Home of the oldest traditional fair in the country, Killorgin Town sits on the world-famous Ring of Kerry between the two peninsulas that reach out into the Atlantic: the much-fabled Beara and the Dingle, ‘the most beautiful place on earth’.
This charming, historic town is the perfect base for exploring the enchanting Ring of Kerry and a perfect starting point for your romantic break.
The origins of the Puck Fair are the subject of much conjecture, it can certainly, however, be dated back to at least 1603 when a charter was granted to an already existing fair by King James I.
Some believe the fair dates back to the mists of Ireland’s pre-Christian history, it is certainly one of Ireland’s oldest and as the name suggests, a goat is the star of the show.
King Puck today is a wild goat caught from the mountains nearby, his queen is a local school girl, and his crowning each August 10 marks the start of three days of festivities that see the population of the town swell from its usual 2,000 by several orders of magnitude. The town are promoting this year’s festivities as the 400th year of celebrations so they certainly are sure of their dates!
These days the area is easily accessible, but the once remote south west of the country still maintains a unique character and way of life, a place to forget the speed and stress of the modern world and enjoy a slower way of doing things. Kerry still retains Gaeltacht, Irish speaking areas, where older ways of life have resisted the onslaught of the modern world.
In the town, the Basement Museum celebrates the history of Kerry with some wonderful artefacts including newspapers dating back two centuries; Spailpin’s boots (the Spailpins were itinerant agricultural labourers whose songs and ballads reflected their difficult lives); the first tricolour flown in the town in 1920 while Ireland was still fighting for its independence and exhibits on the Valentia Cable, the first transatlantic telegraph connection.
Some of that history has been bloody. A monument at Ballykissane Pier remembers the first casualties of the 1916 Easter rising, three members of a party sent to take over the Valentia Island wireless station to send messages to distract British Navy forces in the Atlantic. The pier today is a beautiful, tranquil spot with fantastic views north to the Dingle.
The Eddie Hackett-designed Killorgin Golf Course is rated as one of the most beautiful in Ireland, with views of Ireland’s highest mountains, Macgillicuddy Reeks, to one side and Dingle Bay and the Slieve Mish Range on the other.
In fact, this part of Kerry is something of a treat for golf lovers with several highly rated courses – almost all enjoying spectacular panoramas – within easy reach.
The Laune, renowned for its salmon and trout fishing and which gives its name to the local Gaelic football club, flows through the town and this area of Ireland is a real hotbed for outdoors types, whether appreciating the majesty of the landscape in quiet contemplation or looking for some livelier ways to get close to nature.
Lough Caragh, through which the Laune flows, is not far away to the south west and its fishing, for salmon and grilse (young Atlantic salmon) is high quality. Boats and boatmen are based on the northern shores closest to Killorgin and a day on the water, with the mountains rising to the south, is an excellent way to unwind.
The Lough is in the Killarney National Park. It’s Ireland’s oldest protected landscape and has been forested since the last ice age. Lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of Ireland’s last native herd of red deer along with many other spectacular wild inhabitants.
Killorgin stands on one of the world’s most famous tourist routes, the Ring of Kerry. It’s long established too, the Ladies’ Viewpoint near Muckross House (two must-sees among many on the Ring) is named for Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting who stopped off here on a royal visit in 1861.
The Ring is the second most popular tourist destination after the capital, and it’s easy to see why, it has everything that makes Ireland so popular with visitors. There are extraordinary landscapes and panoramas, both the Gap of Dunloe and Carrauntuohill, Ireland’s highest peak are both close to Killorgin; the Lakes of Killarney are just to the north. Ireland’s mysterious ancient history – the Kerry Bog Village recreation is close to Killorgin - and its more modern struggles are commemorated around the ring, where ancient standing stones and hill forts mark the horizons and The Liberator, Daniel O'Connell’s last home Caherdaniel is open to the public. And, of course, a warm welcome is always guaranteed when you stop to eat or drink round the Ring.
The Ring of Kerry is worthy of a book in its own right and any visitor to Killorgin will want to travel at least some of this route.
Killorgin is also perfectly placed for discovering the two fingers of land that reach out into the wild Atlantic from the Kerry coast.
The Dingle, the more northerly peninsula, has been described as ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ by National Geographic and visitors see no reason to disagree. A mixture of mountains of sandy shorelines with some of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites its attractions are obvious. Fungi, the famously friendly dolphin has set up home offshore, and it’s a good base for whale and dolphin watching tours.
The Beara to the south is less well known and really deserves to be known as a world of its own. Like The Dingle, it’s rich in history and may be the site of the first arrival of the Celts in Ireland. Bantry Bay feeds the local fleet and seafood-loving visitors to Castletownbere, the country’s most important fishing port. Birdwatchers will be twitching with delight on the Beara which is an internationally recognised Important Bird Area.
Both peninsulas are now circled by long distance paths which can be tackled on a week-long hiking trip but offer equally lovely day trip walks.
Killorgin opens up the whole of this wonderful corner of Ireland.
If you are looking for luxury accommodation in Killorglin, choose the Ard na Sidhe Country House Hotel.