Southwest Region is comprised of County Cork and the southern part of County Kerry.
County Cork is the largest county in Ireland. It sports the name 'The Rebel County'. The magnificent, rugged coastline is the Atlantic Ocean, with a variety of natural harbors. The early part of Cork's history centered on religion and politics. Moving into the 17th Century it shifted to trade and commerce. Cork was one of the principal ports for exporting its many commodities and importing non-indigenous products.
Cork City, Ireland's second city dating back to the seventh century is split in two by the River Lee, where there are several bridges, quays, and walkways. There are many interesting sites within the city, including the churches. Destroyed in the 1690 siege of Cork, Shandon Church was rebuilt in 1722. The church tower offers a panoramic view. Here the famous Shandon Bells are located. There are a variety of specialty shops, restaurants, accommodations and golfing within the city.
The Tudor style village of Blarney is five miles from Cork City. It is situated on a wooded countryside and has developed around the square. Saturated in history, Blarney is home to Blarney Castle, a 15th Century castle built by Dermot McCarthy, from one of the most powerful of ancient clans.
The legend of kissing the Blarney Stone began in 1800 when the first trickle of visitors came to this ancient place and bestowed a kiss upon it. From there the legend grew that anyone who kissed the Blarney Stone was endowed with the gift of eloquence of Irish talk. The Blarney Castle Estate is situated on 1,130 acres, of which 400 acres are parkland, with The Rock Close nearby. It contains a collection of boulders and passages dating back to prehistoric times.
- Clonakilty is a town of tall spires, towers, and historic buildings, and a trading and industrial history. Spectacular scenery and many activities in the area includes gardens, horse riding, water sports, and nightlife with traditional music and dance.
- Cobh was the principal port of emigration. Millions of Irish departed these shores due to hunger and lack of work. At one point Cobh was known as Queenstown. Today there is the Queenstown Story at the Cobh Interpretative Centre telling the history of emigration of the Great Hunger from 1845 up to the great Liners in the 1950's. You can learn the military history of Cobh through eight centuries covering British, American and Irish military involvement in many conflicts. Cobh was also the last port for the RMS Titanic to anchor and the port where RMS Lusitanian survivors and victims landed.
Cobh is situated on Great Island, one of three islands in Cork Harbor, which are joined by bridges and roads. The other two islands are Little Island and Fota. Fota Island is a wildlife park, with over 70 species of exotic wildlife in an open natural environment.
- Kinsale was founded by the Anglo-Normans about 1177. A major turning point in Irish history took place at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, when the Irish and their Spanish allies fought the English. The English won. The Earls O'Neill and O'Donnell fled to the continent a few years later. Their flight is referred to as The Flight of Earls, and lead to the end of the Gaelic order in Ireland. After the Battle of Kinsale the English began the Plantation of Ulster with English and Scottish settlers.
The best way to enjoy Kinsale is to walk, visiting the many sites that are filled with history such as Charles Fort and Desmond Castle. There are many activities to enjoy in this area, from fishing, sailing, and other water sports, to horse riding, golfing, and fine dining. Kinsale is considered the 'Gourmet Capital' of Ireland with its array of restaurants, developed to international standards. The cuisine will delight the most discretionary palate.
- Youghal is a walled 13th Century medieval town, where the past meets the present at the mouth of the River Blackwater. There are medieval streets, quality restaurants and shops. Tynte's Castle, a tower house, is the last remaining castle of this type. You can enjoy Greyhound racing, deep sea and shore fishing, beaches, and walks.
Traveling in the southern region of 'The Kingdom of Kerry' gives one the opportunity to enjoy some of the finest breath-taking contrasts. The Lake District of Killarney consists of many lakes, with three main ones; the Upper Lake, the Middle called Muckross or Torc Lake, and the Lower Lake or Lough Leane. Killarney is also home of Ireland's native herds of red deer and the luxuriant woodlands growing the old woods of oak, birch, holly, and mountain ash. Killarney also boasts the growth of the 'Strawberry-tree', a Mediterranean shrub that grows wild and nowhere else in Ireland.
The Ring of Kerry, on the Inveragh Peninsula, is a 110-mile spectacular scene of ocean, mountains, villages, and the small towns of Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahirciveen, Glenbeigh, and Kilorglin. These are captivating. There are splendid championship golf courses, as well as nine and 18-hole courses. Fisherman can enjoy sea, shore, and game fishing. It is a walker's paradise, with mapped trails. Equestrian, cycling, shooting, and a wide variety of water sports are available throughout the county. In the lively pubs, traditional music and song is part of the nightlife.
The Skellig Heritage Centre is based on Valentia Island, seven miles off the coast. It gives you an insight into the early Christian monastic settlements. Sea bird colonies are found in the area.
- Kenmare is a seaside town that was laid out by the Marquess of Lansdowne in the late 18th Century. The Kenmare Heritage Centre tells the story of its history.
County Limerick offers varied landscapes, from the mountains of Ballyhoura to the tidal estuary of the River Shannon. Adare, Ireland's prettiest village is located here. There are many attractions to explore, from Lough Gur, the habitat of Neolithic Man, to King John's Castle, built in 1210 and one of the finest examples of Norman architecture, to the Wildlife Park and pet farms. Several activities are popular in the area including golfing, horse riding, walking, and fishing.
COUNTY KERRY, NORTH
County Kerry, North, with its breathtaking scenery, offers beautiful beaches and rolling uplands. The county is referred to as The Kingdom of Kerry, bestowed on the county in 1787. The people of Kerry take this term of endearment and toast it at every opportunity. The beauty of 'The Kingdom' is like no other; this applies to both North and South Kerry. The capital of Kerry is Tralee. Each August welcomes the world famous 'Rose of Tralee' Festival, that brings young ladies and their families from around the world. If you enjoy horse racing, attend the Tralee Races.
For theatre enthusiasts you have the opportunity to enjoy Siamsa Tire, the National Folk Theatre where they perform traditional music, song and dance.
The Dingle Peninsula, stretching 48 miles, is west of Tralee. The Gaeltacht areas in Kerry lie at the tip of the Dingle and the Iveragh Peninsulas. Gaeltacht is the name given to parts of Ireland where Irish (or Gaelic) is still heard as an everyday community language. Because it is a living language, the rich Celtic heritage and culture is experienced in a very different way. Dingle offers much in pre-Christian and early Christian archaeological monuments and remains. There is ancient history with Ogham Stones (a means of ancient writing) and 'Puicin an Chairn, a preserved megalithic grave. There are standing stones, gravesites and a restored medieval bridge. Many charming fishing villages have shops and pubs that provide other services, such as a post office or market. There are castles to view, birds to watch, and cycling, walking, and lovely beaches to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean. You can ride horses, play golf, see the Blasket Islands, Slea Head, and enjoy the traditional music at one of the pubs. Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne (Dingle Peninsula Heritage Exhibition) is open year round, a display of the archaeology, history, and literature of the area.
- Listowel, as well as being a heritage town, is famous as a literary town, and is located on the banks of the River Feale. Listowel's history goes back to the 12th Century with the Listowel Castle and the Fitzmaurice family. Listowel is host to Writer's Week, a literary festival with art, drama, poetry, film, music, and story telling. To top off the summer, the Listowel Horse Races, one of the finest meets, takes place each September.