Killarney: An Irish charmer that captivates every visitor
The following article was originally written for PGATour.com by David Brice, President of Golf International. The articles represent trips available to Golf International customers.
In a land where the Royal and Ancient game is the sport of the people, the Emerald Isle boasts an imposing array of well over 400 golf courses to accommodate its population of barely 6 million, making it one of the world’s most golfer friendly countries. The quality of Irish golf is as good as any on the planet and better than most and there isn’t a golf club in the country that doesn’t have a large welcome mat at the front door for all visitors. Ireland’s famous hospitality will never be warmer or more heart-felt than at her golf clubs and courses – reason enough why Ireland belongs at the very top of every golfers list of places that must be visited.
If, within the island of Ireland, one place was to be nominated as the capital of Irish golf, there would be a number of towns and cities well qualified for consideration. Dublin, surrounded by over 30 golf clubs would certainly be on the list, as would Belfast, the central point from which to discover any and all of Northern Ireland’s 80 plus, golfing treasures. But perhaps the most qualified of all would be Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland’s most westerly point.
Killarney is the major golf hub of the Southwest, centrally located and within striking distance of practically every top ranked course in a region rich in trophy courses — Ballybunion, Waterville, Tralee and Killarney‘s own three championship layouts among them. But it’s not only celebrity courses that surround this bustling market town. Dingle, Dooks, Skellig Bay, Ring of Kerry, Kenmare and Beaufort are quality layouts all and still only the beginning of the list of County Kerry’s golfing wealth. Big names or unknowns, they all provide the very special golf experience, only Ireland can offer.
It’s not only golfers who have a love affair with Killarney – so does every other visitor. This effervescent small town is filled with an unbelievable collection of restaurants and pubs, together with a wide selection of accommodation choices ranging from delightful Bed & Breakfasts, to the most elegant 4 and 5 star hotels. Killarney has excellent shopping and more points of local and historic interest than most will have time to discover. Importantly, Killarney also makes an excellent base for exploring the beauty and history of County Kerry, arguably the most fascinating and dramatically handsome corner of the entire country. Excellent as the golf is, time must be taken to discover the wonders that exist beyond the golf courses.
Before journeying further afield, get to know the charming town of Killarney and there’s no more fun way to do it than by jaunting car, a horse and carriage, driven by a wise-cracking jarvey, whose family has probably been in the business for generations. With your personal chauffeur guide, you’ll immediately get a feeling of how logically the town is laid out, how compact it is and gain an appreciation for Killarney’s historic and architectural appeal.
Killarney House, the oldest building in town, dates back to 1740; there are many fine, 19th century buildings such as Deenagh Lodge, the courthouse and railway station, St. Mary’s Cathedral, The Old Monastery, the Franciscan Friary and so much more. Killarney is a town with an historic background, the envy of other, much larger towns.
Venture even a short distance beyond the town limits and be prepared for even more delightful surprises – the incredible beauty, rich history, myths, legends and the fascinating culture and traditions of this very special region can only amaze. It won’t take long before you discover why this area has garnered global fame for its stunning landscapes and unspoiled, God-given beauty. Much of the very best of the picture-postcard scenery is to be found around the Lakes of Killarney, sitting on the town’s doorstep in Killarney National Park.
For the energetic, there are hiking trails that have no equal in all of Europe. If you prefer, rent a bicycle or join a group on horseback (no great equestrian skills required) or go back to the relaxing pleasures of sitting in a horse drawn jaunting car. There are boating excursion on the lakes and regularly scheduled excursions by motorcoach, or make it a combination of any of the above. Killarney knows how to take care of visitors and whatever your pleasure, chances are it can be easily arranged either before you leave home, or through one of the many local sightseeing operators based in town.
If sightseeing time is limited, at least take in the main highlights on a half day motorcoach tour, including a visit to Aghadoe, with spectacular views across the Lake District, explore the ruins of 11th century Aghadoe Church and Round Tower, and the 13th century, Norman Castle of Parkavonear. The tour also includes Muckross House, a magnificent Victorian Mansion with stunning gardens, 15th century Ross Castle and Torc Waterfalls. It’s only a sampler, but at least it provides a taste of all the area has to offer.
For a very special and thoroughly memorable experience, a full day excursion around the Ring of Kerry, one of the world’s, most inspiring drives, shouldn’t be missed. The Ring starts and ends in Killarney, running for 110 miles around the entire peninsula visiting delightful small fishing villages and thriving market towns. You’ll see breath-taking seascapes, magnificent mountains and picturesque valleys that all combine to make Killarney one of the world’s best loved, scenic wonders. You can either drive yourself, or for a more relaxing experience, take one of the local motorcoach tours and savor every minute of this never-ending feast for the eyes.
Venture even a little further from Killarney and within a 50 mile radius, more totally unique sightseeing experiences will only tempt. The Dingle Peninsula has its own appeal – a countryside dotted with ancient historic sites and early Christian dwellings, such as 9th century, Gallarus Oratory. Off-shore, the Blaskett Islands where Gaelic speaking locals lived a traditional, centuries old life-style, until moving to the mainland in 1953. It was here on the Dingle Peninsula where the epic movie, “Ryan’s Daughter” was filmed, bringing instant fame to its uniquely haunting beauty. The Beara Peninsula to the south of Killarney is just as close, with its own brand of isolated, stark good-looks.
Killarney and the surrounding area is quite literally, filled with some of the most amazing sightseeing opportunities and even the most ardent sightseer will be hard-pressed to include all that should be seen. Golfers will have no simpler a task in trying to decide which of the surrounding courses they are prepared to sacrifice, because there are only 24 hours in each day.
For any who may have thought a vacation haven did not exist where golfers and non-golfers alike could enjoy one of the most enjoyable holiday escapes ever, Killarney proves to be that elusive place.
©2015 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.