History of Kerry

Kerry Image 2 

County Kerry is in the Province of Munster, down on the south west tip of Ireland. Bordered by Co. Limerick and Co. Cork to the east and south east, with its western points striking out into the Atlantic Ocean, Co. Kerry contains two of the three highest peaks in Ireland: Carrauntoohil, the country's highest at 3406 feet tall, and part of Macgillycuddy's Reeks; and Mount Brandon, 3123 feet high and one of the Slieve Mish range.

Co. Kerry is also characterised by its peninsulas that strike out into the atlantic, including the Iveragh Peninsula, the Beara Peninsula, and the Dingle Peninsula which is as far west as one can travel in Ireland. The western coast also has the Skellig Islands, the Blasket Islands and Valentia Island nestling just off the shoreline. The county capital is Tralee.

Co. Kerry is named after the pre-Gaelic tribe the Ciarrai – or people of Ciar – whose forefather was Cair, a son of Fergus mac Róich, the mythical king of Ulster. Archaeological finds at certain sites within Co. Kerry, particularly at Ferriter's Cove on the far west of the Dingle Peninsula, have shown that people inhabited the area as early as the Mesolithic period – between 10,000 and 5000 BC.

A Christian monastery on the island of Skellig Michael was built amongst an existing settlement sometime before the eighth century AD, and there is debate about the Gallarus Oratory – an early stone-built Christan church overlooking the harbour at Ard na Caithne – and whether it was built in the sixth, ninth or even the twelfth centuries. But, as with many other parts of Ireland, tenth and eleventh century round towers are in evidence through the countryside, as are early ringforts along the mountain and hillsides.

By the mid 1300's, the region was under the control of Maurice FitzGerald, the 1st Earl of Desmond, and in 1580 his descendant, James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, and his rebelling troops were massacred by English forces at the siege of Smerwick, beginning three years of the Second Desmond Rebellion. Further rebellion against English rule, during the Nine Years War, took place in Co. Kerry too as the O'Sullivan Beare clan joined the fighting. After the uprising was halted, large parts of Co. Kerry were confiscated and given to English settlers.

During the nineteenth century, the large population of tenant farmers who relied on the potato as their primary foodstuff were hit especially hard by the Great Irish Famine, causing vast migration and violence against the landlords.

The Irish War of Independence and the following Irish Civil War saw Co. Kerry become one of the most troubled parts of the country, with incidents such as the siege of Tralee and the Headford Junction Ambush that resulted in terror, violence and bloodshed on both sides.

Despite it's turbulent history, Co. Kerry is now a tranquil and popular vacation destination, with the rugged beauty of the Atlantic peninsulas always an awe-inspiring location for visitors wishing to immerse themselves in the magnificence of nature.




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