Vibrant and colourful Kenmare, located at the head of Kenmare Bay, is a stunning location to begin your tour of Beara. Although its Irish name is now Neidin (little nest), the area around the town was called originally known as Ceann Mhara, (the head of the sea).
The entire area around Kenmare was granted to the English scientist, Sir William Petty by Oliver Cromwell as part payment for completing the Down Survey, the mapping of Ireland, in 1656. William Petty married Elizabeth Waller, Baroness Shelburne, and the Shelburne title passed to his grandson, John Petty, 1st Earl of Shelburne whose descendants also hold the title Marquis of Lansdowne. Around 1670, Sir William Petty laid out the modern town and the three main streets form a triangle.
However, 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). The circle has 15 stones around the circumference with a boulder dolmen in the centre.
Under the guidance of the Mother Abbess of the Poor Clare Convent, founded in 1861, a lace-working industry was established and Kenmare lace became noted worldwide. A suspension bridge, which was 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.
The town library is one of the Carnegie Libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie. It is now home to the Carnegie Arts Centre and theatre, which plays host to local drama and a number of travelling productions each year, as well as regular music, film and comedy nights.
The area is rich in tradition and is home to artisans such as artists, weavers and potters and there are several art galleries to browse, quality boutiques and souvenir shops to visit. Kenmare has accommodation to suit all visitors’ tastes from 5 - star luxury hotels, hostels, self catering accommodation as well as B&Bs offering true Irish hospitality. Kenmare is also renowned for superb restaurants as well as hotels, eateries, and traditional pubs serving great food with lively music nights too. If you are self-catering, then the produce available in the market and the shops is top quality and so fresh.
There are so many outdoor pursuits in and around Kenmare: two quality golf clubs, horse riding, cycling and, of course, walking and rambling. For water enthusiasts, there is sailing and kayaking plus trips on board the Seafari discovering the wildlife and heritage of Kenmare Bay.
Kenmare is just the beginning of your adventure around Beara. The scenery of mountains, seascapes, woodlands and lakes is breath-taking whatever time of year you visit and this gets even better as you travel further west following the Wild Atlantic Way around the coast of the Beara Peninsula. You will be amazed.