s a boat cruise through Kenmare Bay that allows you to see seals in their natural habitat.
Aside from seals, you will have an opportunity to see animals and dozens of bird species in the area. To keep you warm during this guided boat cruise, the boat staff serves Irish coffee.
3. Kenmare Stone Circle
Kenmare Stone Circle is without a double one of the most important historical attractions in the area. Built during the Bronze Age, this stone circle also known as the Shrubberies was believed to be used for ceremonial and ritual purposes back in the day. Measuring 17.4 x 15.8 meters, this egg-shaped attraction is one of Southwest Ireland’s largest stone circles.
4. Reenagross Woodland Park Kenmare
Couples on a romantic weekend getaway in Kenmare should definitely pay a visit to the Reenagross Woodland Park Kenmare.
Located close to the heart of Kenmare, this charming forest with its picturesque path is an ideal destination to spend a few hours. At certain times of the year, this green oasis forms a bright purple tunnel and attracts many photographers.
5. Cromwells Bridge
Located just a 5-minute walk from the heart of Kenmare and close to the Stone Circle, Cromwells Bridge used to serve Protestants who wanted to cross the river and join the service in the Protestant church. Nowadays, this ancient site along the Ring of Kerry is a popular tourist attraction for visitors exploring Kenmare Bay.
6. Bonane Heritage Park
No visit to Kenmare is complete without spending a few hours at the lovely Bonane Heritage Park. From the famine ruins to a historical ringfort and medieval dwellings, there is plenty to look forward to when visiting the park, especially if you are travelling with children. Keep in mind that the entrance to the Bonane Heritage Park will set you back 5 euros.
7. Molly Gallivans Visitor Centre
If you wish to see a famine house and learn everything there is to know about the Irish Potato Famine, make sure to stop by Molly Gallivan’s Traditional Irish Farm and Visitor Centre. Located in the Sheen Valley, this educational working farm is also a place where travellers can hear stories about the Irish moonshine business.
8. Moll’s Gap
Located just a 10-minute drive from the small town of Kenmare, Moll’s Gap is a popular viewpoint on the scenic Ring of Kerry route.
The views from this place are breathtaking, so it comes as no surprise that Moll’s Gap is one of the most popular attractions along the Ring of Kerry route.
Kenmare hotels and accommodation
There’s no end to the number of places to stay in Kenmare, as you’ll discover if you hop into our Kenmare accommodation guide.
From swanky stays at the Park Hotel Kenmare to more pocket friendly nights away in some of the town’s guesthouses, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options here.
There’s some excellent pubs in Kenmare in Kerry, the best of which, in our opinion, is the brilliant PF McCarthy’s.
During the summer months, you’ll find live music and mischief taking place in many of Kenmare’s public houses. Below, you’ll find three of our favourite spots for a pint.
1. PF McCarthy’s
Located on the town’s main street, PF McCarthy’s is one of the oldest pubs in Kenmare. Satisfy your taste buds with a variety of dishes and home-cooked foods ranging from bar bites and fish and chips to burgers. PF McCarthy’s is also one of the best music venues in the area hosting traditional Irish and contemporary rock live music performances.
2. Foleys of Kenmare
You will find Foleys of Kenmare right in the heart of the town of Kenmare. This guesthouse and gastropub offers great accommodation, as well as a hearty Irish fare on its food menu. With a nice selection of whiskeys, local craft beers, and traditional Irish music throughout the week, Foleys of Kenmare has everything you need for a relaxing night out in the city.
3. Davitt’s Kenmare
Welcome to Davitt’s Kenmare, B&B accommodation and pub/restaurant offering delicious set menus and an extensive list of drinks. In summer, the large outdoor beer garden is a perfect place to unwind with and enjoy a drink or two. Davitt’s Kenmare also hosts traditional Irish music events during the summer months on weekday evenings.
As was the case with pubs, there’s a lot of fine places for a feed in Kenmare, ranging from relaxed and casual to some fancy fine dining.
In our guide to the best restaurants in Kenmare, you’ll find several great places to eat that’ll make your belly happy!
FAQs about visiting Kenmare In Kerry
Since mentioning the town in a guide to Kerry that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Kenmare in Kerry.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Kenmare?
Bonane Heritage Park, Reenagross Woodland Park Kenmare, Kenmare Stone Circle and see the Seals with Seafari.
Where are the best places to eat in Kenmare?
No. 35 Kenmare, The Lime Tree, Mulcahy’s and Tom Crean Base Camp are all great options.
What are the best places to stay in Kenmare?
There’s a number of different places to stay in Kenmare in Kerry, depending on how much you’re willing to spend (see guide above).