Kerry is located in the South-West Region and a part of the province of Munster. It is 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. Kerry is the 5th largest of the 32 counties of Ireland by area and the 13th largest by population. 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 (seat of the Bishop) 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.
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. 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 county’s nickname is the Kingdom, as in the Kingdom or Ciar.
As a region on the extremity of Ireland and far removed from the island of Britain and mainland Europe, the culture of Kerry was less susceptible to outside influences and is strongly associated with the Irish language, and Irish traditional music, song and dance. Corca Dhuibhne and Uíbh Ráthach in Dingle are considered Gaeltacht (fully Irish-speaking) regions and you’ll notice that the signage in these areas is Irish first, and English second, if indeed English is shown at all.
Kerry is renowned for the successes of its Gaelic football teams, in particular those of its Senior Men who have brought the Sam Maguire (the name of the trophy awarded to the winners of the All-Ireland County Championship) back to the Kingdom on no less than 36 times, well ahead of the next most successful county, Dublin, who have won the competition 22 times. Hurling is popular at club level in north Kerry, although the county has only won one All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, and that was back in 1891! The senior team currently compete in the Christy Ring Cup, but not in the All-Ireland Championship. A move to further the growth of cricket in the county was underway following Ireland’s performance at the 2011 Cricket World Cup, however there is a long standing tradition in the county, particularly in and around Tralee, where the Kerry Cricket Club was established as far back as 1872.
There are 6,083 Irish language speakers in County Kerry, with the vast majority (just under 5,000) native speakers within the Kerry Gaeltacht. This doesn’t count the 1,105 attending the four Gaelscoils (Irish language primary schools) and two Gaelcholáiste (Irish language secondary schools) outside the Kerry Gaeltacht.
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 the country. 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 notable 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.
- Blasket Islands
- Ecclesiastical sites at Ardfert
- Fenit Harbour
- Gallarus Oratory
- Lakes of Killarney
- Mount Brandon
- Muckross House and Gardens
- Rattoo Round Tower and Sheela na Gig
- Ring of Kerry
- Ross Castle
- Scotia’s Grave
- Skellig Michael
- Uragh Stone Circle
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.
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
Literary & Musical: