County Kerry

County Kerry
County Kerry
Contae Chiarraí

Coat of arms
Motto: Comhar, Cabhair, Cairdeas  (Irish)
"Co-operation, Help, Friendship"
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°10′N 9°45′W / 52.167°N 9.75°W / 52.167; -9.75Coordinates: 52°10′N 9°45′W / 52.167°N 9.75°W / 52.167; -9.75
Country Ireland
Province Munster
County town Tralee
 – Type County Council
 – Dáil Éireann Kerry North–West Limerick
Kerry South
 – European Parliament South
 – Total 4,746 km2 (1,832.4 sq mi)
Area rank (5th)
Population (2011) 145,048
 – Rank  (14th)
Code KY

County Kerry (Irish: Contae Chiarraí) is a county in Ireland. Kerry County Council is the local authority for the county. It is located in the province of Munster and is part of the South-West Region. It was named after the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The population of the county is 145,048 according to the 2011 census. The county is renowned for its hugely successful Gaelic football team.


Geography and political subdivisions

Kerry is the 5th largest of the 32 counties of Ireland by area and the 13th largest by population.[1] Uniquely, it is bordered by only two other counties: County Limerick to the east and County Cork to the south-east. The county town is Tralee. The diocesan see is Killarney, which is one of Ireland's most famous tourist destinations. The Lakes of Killarney, an area of outstanding natural beauty, are located in Killarney National Park. The tip of the Dingle Peninsula is the most westerly point of Ireland.


There are nine historic baronies in the county. While baronies continue to be officially defined units, they are no longer used for many administrative purposes. Their official status is illustrated by Placenames Orders made since 2003, where official Irish names of baronies are listed under "Administrative units".

  • Clanmaurice (Irish: Clann Mhuiris)
  • Corkaguiny (Irish: Corca Dhuibhne)
  • Dunkerron North (Irish: Dún Ciaráin Thuaidh)
  • Dunkerron South (Irish: Dún Ciaráin Theas)
  • Glanarought (Irish: Gleann na Ruachtaí)
  • Iraghticonnor (Irish: Oireacht Uí Chonchúir)
  • Iveragh Peninsula (Irish: Uíbh Ráthach)
  • Magunihy (Irish: Maigh gCoinchinn)
  • Trughanacmy (Irish: Triúcha an Aicme)

Towns and villages


Other Areas

Physical geography

Dingle Peninsula

Kerry faces the Atlantic Ocean and, typically for an Eastern-Atlantic coastal region, features many peninsulas and inlets, principally the Dingle Peninsula, the Iveragh Peninsula, and the Beara Peninsula. The county is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the north by the River Shannon. Kerry is one of the most mountainous regions of Ireland and contains two of its three highest mountains, Carrauntoohil, part of the Macgillycuddy's Reeks range, and Mount Brandon, part of the Slieve Mish range. Just off the coast are a number of islands, including the Blasket Islands, Valentia Island and the Skelligs. Skellig Michael is a World Heritage Site, famous for the medieval monastery clinging to the island's cliffs. The county contains the extreme west point of Ireland, Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula, or including islands, Tearaght Island, part of the Blaskets. The most westerly inhabited area of Ireland is Dún Chaoin, on the Dingle Peninsula. The River Feale, the River Laune and the Roughty River flow through Kerry, into the Atlantic.


  • 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.
  • 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 243.5 mm (9.59 in), recorded at Cloore Lake, in Kerry in 1993.[2]
  • In 1986, the remnants of Hurricane Charley crossed over Kerry as an extratropical storm causing extensive rainfall, flooding and damage.


Kerry (Irish: Ciarraí or more anciently Ciarraighe) means the "people of Ciar" which was 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.[4] 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.[5] The suffix raighe, meaning people/tribe, is found in various -ry place names in Ireland, such as OsryOsraighe Deer-People/Tribe. The county's nickname is the Kingdom.[6]

Lordship of Ireland

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 dynasty, known as the Geraldines.

Kingdom of Ireland

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 Caithne (Smerwick) at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. 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 Spain during stormy weather, many of their ships sought shelter at the Blasket Islands 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 Castle, near Killarney.

United Kingdom

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.

Modern times

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 Tralee under curfew for a week, burned many homes and shot dead a number of local people in retaliation for the IRA killing of five 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 Fenit and Listowel. 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 Kenmare 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 eight men with mines at Ballyseedy, near Tralee. The internecine conflict was brought to an end in May 1923.

Local government

County council

The principal local authority is Kerry County Council. The council provides a number of services including planning, roads maintenance, fire brigade, council housing, water supply, waste collection, recycling and landfill, higher education grants and funding for arts and culture.[7]

Town councils

An additional tier of local government exists in the three largest towns in the county, Killarney,[8] Listowel[9] and Tralee.[10]

Elections to the town councils are held at the same time as those to the county council. Following the 2009 elections, the party strengths on each council is as follows:[11]

Party Killarney Listowel Tralee
Fine Gael 1 4 3
Fianna Fáil 2 3 3
Labour Party 2 0 3
Sinn Féin 0 2 2
SKIA 1 0 0
Independents 3 0 1
Total seats 9 9 12

Parliamentary representation

Kerry is represented in Dáil Éireann by six TDs returned from two parliamentary constituencies. Following boundary changes in 2011, County Kerry, along with western parts of County Limerick, returns six TDs to the Dáil. Each of the following constituencies returns three deputies to the Dáil: Kerry North–West Limerick and Kerry South. The TDs elected to the 31st Dáil Éireann at the 2011 general election were:

Kerry North–West Limerick:

Kerry South:


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.[12] 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.[13] A move to further the growth of cricket in the county was underway following Ireland's performance at the 2011 Cricket World Cup.[14]

Places of Interest

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. The Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsula 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.



County Kerry 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. RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta has a studio in Baile na nGall in the West Kerry gaeltacht.[15]



The main National Primary Routes into Kerry are the N21 road and the N69 road from Limerick and the N22 road from Cork 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 Cork. 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 Dublin, via Mallow.

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.

  • 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 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 Bantry to Killarney, operated by the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway as a service for tourists.


Kerry Airport is located at Farranfore in the centre of the county and has operated scheduled services since 1989. Destinations served as of 2010 are Dublin, London (Stansted & Luton), Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, Faro, Portugal and Alicante all operated by Ryanair. Aer Arann also operate an all year round service to Manchester.[citation needed]


Fenit 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 Dingle is one of Ireland's secondary fishing ports[citation needed]. In the north of the county, a ferry service operates from Tarbert, to Killimer in County Clare.

Septs, Families & Titles

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

  • the Knight of Kerry – a branch of Fitzgeralds who had lands at Valentia Island
  • the Earl of Kenmare (also Viscount Castlerosse, Viscount Kenmare and Baron Castlerosse) – the descendants of Sir Valentine Browne who was awarded lands in Killarney
  • the Earl of Desmond – the Fitzgeralds of Desmond who had lands in North Kerry until they were seized at the end of the Desmond Rebellions
  • the Marquess of Lansdowne (also Earl of Shelburne, Baron Dunkeron) – the descendants of Sir William Petty who was awarded lands in Kenmare and elsewhere
  • the Earl of Kerry (also Baron Kerry, Viscount Clanmaurice) – the Fitzmaurice family
  • the Earl of Listowel – the Hare family
  • the Baron Ventry – the Mullins family who had lands in the Dingle Peninsula, including Ventry

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


See also


  1. ^ Corry, Eoghan (2005). The GAA Book of Lists. Hodder Headline Ireland. pp. 186–191. 
  2. ^ Rainfall - Climate - Met Éireann - The Irish Meteorological Service Online
  3. ^ Census for post 1821 figures. For 1653 and 1659 figures from Civil Survey Census of those years, Paper of Mr Hardinge to Royal Irish Academy March 14, 1865.t For a discussion on the accuracy of pre-famine census returns see JJ Lee, "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses Irish Population, Economy and Society" edited by JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson (1981) p.54, and also "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850" by Joel Mokyr and Cormac O Grada in The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Nov., 1984), pp. 473–488.
  4. ^ T J Barrington, Discovering Kerry, its History Heritage and toponymy, Dublin, 1976
  5. ^ Gearrfhoclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, Dublin, 1981
  6. ^
  7. ^ "All Services". Kerry County Council. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Killarney Town Council". Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  9. ^ "At a Glance". Listowel Town Council. 
  10. ^ "Tralee Town Council". Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  11. ^ "Elections 2009 - How Ireland Voted". The Irish Times: pp. 29–30. 9 June 2009. 
  12. ^ "Roll of Honour". Cumann Lúthcleas Geal. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  13. ^ "Kerry GAA - Hurling - Clubs and Information". Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  14. ^ "Cricket coming to Kerry". Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  15. ^ "Labhair Linn". RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 

External links

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