|The capital of Kerry and gateway to the Dingle
Peninsula, Tralee offers the visitor a pleasing mix of history, shopping,
and leisure. While there is always plenty to do during daylight hours, the
town really comes alive at night when the numerous pubs open their doors
offering a heady mix of live music, good food and high spirits.
The Ashe Memorial Hall dominates the centre of town. This impressive, modern building was once the town hall, but it now holds the Tourist Office and Kerry the Kingdom Museum. While the museum's first floor traces the county's history from 8,000 years ago to modern times, the basement offers a fascinating look at medieval Tralee. Visitors ride in little cars through recreated streets, experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of over 600 years ago. Tralee Town Park surrounds the Hall on three sides. It is particularly beautiful in July and August when the world-famous rose garden is in full bloom. The national folk theatre, Siamsa Tire, is also located in the Park. Ireland's cultural heritage is celebrated through expert performances including music, song, and dance. Adjacent to the theatre, the Tralee Omniplex provides cinematic entertainment throughout the year.
Denny Street is one of Tralee's most elegant avenues and it intersects with the Park here. Georgian townhouses line each side. The basement of the former Denny home is now Finnegan's Cellar Restaurant, offering fine dining in a historic atmosphere. A few doors along, another basement houses the Wellspring Gallery. Contemporary art is attractively displayed and browsers are made most welcome. Towards the top of Denny Street is the Imperial Hotel with its popular bar. Tralee natives claim that everyone passes through it during the course of a weekend. Facing the Imperial is a striking pikeman statue commemorating the Rebellion of 1798. The monument divides traffic that flows down from The Mall on one side, and Castle Street on the other.
The Mall is a bustling shopping district with a good mixture of large and small shops. Castle Street also hums with shoppers throughout the day. In complete contrast, is the peace and solitude found in St. John's Church, just off Castle Street. Meeting Castle Street on the other side is Ashe Street. Here stands the majestic Tralee Courthouse with its splendid Ionic portico and large canons. Returning down Ashe Street you pass a variety of shops, restaurants, and pubs. The illustrious Baily's Corner is a public house for keen Kerry Football supporters. Momentos of past and present glories adorn the walls. Turning right, you can continue along The Mall until it runs into Rock Street. A quiet shopping district during the day, Rock Street really transforms at night. A host of popular pubs combine music, socialising, and craic. Kirby's Brogue Inn, The Rambling House, The Rock Inn, and The Old Oak all pull in the crowds, to name a few. Bridge Street branches off from The Mall here, in the other direction. Once again shops, restaurants, and pubs form a pleasant combination and a quiet break from the crowds. Tributaries to the River Lee once flowed through the town and Bridge Street recalls the days when it provided a way to cross one of the rivers.
Holy Cross Church is visible from Bridge Street. This Dominican church was built in 1861 on the site of a thirteenth-century priory. Another row of Tralee's Georgian townhouses stands beside the church at Day Place. Sir Robert Day, a prominent judge, lived here. His house at number three has been restored to its former glory and is now The Georgian Visitor Centre. Further down the road is Prince's Quay, again recalling the time when the Lee flowed by these doorways. The Mount Brandon Hotel dominates this area. One of Kerry's leading hotels, it is particularly known for hosting the Festival of Kerry. Each August young women from around the world compete for the title "Rose of Tralee" in this personality contest.
The southern area of Tralee has seen many changes in recent times. Several tourist-orientated attractions have been developed here. Resembling a cross between an ancient castle and glass spaceship, the Aquadome provides splashy excitement for all of the family. The authentically restored Tralee Steam Railway runs from the Aquadome to Blennerville and back several times a day. The Blennerville Windmill grinds grain once again when the sails are up and the brave can scramble to the very top. The Windmill complex has a variety of craft shops and a museum recalling Tralee's emigrant ships. This area is also a haven for bird watchers.
Sporting grounds dominate the northern area of Tralee. The Austin Stack GAA grounds offer great facilities for both players and supporters. Directly behind the grounds lies the Tralee Sports Centre with an impressive gym, pool, and sport fields. The Kingdom Greyhound Stadium offers racing several times a week. While for the equine enthusiast, the Tralee Races are held bi-annually at the nearby Race Course.
Tralee's modern port of Fenit lies to the west of town. Ship traffic was transferred here when the viaducts leading into the town filled with silt. Fenit Castle was built in 1800 to protect the harbour and its ruin on Fenit Island is very picturesque. Tralee Golf Club lies just beyond the harbour. Designed by Arnold Palmer, the golf links are popular with visitors and locals alike.
The east of Tralee features some of the oldest town landmarks. Although Ratass Church dates from early Christian times, the incorporated Ogham stone suggests the area had significance from an even earlier period. Close to Ratass is the old Tralee Workhouse where thousands perished during the Famine. Further east, along the same road one finds the evocative Ballyseedy Memorial and grand Ballyseedy Castle.
Beyond the town
As the gateway to the Dingle Peninsula, Tralee is the perfect base to explore the greatest concentration of archaeological sites in Ireland. The promontory forts at Caherconree, Dunbeg, and Dun Mor are awe-inspiring. Close to the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking district), there is also ample opportunity to experience traditional music and culture in Dingle, Ventry, and Ballyferriter. With excellent facilities and so much on its doorstep, Tralee has something for everyone.