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County Kerry ( ) is one of the traditional counties of Ireland. It is located within the province of Munster. Kerry is the fifth largest of Ireland’s 32 counties in area and 14th largest in terms of population. It is the second largest of Munster’s 6 counties in size and fourth largest in terms of population.

With an area of , it is bordered by County Limerickmarker to the east and County Corkmarker to the south-east. The county town is Traleemarker while one of Ireland's most famous towns, Killarneymarker, is also located in County Kerry. The Lakes of Killarneymarker, an area of outstanding natural beauty, are located in Killarney National Parkmarker. The tip of the Dingle Peninsulamarker is the most westerly point of Ireland. Likewise, Fenitmarker, the port of Traleemarker, is the most westerly commercial shipping port in Europe.


Kerry is an anglicisation of Ciarraí, itself derived from Ciarraighe, or "people of Ciar" the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective describing a dark complexion. The suffix raighe meaning people/tribe is found in various -ry place names in Ireland, such as OsryOsraighe Deer-People/Tribe.


Kerry faces the Atlantic Oceanmarker and, typically for an Eastern-Atlantic coastal region, features many peninsulas and inlets: principally the Dingle Peninsulamarker, the Iveragh Peninsulamarker, and the Beara Peninsulamarker, shared with neighbouring County Corkmarker. The county is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Oceanmarker and on the north by the River Shannon.

The Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsulamarker is a popular route for tourists and cyclists. The pedestrian version is the scenic Kerry Way which follows ancient paths generally higher than that adopted by the Ring of Kerry.

Kerry is one of the most mountainous regions of Ireland and contains two of its three highest mountains, Carrauntoohilmarker, part of the Macgillycuddy's Reeksmarker range and Mount Brandonmarker, part of the Slieve Mish range.

The Lakes of Killarneymarker in the centre of the county are a scenic tourist attraction.

Just off Kerry's coast are a number of islands, including the Blasket Islandsmarker, Valentia Islandmarker and the Skelligsmarker. Skellig Michaelmarker is a World Heritage Site, famous for the medieval monastery clinging to the island's cliffs.

Kerry contains the extreme west point of Ireland Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula, or including islands, Tearaght Islandmarker, part of the Blaskets. The most westerly inhabited area of Ireland is Dún Chaoinmarker, on the Dingle Peninsula.

The River Fealemarker, the River Launemarker and the Roughty Rivermarker flow through Kerry, into the Atlantic.
Dingle Peninsula

Towns and parishes

The towns of Tralee, Killarney and Listowel are administered by their respective Town Councils and are separate administrative entities from Kerry County Council. However each town elects representatives to the County Council.

Townlands in Co. Kerry

Other Places

Other places in the county include:


The North Atlantic Current, part of the Gulf Stream, flows north by Kerry and the west coast of Ireland, resulting in milder temperatures than would otherwise be expected at the 52 North latitude. This means that subtropical plants such as the strawberry tree and tree ferns, not normally found in Northern Europe, thrive in the area. There are a number of gardens in the county, open to visitors.

Because of the mountainous area and the prevailing south-westerly winds, Kerry is among the regions with the highest rainfall in Ireland. Due to its location, the area is the site of a weather reporting station on Valentia for many centuries. The Irish record for one-day rain-fall is , recorded at Cloore Lake, in Kerry in 1993.

In 1986, the remnants of Hurricane Charley crossed over Kerry as an extratropical storm causing extensive rainfall, flooding and damage.


On August 27, 1329, by Letters Patent, Maurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond was confirmed in the feudal seniority of the entire county palatine of Kerry, to him and his heirs male, to hold of the Crown by the service of one knight's fee.

In the 15th century, the majority of the area now known as County Kerry was still part of the County Desmond, the west Munster seat of the Earl of Desmond, a branch of the Hiberno-Norman Fitzgerald family, known as the Geraldines.

In 1580, during the Second Desmond Rebellion, one of the most infamous massacres of the Sixteenth century, the Siege of Smerwick, took place at Dún an Óir near Ard na Caithnemarker (Smerwick) at the tip of the Dingle Peninsulamarker. The 600-strong Italian, Spanish and Irish papal invasion force of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald was besieged by the English forces and massacred.

In 1588 when the fleet of the Spanish Armada in Ireland were returning to Spainmarker during stormy weather, many of their ships sought shelter at the Blasket Islandsmarker and some were wrecked.

During the Nine Years War, Kerry was again the scene of conflict, as the O'Sullivan Beare clan joined the rebellion. In 1602, their castle at Dunboy was besieged and taken by English troops. Donal O'Sullivan Beare, in an effort to escape English retribution and to reach his allies in Ulster, marched all the clan's members and dependents to the north of Ireland. Due to harassment by hostile forces and the freezing weather, very few of the 1,000 O'Sullivans who set out reached their destination.

In the aftermath of the War, much of the native owned land in Kerry was confiscated and given to English settlers or 'planters'. The head of the MacCarthy Mor family, Florence MacCarthy was imprisoned in London and his lands were divided between his relatives and colonists from England, such as the Browne family.

In the 1640s, Kerry was engulfed by the Irish Rebellion of 1641, an attempt by Irish Catholics to take power in the Protestant Kingdom of Ireland. The rebellion in Kerry was led by Donagh McCarthy, 1st Viscount Muskerry. McCarthy held the county during the subsequent Irish Confederate Wars and his forces were some of the last to surrender to the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1652. The last stronghold to fall was Ross Castlemarker, near Killarney.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Kerry became increasingly populated by poor tenant farmers, who came to rely on the potato as their main food source. As a result, when the potato crop failed in 1845, Kerry was very hard hit by the Great Irish Famine of 1845–49. In the wake of the famine, many thousands of poor farmers emigrated to seek a better life in America and elsewhere. Kerry was to remain a source of emigration until recent times. Another long term consequence of the famine was the Land War of the 1870s and 1880s, in which tenant farmers agitated, sometimes violently for better terms from their landlords.

In the 20th century, Kerry was one of the counties most affected by the Irish War of Independence (1919–21) and Irish Civil War (1922–23). In the war of Independence, the Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against the Royal Irish Constabulary, and British military. One of the more prominent incidents in the conflict in Kerry, were the 'siege of Tralee' in November 1920. when the Black and Tans placed Traleemarker under curfew for a week, burned many homes and shot dead a number of local people in retaliation for the IRA killing of 5 local policemen the night before. Another was the Headford Junction ambush in spring 1921, when IRA units ambushed a train carrying British soldiers outside Killarney. About twenty British soldiers, three civilians and two IRA men were killed in the ensuing gun battle. Violence between the IRA and the British was ended in July 1921, but nine men, four British soldiers and five IRA men, were killed in a shootout in Castleisland on the day of the truce itself, indicating the bitterness of the conflict in Kerry.

Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, most of the Kerry IRA units opposed the settlement. In the ensueing civil war between pro and anti-treaty elements, Kerry was perhaps the worst affected area of Ireland. Initially the county was held by the Anti-Treaty IRA but it was taken for the Irish Free State after seaborne landings by Free State troops at Fenitmarker and Listowelmarker. Thereafter the county saw a bitter guerrilla war between men who had been comrades only a year previously. The republicans, or 'irregulars' mounted a number of successful actions, for example attacking and taking Kenmaremarker in September 1922. In March 1923, Kerry saw a series of massacres of republican prisoners by National Army soldiers in reprisal for the ambush of their men -the most notorious being the killing of 8 men with mines at Ballyseedy, near Tralee. The internecine conflict was brought to an end in May 1923, but left deep scars in Kerry's public life.


As a region on the extremity of Ireland, culture of Kerry was less susceptible to outside influences and is associated with the Irish language, Irish traditional music, song and dance. Corca Dhuibhne and Uíbh Ráthach are considered Gaeltacht regions.

Kerry is known for its senior Gaelic football team. Gaelic football is the dominant sport in the county, and Kerry has the most successful of all football teams; the Kerry footballers have won the Sam Maguire cup 36 times, with the next nearest team Dublin on 22 wins. Hurling is popular at club level in north Kerry, although the county has only won one All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, in 1891. The senior team currently compete in the Christy Ring Cup.

The county has three local newspapers: The Kerryman and The Kerry's Eye, published in Tralee; and The Kingdom, published in Killarney. The county has a commercial radio station, Radio Kerry, which commenced operations in 1990.



Kerry is accessible by road, rail, sea and air. The main National Primary Routes into Kerry are the N21 road and the N69 road from Limerick and the N22 road from Corkmarker each terminating in Tralee. The N23 road from Castleisland to Farranfore also connects these roads. Within Kerry, the well-known Ring of Kerry follows the N70 road, a National Secondary Route which circles the Iveragh Peninsula and links at Kenmare with the N71 road to west Corkmarker. Bus Eireann operates an extensive bus service network on routes throughout the county with connection hubs in Killarney and Tralee.Also in County Kerry, the N86 road connects Tralee with Dingle, from Dingle you can take the R559 ring road to reach Sybil Point, which is one of the most westernly fringes of County Kerry and indeed the south of Ireland.Kerry airport is situated on the N22 in Farranfore just south of Tralee and north of Killarney.


Kerry is served by rail at Tralee, Farranfore, Killarney and Rathmore which connect to Cork and Dublinmarker, via Mallowmarker.

Branch line services existed to each of the peninsula (Beara, Iveragh and Dingle) and also to the north of the county. They were closed during the rationalisations of the 1950s and 1960s. These included services to:

-Dingle via Tralee, a narrow-gauge railway, closed in July 1953

-Kenmare via Headford Junction (8 miles outside Killarney), closed in February 1960

-Valentia via Farranfore (the Gleesk Viaduct near Kellsis still exists), also closed in February 1960

-Listowel (and Abbeyfeale, Newcastlewest and Adare) were served via the North-Kerry line, which extended from Tralee to Limerick. Passenger service ceased in 1963, freight in 1983 and the lines were pulled up in 1988.

-Fenit was served via a branch off the North-Kerry line, the rails are still in place.

Listowel to Ballybunion had the distinction of operating experimental Lartigue Monorail services from 1882 to 1924. A 500m section was re-established in 2003.

A road-car route, the Prince of Wales Route, was a link from Bantrymarker to Killarney, operated by the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway as a service for tourists.


Kerry Airportmarker is located at Farranfore in the centre of the county and has operated scheduled services since 1989. Destinations served as of 2009 are Dublin, Londonmarker (Stanstedmarker & Lutonmarker airports) and Frankfurt-Hahn Airportmarker, all operated by Ryanair.


Fenitmarker harbour near Tralee is a regional harbour capable of handling ships of up to 17,000 tonnes. Large container cranes from Liebherrs in Killarney are regularly exported worldwide. A rail-link to the port was closed in the 1970s. The harbour at Dinglemarker is one of Ireland's secondary fishing ports. In the north of the county, a ferry service operates from Tarbert, to Killimer in County Claremarker.

Septs, families and titles

A number of Irish surnames are derived from septs who hail from the Kerry area, such as Falvey, McCarthy, Murphy, O'Connor, O'Moriarty, Clifford , Kennelly, McGrath, O'Carroll, O'Sullivan, O'Connell, O'Donoghue, O'Shea, Quill, Stack, Sugrue and Tangney.

The area was also home to the Hiberno-Norman families, the FitzMaurices and the Desmonds, a branch of the FitzGeralds.

Titles in the British Peerage of Ireland with a family seat in Kerry are

Viscount Valentia appears to have been associated with lands in County Armagh, rather than Kerry


Cliffs along the coast of Kerry, south of Rossbeigh beach

Kerry, with its mountains, lakes and Atlantic coastline is among the most scenic areas in Ireland and is among the most significant tourist destinations in Ireland. Killarney is the centre of the tourism industry, which is a significant element of the economy in Kerry.

The Kerry Way, Dingle Way and Beara Way are walking routes in the county.

Attractions include:

Notable residents

Associated People

Historical figures

Literary and Musical figures

Political Figures

Sporting figures


Kerry is currently represented in the Oireachtas by six TDs returned from two Dáil parliamentary constituencies in the 30th Dáil Éireann and three Senators in the 23rd Seanad Éireann.

The TDs currently elected (2007 General Election) are:

Kerry North:

Kerry South:

The Senators currently elected are:


The herbarium DBN (Herbarium National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin)[13906] contains specimens from the Kerry coast. A list of algal records from County Kerry is given in (Cullinane, 1973 p. 58 – 83).

See also


External links

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