Sunday, September 26, 2010

In and around Kenmare

Kenmare is a pretty small town located on the southwest coast of Ireland. It was suggested in the Rick Steves guide (by this point in the trip being referred to as "The Book of Steves") as an alternative base to Killarney for exploring both the Iveragh and Beara Peninsulas. Being the ancestral home of many Irish-Americans and the jumping off point for tours of the famous Ring of Kerry, it is a very busy place, jammed with souvenir shops, tour buses and "jaunting cars" as the horse drawn open carriages are called. Preferring somewhere a little more low key, we opted for Kenmare.

With its brightly painted storefronts, a circle of standing stones just outside town, a lovely harbour and a pleasant walking trail through the countryside at the edges of the village not to mention the pubs with live music spilling out the doors, it is a pleasant place to walk about, browse the shops and stop for a pint when fatigue sets in. There are several town and rural B&B's including the lovely five star Park Hotel which overlooks the water, lots of pubs with live music, and a range of restaurant fare from fine dining to pub food. A few recommendations in no particular order of preference:

P.F. McCarthy's - lively pub, great atmosphere, live music
Packie's - great decor, delicious food, good service
The Coachman's - atmosphere leaves something to be desired but food is good and prices reasonable
Foley's - great food, crowded, good service, very hot the evening we were there

On a second floor up a narrow stair from the tourist office is the Kenmare Lace Museum. It documents the work of the Poor Clare order of nuns who came to Kenmare in the 1860's and taught the young women of the town to make lace so they could contribute income to their families in a time of severe unemployment. Kenmare lace, a technique in its own right, was world famous in its day. Queen Victoria purchased a piece and one wealthy American woman bought a coverlet and pillow covers for a price that would buy a very nice house today. The making of the lace is extremely time consuming, a single flower motif from the examples below taking about 20 hours of painstaking work to complete. Needless to say, it is now a dying art although many hobbyists keep the craft alive, including the volunteers at the lace museum who demonstrate the different techniques of Kenmare lace, bobbin lace and Point d'Irlandaise or crochet lace. The museum has many fine vintage pieces of this beautiful work.

Different kinds of lace at the Kenmare Lace Museum

Kenmare Harbour

Circle of Standing Stones

This was one of the few stone circles we saw that was maintained and where we didn't have to skip through cow pies to get to it....not very atmospheric but still worth a stop on an evening walk.

Travelling companion with large stone

Green, red, green - Kenmare back alley

No comments: