Ilnacullin, Garnish Island
Our 1st stop after leaving Kenmare was Glengarriff, 13 miles south of Kenmare, to visit Ilnacullin on Garnish Island. In 1910, a Belfast businessman, John Annan Bryce, purchased the island and developed it into a lovely botanic garden with the assistance of Harold Peto, an architect and garden designer and later efforts by Scottish gardener Murdo Mackenzie . As you wander through the grounds, you'll come across the casita, an Italinate style building; a sunken garden, a walled garden, Happy Valley, a Grecian temple and a martello tower which was there was Bryce purchased the island. There were originally plans to build a mansion but that never happened. The views over Bantry Bay and the surrounding mountains are spectacular.
Since it's an island, you have to take a 10 minute boat ride to get there, past the seals playing in the water and basking on the rocks. Once you get to Garnish Island, there's a ticket booth to visit Ilnacullin, admission was included on our Heritage Card. We had arrived early so it appeared that it was just us and one other couple wandering around the island, as we were heading back to Glengarriff we saw several boats full of people heading towards the Island so I was glad we beat the crowds.
Open March-October only with reduced hours on Sunday, check the website for current info
Beara Peninsula-Healy Pass
I thought one of the most interesting parts of driving around the Beara Peninsula was the Healy Pass (R574) which meanders up through the Caha Mountains, connecting the towns of Adrigole in County Cork and Lauragh in County Kerry. The route with the best views is from Adrigole on the south side of the Peninsula to Lauraugh on the north side. The pass is only 8 miles long but it took us a long time to drive it due to the twisting steep narrow road, you can also make a stop at the top where there is, naturally, a gift shop and room to park and a statue of Christ. After you drive it, you will know why the statue is up here! From the top and on the way down you have a great view of Glenmore Lake, the drive down is steeper than the drive up so be prepared to go slow.
The Healy Pass is named after Tim Healy, the first Governor-General of the Irish Free State, who was born in nearby Bantry. He advocated for the completion of the pass which was started in 1847 during the famine to help prevent starvation.
The Ring of Kerry is the most popular drive in County Kerry, and probably all of Ireland based on the number of people we saw doing it, and the Dingle Peninsula to the north of the Ring of Kerry the second most popular drive but we decided to skip that in favor of the Beara Peninsula which is south of the Ring of Kerry. Instead of driving it counter clockwise, we drove from Kenmare to Glengarriff to see Garnish Island and then drove towards Adrigole where we drove over Healy Pass, doing a figure 8 rather than a straight loop. After descending from Healy Pass, we headed towards Ardgroom at which point we left R571 and did a loop from there to Eyeries. From there we followed the Ring of Beara signs and headed back towards Glengarriff.
Neither one of my guidebooks, Rough Guide or Fodor's Ireland, had very good coverage of the Beara Peninsula, I relied pretty much on this driving guide after a helpful hint about the figure 8 driving pattern on a forum board.
Boat trips round the Kenmare Bay
There are now two companies offering boat trips around Kenmare Bay
The original one is Seafari which goes from the pier in Kenmare and lasts about 2 hours and you get a good commentary and a tot of rum included. They have warm blankets if the weather's a bit cold and the highlight of the trip is to see our local Seal colony close-up (but please be VERY quiet or you'll scare the seals and they'll all jump off the rock and everyone else on the trip will throw you overboard (just kidding but they will be seriously miffed with you) ...
The newest service runs from Con's Restaurant/Star Sailing on the Beara Peninsula - on the Castletownbere road and it's about 5 miles from Kenmare.
There's adequate parking at both places and the tour is about the same from both spots.
Seafari can be booked from the Tourist Office or by phoning 064 42059
Star Sailing can be booked on 064 41222
Check the prices please !
- Family Travel
The Secret Garden Beauty Salon in Kenmare is the perfect way to pamper yourself on an afternoon in Kenmare. Ideally located in the centre of town, their treatment rooms are a haven for relaxation. Whether you treat yourself to a full body massage, the "Seaside Goddess" body wrap, a facial or even a fingers & toes package, you will leave feeling like your floating on air.
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Kenmare stone circle.
Not far from the town centre is the Kenmare stone circle, the largest in South-West Ireland consisting of 15 stones and has a diametre of 17 metres. Even having a 17mm lens I couldn't get back far enough to get it entirely into the frame. The circle dates back to the Bronze age roughly 3000 years old. In the centre of the circle is a burial mound covered by a huge stone,weighing around 7 tons, common in S-W Ireland circles but rarer in other parts. This is the only stone circle in Ireland so close to a town and is known locally as the "Druid's circle".
Just at the entrance to the site is a small office. It costs 2 euros per adult to enter and there is an "honesty box" when the council person is not there. Pay or not pay ? That's why it's called an honesty box.
Tour around town.
After the market and the stone circle we had a short walk around the town, before moving on. Some fine coloured shopfronts and bits and pieces to see. There is also "Cromwell's bridge", but thanks to a misunderstanding (probably on my part) we never actually found it.
Coasteering the Wild Atlantic Way!
Kenmare is beautiful but my two teenage son's wanted to do something adventurous so we contacted Coasteering Ireland, which we found on the Internet. We were not disappointed. We were took out to a stunning section of the Wild Atlantic Way for a spot of coasteering, which is cliff jumping into the sea from 1 to 10 metres, bellyflopping, bombing, adventure swimming in sea caves, a bit of climbing close to the splashing waves and basically having so much fun. It was an absolutely thrilling, very safe and highly recommended for families and takes between 2 and 3 hours, which goes very fast!
Equipment is supplied: wetsuits, buoyancy aids, safety helmets. You meet the guides Rip and Pete and the venue, get your safety briefing and go out with them, under their care and supervision. Such a rush and very safe even if it sounds dangerous - It is not!
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Family fun in Kenmare
Wow! We visited the Eclipse activity centre in Kenmare and were not short of things to do! We brought the whole family (kids, cousins, aunts, grannies) and everyone had a brilliant day out. Athos and Anita the managers went out of their way to provide a customised package for us, which let us experience a number of different activities suitable for our wide range in ages. The boys and men went and tested their strength and speed in the assault course (they weren't as fast as they hoped ;p ) and then tried their hands at mud surfing afterwards. As for the ladies and young ones, we were more civilised and went on a pony trek around the fabulous grounds. Luckily we had a beautiful day and the scenery was amazing!! Even granny joined in! We all met up in the afternoon for lunch and then we did a family orienteering treasure trail. Needless to say we were all exhausted at the end of the day. But what a day :) Definately worth a visit!
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total relaxation pedicure
Oh my God!! While walking from Killarney to Kenmare on the old Killarney road, my friend & I were so thrilled but tired from our hike ( the scenery is only amazing by the way) we happened to pass me-time (great name)beauty salon and saw a sign outside for pedicure etc.... We thought yes that's exactly what we need, the girls were so nice & friendly,anyway we booked an appointment went back to our accommodation & showered. They had the most amazing pedicure chair, it looked big enough to bath in ha ha. My feet were massaged with jets of water while the rest of my tired body enjoyed a massage from the seat, heaven!!!!!!!! Anna had a massage, she said that Ann Maria was fantastic, but the great thing was afterwards we sat in their garden for awhile and enjoyed the sun & they made us tea!!! Thanks girls. It is well worth a trip.
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