The southwest has no shortage of cultural hot spots to help you do so, either, and these museums – which range from rustic and slightly dated to shiny monuments to the county’s finest hours – are a great place to start. Here are Culture Trip’s favourites.
A real throwback to the Kerry of old, the Bog Village falls neatly on the Ring of Kerry, so is likely to be somewhere on the natural course of a trip to the county for most visitors. There’s a simplistic beauty to the whitewashed village, which is designed to showcase life during the Great Famine. The historic tragedy saw one million Irish die and another one million emigrate in the 1840s and 1850s due to a lethal combination of potato blight and offensively onerous landlord controls resulting from British occupation. As well as exploring traditional houses and old-world lifestyles, you’ll meet bog ponies and learn about turf extraction and bogland wildlife.
A glorious mishmash of Kerry history, the Kerry County Museum’s imaginative array of exhibits do everything from telling the county’s story through objects to exploring Tom Crean, the three-time Antarctic expedition member from tiny Annascaul (where the local pub is a shrine in his honour). There’s also a medieval experience – a colourful interactive offering – and an impressive selection of revolving exhibits each year. It’s a kid-friendly, imaginative local offering.
Kerry County Museum, 18 Denny St, Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, +353 667127777
A regal-feeling house built in the 19th century in the Killarney National Park, Muckross, despite the addition of a working farm and high-end craft gallery on the site, maintains much of its original charm, both in the fading glamour of its furniture and décor and in the spectacular gardens. For many, though, the best thing about Muckross is the traditional horse and carriage rides. Locals typically full of wit operate the jaunting cars and tell tales of the Kerry of old as they plod around the paths of the Muckross grounds.
Not actually located on the Blasket Islands, but right opposite them on the Dingle Peninsula mainland, The Blasket Centre hosts the story of centuries of life on the rugged islands, from a subsistence lifestyle to arts and entertainment. The islands have a literary heritage way beyond what would be expected for such a tiny community, and while they were evacuated of permanent residents for the last time in 1953, you’ll almost feel like the communities are still around you. The beautiful views don’t do any harm, either.
Dún Chaoin, Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, +353 669156444
Kenmare Heritage Centre, a cultural hub, is Irish tourism’s introduction to this tiny, quaint and memorable little town amid the Kerry hills. In some ways, it’s incredibly and charmingly parochial, like in the list of famous visitors. As an introduction to a town that warrants some historical context, and a little glance at the famous local lace industry, it’s worth a visit, however. The famine’s effect locally gives some good (if horrifying) background too.