Getting away from the stereotypical Irish souvenirs (whiskey, chocolate infused with whiskey, and Guinness branded products since you asked) can be a challenge. Getting something that truly sums up somewhere like Kerry – a rustic, rugged, old-worldly county laden with charm – is still harder. You could just pop down any one of the countless tat shops that line Killarney‘s main streets. Or, and we’re here to help you with this, you could do that little bit better. If you’re spending big and leaving the European Union for a substantial period of time after your trip, by the way, it’s worth checking out the tax rebate system on VAT (sales tax) for tourists. As for the shopping itself, here are our top suggestions.
They might have their origins in the gorgeous Aran Islands off the coast of Galway, but Aran Sweaters – thick, stylised woolly winter warmers – are hugely popular in Kerry, too. The Aran Sweater Market doesn’t focus quite exclusively on them (nor is it a market, but quite an upmarket shop), but there are loads here to explore, from simple cream designs to the more elaborate, modern version of the classic. Expect to pay a solid price for a good one, especially one that’s handmade, but they’ll certainly take you back to Kerry in an instant. A classic Irish look.
Many people try to capture Kerry’s beauty, but as a visitor, nature can somewhat conspire against you: getting those perfect landscape photos is an exercise in extreme patience as well as talent. Peter Cox has both in abundance, and his Killarney store showcases the county wonderfully, offering the chance to snap up arty images of Skellig Michael, Mount Brandon, Dingle, and the Ring of Kerry, or pretty much anywhere else in the county you care to mention. Let’s be honest, his images are likely to far surpass your holiday snaps…
First off, yes, Avoca is a chain, one that can be found in various corners of Ireland, but it’s a great one. A mix of classy food and high-end kitchenware, home decor and clothing, this is certainly not a cheap option but does seem to source some of the most imaginative local offerings. Examples? Herringbone throws, elaborate pottery, coffee table books, and local fashion. How good is it? Retail Week recently rated Avoca one of the 100 most inspiration stores in the world. Best book some extra luggage space…
Another specialist store; another perfectly done spot to indulge in some Kerry quality. Louis Mulcahy pottery near Dingle focuses on spectacular, delicate but sizeable centrepiece creations and fabulous lights. If you’ve a more modest amount of space (or cash) to play with, though, there are plenty of standard items like plates and bowls, all handmade, to explore in this beautifully displayed store. You’ll also find a cafe with local cuisine to hide from the showers in.
Another imaginative little business located right out on the rural Atlantic coast, Skellig Chocolates is a spot where you can watch the rich products being made, or simply settle into indulging in an abundance of high-end sugary treats. Check out the demos and tour, get a personalised chocolate-penned letter for a friend (or an entire chocolate football boot), or go local and have your purchase blended with whiskey or strawberries. The views aren’t at all bad, either.
Waterford Crystal might be one of Ireland’s most famous companies, but ‘young upstart’ Dingle Crystal (whose impressive offerings date back to just 1998) is another place to beat the cliched whiskey import, and get a few beautiful accessories to drink the stuff out of instead. Decanters, crystal bowls, chandeliers and plain old (very, very fancy) drinking devices are the order of the day here. They use traditional Celtic designs, while you can also tour the workshop.
Bricín Restaurant and Boxty House, Killarney | Courtesy of Cellar One Restaurant
Another Killarney tourism staple, the Bricin Craft Shop doubles up as a restaurant selling classic Irish dish Boxty (a kind of traditional potato-based pancake). The shop is beneath the restaurant, selling pottery, local fashion, books, scarfs and assorted, fast-changing local products.
Plenty of Kerry’s tourist attractions have a little spot to encourage you to spend a bit more cash, naturally. The Bog Village – a glance back at life centuries ago, through reconstruction – does a better job than most. There are two spots on site selling a range taking in all the tourism standards, from tea towels to postcards via Guinness paraphernalia, as well as an abundance of leprechauns. What we like most, though, is the county themed stuff, from Kerry GAA items to county badges ready for mounting: true Kerry-themed memories.